Building Relationships Through the Environment, Your PLN, and a Smile

Chapter 5: Relationships by Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker|
Blog post by Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker

“The act of making a connection, feeling and being connected is something humans strive for whether it is a relationship with a place, pet, parent, colleague, or student.”Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, Sandy Walker (2021, 76)

Building Relationships Through the Environment|
As part of the chapter on relationships, we focused on relationships between librarians and students, librarians and teachers, librarians and the broader community. As we set out to write this blog post, we wanted to focus on how we can build relationships by creating spaces that are welcoming, spaces where our students want to spend time and feel empowered to be themselves.  We can build positive relationships in our virtual school libraries and in our physical libraries through many of the same steps.

Create a Welcoming Environment
This might seem like something you already do, but take a close look around you. Go ahead, scan your library. Let’s consider deeply – what is on the walls, in the displays, and how is furniture arranged?

Do you see:

  • Representation from diverse groups of people?
  • Do posters of books and authors include BIOPIC representation?
  • Do your walls welcome those who are differently abled?
  • Persons or books representing the LGBTQ+ community?
  • Do your displays include a wide variety of books and materials that represent your school community, the outside world, and multiple views?
  • Do you have areas where students can work as a group, solo, or relax?
  • Can students who use mobility aids access all areas?

It may feel like a small step to take, but when your library decorations and displays include everyone, students are more likely to want to spend time in the library and thus, you are more likely to be able to build that connection with your students. Every student needs to feel both welcomed and seen.

Focus on Accessibility
As we talk more about the library environment, we wanted to go a little deeper into building relationships through accessibility. When we think about accessibility and relationships,it is essential that we provide an environment where everyone belongs.

Here are a few steps you can take quickly.

  1. Be sure your tables and areas of instruction include tables at which a student with a wheelchair can sit without having to wait for someone to move a chair out of the way. Provide a self-checkout station that is low enough that someone in a wheelchair can access it, and that has enough space around it that a person who has limited mobility can maneuver. If possible, provide the option of a touch screen for someone who may have difficulty using a mouse.
  2. Add core language communication boards to your school libraries. Core language communication boards allow a person to communicate with you and those around them in a non-verbal way. There are many school library core boards available to print and provide in your library.  Susan Berkowitz provides a free one here. However, many are available with a quick web search, or work with your assistive technology team to create a custom one.
  3. Purchase the audio version of your books. One thing that we have started doing as we purchase new titles for the library is adding the audio book on our Sora platform. This allows students who may need access to the audio version to be able to check it out without having to put in a special request for the book to be in an audio version and makes it accessible to all. Your students with vision or reading disabilities may also have access to Bookshare.org, a free online resource with 500,000+ books readily accessible through text-to speech.

Look Up, Smile, and Respond
As we were thinking about this blog post, we started sharing stories of how we feel like we have formed relationships with others that are not the traditional relationship, but ones we enjoy the interaction with just the same.

Jen shared about her favorite cashiers at the local Safeway. Typically, when Jen did her grocery shopping it was around the same time and she enjoyed getting into Jeri’s line. Jeri would chat during the checkout process and share stories about funny things that had happened or about their kids or pets.  Even though Jen never saw her outside of the grocery store, she always made it a point to say hello if she was going through the express line, or to get in her line. Just two weeks ago, Jeri retired. Without that interaction, Jen’s going to need to find a new favorite cashier at her local grocery store — a small relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

The point of the previous paragraph is not that Jen is missing her cashier, but rather that, as librarians, we serve in a role where we often see hundreds of students in a day, week, or month.  It’s difficult to really dig down and know every single one of the people in our amazing school community. We can be like the Jeri’s of this world – we can converse, give a smile, and make the student or faculty member feel special while they are in our library.

You can also build relationships by displaying your interests. Have an About Me poster that kids can see, display a picture of you in your softball uniform or dance costume, or wear a button showing the instrument you play. Stacy shared that she recently built a new friendship with a teacher who wore a shirt with an ukulele on it. She never would have guessed they had that interest in common!

There is power in the smaller relationships. How you make someone feel sticks with them for a long time. Sharing a small interaction, a smile, and a kind word goes a long way.  Kindness can build trust, and trust is the foundation for a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.

Relationships with your Professional Learning Network
As some of you reading this blog post will have just returned home after attending the #AASL21 conference in Salt Lake City, we wanted to remind you to nourish the relationships you invested in as you met new people and engaged with those you see only periodically. The school library community is a vibrant community and by continuing to connect with those you spent your time with in Salt Lake City, you will continue to grow and nourish your school librarian toolbox. Reach out to the person on Twitter that you sat next to in a session on Friday morning. Share an idea with the group of people you exchanged emails with at the Rock Out Celebration on Saturday night.

Above all, revisit your relationship with the notes you took, the pamphlets you picked up, and the boxes of books you shipped home! Share what you learned with students, other educators, and administrators. Share important information, effective strategies, and exciting resources that can improve teaching and learning in your school community.

You’ll be glad you did.

Reflection Question
“In your role as a school librarian, what are some of the greatest responsibilities you have in terms of relationships with library stakeholders?” (89).

Work Cited

Sturge, Jennifer with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker. 2021. “Relationships.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 75-90. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Bloggers

Stacy Allen, MA, serves as Assistive Technology Specialist for Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland. She has worked in Special Education for 25 years. Her current position allows her to focus on equity and access for students with disabilities through work with teachers, students, and families. Connect with her on Twitter @artisfood

Jennifer Sturge, EdD, (she/hers) is the specialist for the library media programs coordinating the professional development and library media programs for Calvert’s schools. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, the Maryland Technology Leader of the Year for 2019, and was the 2020-2021 Maryland Association of School Librarians President. Connect with her on Twitter @sturgej

Sandy Walker, MA, serves as the Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement for Calvert County Public Schools. He works with school administration, staff, and students to establish an identity-safe learning and working environment where success is not predetermined by income, zip code, or race. Connect with him on Twitter @Real_EquityCCPS

 

Relationships Matter

Chapter 5: Relationships by Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker|
Blog post by Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker

“Inside of a school library and outside of the school library, relationships are everything.” Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy WalkerCore Values in School Librarianship:
Responding with Commitment and Courage 
(2021, 76)

As we set out to write this first blog post, a pesky little tune popped into Jen’s head and seemed to stay there for the duration of our writing. “Relationships, we all want ‘em, we all got ‘em, what do we do with them?” This quote can be attributed to the great Jimmy Buffett and his song Fruitcakes. It may be a lighthearted and fun song, but there is a lot of unpacking that can be done in that last part of the line: “what do we do with ‘em?” In school libraries, the short and sweet answer is, we build ‘em! This blog post features a story from one of Stacy’s friends, Yesenia and the relationship she formed with her elementary school librarian which continues to this day.

Conversations about Books
At the start of our journey in writing this chapter, Stacy reached out to Yesenia, curious to compare their experiences with books and libraries as children. Yesenia attended elementary school at PS 16 in Brooklyn, New York. Stacy was a student at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland. Stacy’s elementary school library memories were unremarkable, yet her access to books in childhood was undeniable. Between school and family weekend trips to Annapolis Public Library on West Street, she always had stacks of books she was longing to read. Books like the Nancy Drew mysteries even featured strong female protagonists who looked like her. When Stacy reached out to her friend, she didn’t know what she would hear during their conversation.  She didn’t expect it would not be as much about books, but more about the relationships that formed because of books!

But a library isn’t simply a room full of books, is it? Books were not even close to the center of the conversation for Stacy and Yesenia. The conversation centered around relationships. Yesenia spoke of a transformative relationship with her elementary school librarian, one that continues to this day. At PS 16, in the second-floor library, Yesenia first became an award-winning author — and she credits her relationship with librarian Muriel Feldshuh for the push.

During the conversation with Stacy, Yesenia was pulling out memory books with newspaper articles highlighting her win of the Ezra Jack Keats Award and the Brooklyn Literacy Contest as a third grader, and a letter of appreciation she received from then First Lady Barbara Bush. She also shared that she has novels Ms. Feldshuh sent her from contemporary writers like Margarita Engle and Judith Ortiz. “I owe her so much in my life,” Yesenia said, “I moved there in second grade, and she encouraged me beyond books. To this day she sends me emails and news clippings, on books, on mothering. She is my eternal pen pal.”

Access to Literacy Guides
Like the three of us, Yesenia grew up to love books and reading, but, “There wasn’t a Meg Medina picture book for me,” she says. “I remember Strega Nona, Babysitter’s Club, Judy Blume books, and Nancy Drew. But what I remember most is that she [Mrs. Feldshuh] created a safe space for me in the library. She is a very influential person in my life.”

“The school librarian has the power to suggest, discuss, and recommend something that is often very needed in students’ lives–literature and information” (Sturge, Allen, and Walker 2021, 79). The relationship that Yesenia and Mrs. Feldshuh shared, and still share, is one in which the school librarian nurtures a love of reading, takes the time to learn what their students are looking for in a book, and ensures that she sees the whole child, not just the surface.

Relationships are the foundation on which all else is built – and without those relationships we cannot provide what our students need the most – to be seen, heard, feel valued, and find their own success. The school librarians of the world, like Mrs. Feldshuh, make a difference one relationship at a time and one child at a time.

Building Relationships with School Librarian Colleagues
As many school librarians will be embarking on the journey to the American Association of School Librarians Conference in Salt Lake City in the coming days, we want to encourage you to think about relationships there as well. Jen serves on the planning committee for the 2021 conference and wanted to share a quick story about how relationships can develop across the country between school librarians who have never met before in person.

Two members of the planning committee met in person for the first time at an AASL conference several years ago.  Prior to that, they had only followed each other on Twitter and other social media platforms.  In our planning meetings, the friendship between the two is visible – despite the physical geography that separates them in their daily lives. When they finally met in person, it was like meeting a long-lost friend; we’re told there were squeals, screams of happiness, and hugging!

As you set out to enjoy all the conference has to offer, be sure to say hello to people that you have never met in person before. You never know – that social media relationship may blossom into a beautiful friendship!  As we strengthen our professional relationships, we can strengthen our network for learning, support, and growth.

Remember, Jimmy Buffett said it best, “Relationships, we all want ‘em, we all got ‘em, what do we do with them?” The answer simply is: build them.

Reflection Question
As you move through the 2021-2022 school year, what steps are you taking to build lasting relationships with your students, faculty, and school community?

Works Cited

Buffett, Jimmy. 1994. “Fruitcakes.” Margaritaville Records.

Sturge, Jennifer with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker. 2021. “Relationships.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 75-90. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Bloggers
Stacy Allen, MA, serves as Assistive Technology Specialist for Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland. She has worked in Special Education for 25 years. Her current position allows her to focus on equity and access for students with disabilities through work with teachers, students, and families. Connect with her on Twitter @artisfood

Jennifer Sturge, EdD, (she/hers) is the specialist for the library media programs coordinating the professional development and library media programs for Calvert’s schools. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, the Maryland Technology Leader of the Year for 2019, and was the 2020-2021 Maryland Association of School Librarians President. Connect with her on Twitter @sturgej

Sandy Walker, MA, serves as the Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement for Calvert County Public Schools. He works with school administration, staff, and students to establish an identity-safe learning and working environment where success is not predetermined by income, zip code, or race. Connect with him on Twitter @Real_EquityCCPS

 

Opening Our Educational Practices for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

Although I was a co-author for the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship, I am quite self-admittedly far from being an expert on intellectual freedom. My approach with writing was instead from the perspective of an ordinary school librarian, and the chapter that unfolded shared information that anyone can find by doing some research on the topic.

At the same time, the framing of the chapter was very personal. My hope was to share the thought journey that I went through in making sense of this very theoretical sounding concept and seeing how it affects my very concrete daily practices.

“Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy
and confidentiality, is the right of every library stakeholder” (Sannwald and McDowell 2021, 55).

As often happens when you learn about something, you start to see the term or idea show up all over the place, and that has definitely been the case for me since I co-wrote the chapter on intellectual freedom. For instance, as I shared in a previous post, I cannot hear discussions about challenges to curriculum related Critical Race Theory (CRT) without thinking about how this threatens the intellectual freedom of students. The fact that educators may through intimidation and/or legislation be discouraged from sharing marginalized voices and factual experiences is clear and present censorship.

I have also been thinking about the way misinformation with COVID-19 has also endangered intellectual freedom since intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

When thinking about building students’ “capacity to be mentally free, I now see how every instructional choice is really tied to intellectual freedom. Suzanne SannwaldWith the pandemic, another trend that I tracked was the increased use of digital resources as students engaged in online-based distance learning. I work in a district that has been working for years now as a #GoOpen Ambassador District implementing Open Educational Resources (OER), but I feel like movement and motivation in this direction was certainly accelerated during the pandemic.

This past summer, my ideas around OER were deepened when I had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Susan D. Ballard, Dr. Pamela C. Harland. and Dr. Gerard L. Hanley for School Library Connection. Although I had originally sought them out based on their involvement and expertise with OER, my favorite takeaway was learning about OEP: Open Educational Practices/Pedagogy. I realized that OER may, of course, have benefits when it comes to ensuring equitable access to learning resources.

However, if it is always teachers and librarians doing all of the curation with OER, then is there really that fundamental a shift in the learning experience for students?

With OEP, the idea is that we don’t just look for ways to open up resource access. We go further by looking at ways to open up learning so that students share ownership in constructing their own learning. This, again, made me think again about intellectual freedom and fostering student capacity to be mentally free. It ties to the idea that we, as school librarians, must go beyond simply opposing censorship and securing access to resources for students. We, in collaboration with all educators, must open learning experiences to students so that they are enabled and encouraged to think and engage critically.

Only by creating these opportunities for participatory practice may we truly ensure students’ intellectual freedom.

Reflection Question
“What practices are you already doing to support the intellectual freedom of students and staff members in your school community, including ones that you may not have previously identified as relating to intellectual freedom?” (70).

To learn and reflect more about how intellectual freedom can drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Chapter 4 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.

Anxiety as an Impetus to Act Courageously for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

I’ve had a lot of anxiety entering the 2021-22 school year. I’ve felt concerned about COVID-19 with all of its variants, as well as with the uncertainty of being fully back on campus with students and staff who may or may not be vaccinated and may or may not be required to wear masks or follow other safety protocols.

I have also anticipated possible challenges we educators may face in opposition to what is perceived as related to “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). But, all of this has inspired me to reflect even more deeply on the importance of intellectual freedom as a core value of school librarianship that we must embrace always, and especially now.

Regarding attempts to legislate and control what historical and social curriculum can or cannot be taught, we are seeing how censorship is alive and well. And, we are having the opportunity to truly wrestle with the complexities of intellectual freedom when we consider how the same constituents who aim to censor teaching that is considered CRT-aligned have also asserted their own rights to freedom of speech in the face of what they have deemed to be “cancel culture.”

How is intellectual freedom defended only when considered convenient? "As school librarians, we must think carefully about how we may consistently uphold intellectual freedom with integrity as we serve community members who hold polarized points of view." Suzanne SannwaldHow do we create spaces and opportunities for our communities to share their voices when some voices infringe on the experienced safety of others in our communities?

After all, if someone does not feel safe, are they able to truly experience and enact their own intellectual freedom?

With regard to the misinformation that has been rampant with COVID-19, we have also been reminded that intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

How can we help our students develop this capacity to think critically, especially when they (and their families) may hold contrary (at least to you) beliefs about what mental freedom looks like?

Just as I remind our students whenever they are working on research related to controversial issues, if these issues were easy to solve, then they wouldn’t be issues any longer and there wouldn’t be controversy.

So, I’m not claiming to have easy answers – or any answers at all for that matter – to the questions I have posed above. I share them so you may serve as my witnesses to this very real current struggle and so that you might join in conversation about what our work looks like as we act in the service of intellectual freedom.

Regardless of whether or not you or I end up experiencing a formal book or curriculum challenge during this next year, intellectual freedom is always at stake. This is a realization that became clear to me when researching and co-writing the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

In the many day-to-day decisions that we make for our school library programs, whether regarding cataloging and circulation or curriculum and instruction, we are either intentionally or unintentionally advancing intellectual freedom… or not.

Having acknowledged my anxiety about this school year, I choose to sit with the anxious feelings and embrace them as my impetus for intentionality. I can’t guarantee that every decision I make will be correct, but I do hope that overall, my mindful efforts will have a net positive impact when it comes to honoring the intellectual freedom of those I serve.

Reflection Question
What intention are you acting from? What impact will you have?

To learn and reflect more about core values that drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.

 

Radical Inclusion is a Lifestyle

Chapter 3: Inclusion by Meg Boisseau Allison
and Peter Patrick Langella|
Blog post by Peter

Black Lives Matter Flag Raising, 4/4/2019Photo: @cvu_library on InstagramBlack Lives Matter Flag Raising, 4/4/2019
Photo: @cvu_library on Instagram

In conversation with Learning for Justice, and speaking specifically about transgender rights, youth activist Hazel Edwards said, “Nothing about us, without us, is for us… If youth, and specifically trans youth, are not given seats at the table to be able to bring their perspectives and their experiences and the ways that they could be best supported, then the policy or the legislation or whatever the rule is will not adequately support us” (Lindberg 2017).

"Nothing about is, without us, is for us." Hazel EdwardsAs educators, we must work with students, not merely for them. Collective liberation is within our grasp.

Together
With that in mind, I’d like to share some highlights of what I got to do with students over the last few days as of this writing.

Monday
It’s second period, and I’m in Social Justice Think Tank with 18 brilliant and committed students. They’ve been learning about their identities, reflecting on and reconciling with their upbringing and social conditioning, and trying to understand privilege (or lack thereof). They’ve been tasked with presenting a music video to the class that will help all of us better envision the inclusive world we want to create while working through the challenges of tearing down the systems of oppression that permeate so much of society.

It’s a heavy and brave conversation, centered on race and gender and mental health and misogyny and substance use disorder. We have more questions than answers, and we haven’t solidified topics for our social justice action project yet, so we all head from our classroom to the library to find our next choice read. I’m filled with joy when a couple of students pick Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender and Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, respectively, which are two of my favorite titles.

1:30 PM means I’m co-advising the Gender Sexuality Alliance. Because of a focus on advisory during our C3 Block (Clubs, Connections, and Community) for the first few weeks of the year, this is our first meeting with everyone together in the library. The energy is loving and frenetic all at the same time. We form a giant circle and share names and pronouns, welcoming new students to the school and club, and our student leaders add on a couple of rounds of fun icebreakers. Bright eyes and confident body language for most in the room means that the library feels like a safe space today, and it’s because we’re actively working together to make it one, not just because it exists. My co-advisors and I end by passing out custom Pride buttons and stickers with our school’s initials. Everyone wants extras.

Tuesday
I pull into the parking lot of the Black-owned café at 7:30 in the morning. The bagels and scones and pastries are warm and waiting. It’s only a few minutes back to the school building, and the leaders of the Racial Alliance Committee I co-advise smile and eat a toasty treat before we all set up the tables and chairs and coffee pots, an homage to the Free Breakfast for Children Program that the Black Panther Party initiated in West Oakland, California, in the late 1960’s. I find an extension cord and figure out how to get the speaker to blast our playlist while the student leaders welcome and mingle.

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and one of our leaders who is mixed white/Latina talks about words like Hispanic and Latinx and the classifications of colonization and white supremacy culture. She talks about the power of representation, too, and says that the first time she saw her childhood self reflected on screen was just the weekend before with Vivo. We all share aspirations for the year.

When second period begins, I’m in the back lobby near the principal’s office, which has become my reading group space during the pandemic. My co-librarian, Christina Deeley, and I have expanded our Project LIT Community book club into an embedded reading group collaboration with many of our 9th and 10th grade humanities classes. My groups this quarter are reading Here to Stay by Sarah Farizan and Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds.

We’re talking about sports competition and privilege because Farizan’s book has a basketball thread mixed with acts of xenophobia, and I bring up that I think our school’s extreme athletics success in the state is mostly due to our large size and general community affluence. These are ninth graders who’ve just met me, and I can tell that no one has ever even come close to broaching this subject with them before. I slow down. I ask a lot of questions. I listen.

Wednesday
I’m back in community with the Racial Alliance Committee. We have a lot of new members, and so the student leaders share our six living goals that align closely with the national demands from Black Lives Matter at School: 1) Educate the school community on intersectional justice and build relationships with other student clubs and outside organizations. 2) Mandate Black and Ethnic Studies courses and curricula. 3) Recruit, support, and retain more Black teachers and other teachers of color. 4) Establish restorative justice practices within our school district, and create a restorative justice-focused Anti-Racist Community Accountability Board comprised of students, educators, parents, and other community members. 5) Embed Anti-Racist & Anti-Bias training into all professional development for faculty & staff. And, 6) Remove the armed police officer from our high school campus. There’s a cheer when people see the green check mark on the screen for this last one because our activism over the last couple of years means that this is our first year in many without a full-time cop on school grounds.

Now I’m in Social Justice Think Tank again, and we allot some time to listen to my Inclusion chapter co-author Meg Allison’s students talk about Critical Race Theory and their desire to be taught honest history on Vermont Public Radio’s Vermont Edition. My students share similar reflections about feeling like many parts of the curriculum have been watered down or mythologized (Thanksgiving came up a lot), and there seems to be an organic collective growing in this space, like this class is forming a more nuanced consciousness, together.

We watch a video about calling in and calling out from Australia’s Project Rockit TV, and we role-play scenarios from Learning for Justice’s Speak Up at School guide. We process how it’s really hard to call people in when they’re being hateful and exclusionary. Sometimes it’s okay to call people out. As we learned in the video, “Both methods are 100% valid” depending on the situation.

My Privilege
I’m a white, able-bodied, neurotypical, cisgender man. Because of these identities and others, I have a great deal of privilege and social capital. I also work at school with three librarians, a separate technology department, and a principal that grants me a lot of autonomy. I have the resources and time to be creative. However, even if I were to find myself in a different situation someday, these are still the things I’d want to be doing with students. I’m actively trying to redefine and push the boundaries of what a school librarian can be. Having a diverse collection isn’t enough. Providing access to timely, factual resources isn’t enough.

Equity and justice are ways of being, not discreet things that we do in vacuums. Radical inclusion is a lifestyle.

In a 2019 talk at TEDxStowe on “Radical Diversity,” Kiah Morris, former Vermont state representative and current Movement Politics Director at Rights & Democracy Vermont, said that she can “not rest easy over small changes or mediocrity. Understand that if we are to create a vision for what this diverse world looks like, it must be radical, or it will fail” (Morris 2019).

Inclusion in school libraries is no different.

Get together with your students, inside the library and out.

Dream big.

Be radical.

Reflection Question
How can you cocreate a sense of belonging for all students, across all intersectional identity groups? (Allison and Langella 2021, 52).

Image Credit: “Black Lives Matter Flag Raising, 4/4/2019.” Courtesy of @cvu_library on Instagram

Works Cited

Allison, Meg Boisseau, and Peter Patrick Langella. 2021. “Inclusion.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 37-54. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Lindberg, Maya. 2017. “Nothing about Us without Us is for Us.” Learning for Justice, Fall. Available at https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/fall-2017/nothing-about-us-without-us-is-for-us. Accessed September 26, 2021.

Morris, Kiah. 2019. “Three Tools for Anyone Serious about Radical Diversity| Kiah Morris | TEDxStowe.” YouTube (video). Posted by TEDx Talks, May 31, 2019. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPfdAX–6ME. Accessed September 26, 2021.

Peter Langella (he/him) is a librarian at Champlain Valley Union HS in Vermont, where he co-advises the Racial Alliance Committee and Gender Sexuality Alliance. Peter also works as a school librarianship instructor at the University of Vermont and an English instructor at Northern Vermont University. He was a 2017 Fellow at The Rowland Foundation, a member of the first Induction Leadership Cohort with the American Association of School Librarians, and the co-recipient of the Vermont School Library Association’s 2020 Outstanding School Librarian Award (with Inclusion co-author Meg Boisseau Allison). Peter is also the co-founder and co-organizer of Teen Lit Mob Vermont, the state’s only teen literary festival. Connect with him on Twitter @PeterLangella.

The Roots of an Inclusive Worldview

Chapter 3: Inclusion by Meg Boisseau Allison
and Peter Patrick Langella
Blog post by Meg
"In what ways do school librarians reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about"

The Roots of an Inclusive Worldview
From a very young age, and because I loved books, I was able to tap into a deep well of inner compassion through the stories and perspectives of some incredible characters. Whether it was Wilbur fighting for his life, because of the indignities of being the runt of the litter, or Cassie Logan confronting the hate and social injustices of the South during Jim Crow.

As I grew as a reader and grew older in life, the set of oppressions under which some of my favorite characters strove for their full humanity, in no small way, shaped my worldview. Not only did life seem heartbreakingly unfair; the systemic injustices that impacted one’s place in the world were something that I instinctively recoiled against, giving roots to a lifelong commitment to equity, justice, and inclusion.

As a sociology major in college, as I came to understand the concepts of power and privilege, systemic oppression, and intersectionality, it gave me an academic foundation from which to position myself in the world. It also provided a framework for my work, years later, as a teacher-librarian. It’s why I strive toward Radical Inclusion in my school library today, and write about it with my thinking partner, Peter Langella.

Undeniably, its roots are within the pages of classic children’s literature. As a young white girl growing up in rural Vermont – surrounded by blue-collar neighbors working hard to make ends meet – books were absolutely my window into a larger and more diverse world. They forever altered my heart and capacity for empathy and understanding. It’s no wonder to me why I am still invested in the fight for justice. It feels full circle to continue to do this work in the container of a library, where the stories and characters from my youth reside and where the voices of new generations of authors continue to expand, mirror, reflect, and shake free identities that have long been marginalized, oppressed, and deemed less than.

Photograph: Amplify Black Voices“Amplify Black Voices” courtesy of Meg B. Allison

Exclusion is Ultimately Unethical
In my work as a teacher-librarian, with Radical Inclusion as a core identity, I strive to be mindful of any number of ways that my role wields power, and then move toward sharing that power, specifically with my number-one stakeholders – young people. In thinking of the role that many school librarians assume as the gate-keepers of our large, collective spaces, I try to disrupt the comfort of my own cisgendered, hetero-normative, able-bodied, college-educated, middle-class identities by interrogating the books that are curated, the programming that is supported, in the topics that are addressed, how the library is organized, and in the many ways our systems and mindsets seek to exclude by default, rather than include.

Because, oh, how easily we exclude!  Any librarian can attest that it is much easier to avoid controversy by making choices about what books not to add to one’s collection, what voices not to include in our programming. Every community is unique, of course, and I live in one that arcs toward progressive and liberal values, but certainly not exclusively. I understand that adding books to our collection that feature LGBTQIA+ characters, for example, will not cause the kind of waves in a state that was the first to adopt civil union legislation in 2000.

But yet there is a kind of gatekeeping that happens on behalf of our student populations, and in Vermont, this was apparent when the book George by Alex Gino was selected to be on our Golden Dome list, igniting a conversation within our Vermont School Librarian Association membership about whether to include this book in elementary school collections. Even though the main character is in the 4th grade, some librarians opted to side-step controversy and simply excluded it from their collections, thus denying the humanity of students whose living experiences mirrored George’s. They were also denying other students the opportunity to grow in compassion and empathy for a character who feels differently than their gender identity assigned at birth. What a missed opportunity for all students, albeit made by well-intended librarians to privilege their own comfort under a misguided attempt to protect students from a tender, emphatic, and ultimately affirming story.

Let me be clear: soft censorship is still censorship. Choosing not to add a book, author, or topic to our collection in the name of protecting our readers or avoiding backlash from our larger community is exclusionary.  It is not an act toward building an anti-racist and inclusive library. It is not an act of courage. It is the path of privilege and comfort, attained by maintaining silence. It is one I have to confront each and every day that I suit up and go into the library and challenge long-entrenched status quos that have privileged my comfort over the dignity and humanity of others.

Peter and I ask in Chapter 3: Inclusion in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, and have asked at many workshops where we present this idea of radical inclusion to our school library peers, in what ways do you reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what you remain silent about?  To which I would add: we speak volumes with our actions, and uphold injustice and oppression with our inability – individually and collectively – to take action.

Accountability
All of which makes me consider how we can collectively hold ourselves accountable. And hold ourselves accountable to our values we must. We can do this through building strong networks and seeking support. So often, teacher-librarians make decisions of import in a vacuum, largely due to the fact that we are the only ones in our buildings. But I would urge each of us, that anytime we choose to exclude a book – or idea – or program – from our libraries, we get second and third opinions. That we bring our decisions to our library advisory boards. That we pose the question on Twitter and other places where teacher-librarians from diverse backgrounds gather. That we push through our discomfort and get closer to being more open to experiences and identities that differ from our own, and accept that while we might not always get it right, we are cowardly for not trying. We are not doing our students with the most privileges any favors, and at worse, we are harming historically marginalized students by moralizing and patronizing their identities.

Compassionate-Action
Holding ourselves accountable will help each and every one of us move closer to a place of Compassion-Action. Peter and I explore this framework within our chapter, positing that it levels-up empathy, by igniting action. We believe that it’s not enough to have a change of heart: that if true equity and justice is to be realized, those of us with positional power and intersectional privilege must combine empathy with action and move toward compassionate action. That in the words of Dr. Lilla Watson, an Australian Aboriginal elder and activist, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is wrapped up in mine, then let us work together.”

We can ignite this power within our spheres of influence – within our libraries – by sharing power, sharing space, building containers for compassionate action, and being transparent to our stakeholders about our decision-making processes.

To which I say, in order to achieve Radical Inclusion, be it in your school library, your district, and in your statewide or national memberships, we must share power with those who have been historically excluded and marginalized, starting with our students. Anything less than this ensures that systems of oppression will remain firmly entrenched, not just in our hearts, but in our collections, policies, practices, and pedagogies. The school library must be an active site of liberation in the co-creation of conditions for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Reflection Question
Peter and I invite school librarians to join in our ongoing reflection and discussion about Radical Inclusion on Twitter. We ask:

“In what ways do school librarians reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about?” (Allison and Langella 2021, 51).

You can follow the discussion using the hashtags #SLCoreValues and #Libraries4Action.  Additionally, join us at AASL in Salt Lake City for our workshop on Radical Inclusion.  We look forward to leaning in and learning with you!

Additional Resource
Butler, Sarah Lorge. 2018. “Parents Are Divided Over a Book in a Popular Student Reading Program in Oregon.” New York Times, May 8. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/books/george-alex-gino-controversy-oregon.html. Accessed September 18, 2021.

Works Cited
Allison, Meg Boisseau, and Peter Patrick Langella. 2021. “Inclusion.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 37-54. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Watson, Lilla. 2004. “Recognition of Indigenous Terms of Reference,” Keynote Address at “A Contribution to Change: Cooperation Out of Conflict Conference: Celebrating Difference, Embracing Equality,” Hobart, Tasmania (September 21-24). Available at https://uniting.church/lilla-watson-let-us-work-together/. Accessed September 19, 2021. Note: Lilla Watson prefers that the words be credited “Aboriginal activists group Queensland, 1970s.”

Image Credit: “Amplify Black Voices.” Vermont State Capitol, Montpelier Vt. June 2020. Courtesy of Meg B. Allison.

 

Collaborating for Diversity and School Library Programming

Chapter 2: Diversity by Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell,
and Nancy Jo Lambert|
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

“Books that reflect our students and our world need to be intentionally and seamlessly displayed, promoted, personally read, and incorporated into the classroom curriculum.” Julie Stivers (36)

Collaborating with Others to Build the Collection
The goal of building and maintaining a culturally responsive school library collection is for diverse resources to be used for learning by students, educators, administrators, and families. School librarians who have diligently developed such a collection must collaborate with others in order to ensure that the library’s resources are integrated into the reading and learning lives of students and broaden the perspectives in the classroom curriculum. Collaborating with students and other educators is essential for the librarian and the library to reach their capacity to transform learning and teaching.

In Chapter 2, Stephanie Powell describes how she and her library partner work with students and classroom teachers. When a group of students approached the library staff to support them in starting a digital literacy magazine focused on students’ responses to the pandemic, the librarians and library were reaffirmed as students’ allies and further built relationships. The library staff also attends educators’ planning meetings and Professional Learning Team meetings to discern and solicit students’ and educators’ library collection development needs. Stephanie notes, these activities give “librarians the opportunity to be visible in and supportive of the needs of our students” (35).

Building Inclusive Programming
Julie Stivers charges school librarians to be literacy leaders who work to diversify the literature canon in schools.

“Diverse library programming cannot exist in a school where classroom texts for language arts are overwhelmingly White” (26).

Collaborating with classroom teachers and encouraging them to incorporate books and resources written by underrepresented groups and diverse perspectives is a leadership responsibility of school librarians.

Advocating for all students with their diverse identity markers will require commitment and perseverance. It will require critical self-examination and honest assessments of one’s own role and the role of the library program in breaking through the status quo. This charge requires courage on the part of school librarians.

Diversity Reflected in Library Programming: Vignette by Gabriel Graña
Gabriel Graña, middle school librarian at RD & Euzelle Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, contributed one of the two vignettes in Chapter 2 titled “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop—Building and Promoting an Inclusive Collection(32-33). Gabriel notes that “representation is a verb” (32), meaning librarians must be proactive in seeking out and representing the stories of all students, including those who do not frequent the library space. Thinking about and taking action for the voices that are unheard is powerful.

One way Gabriel accomplishes this is through talking with all students and encouraging them to make suggestions for library purchases. He also critically examines books under consideration for their attention to multiple identity markers. He gives the example of Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies (Scholastic 2020), a fantasy novel that is a Black Queer story, as the kind of book he remains alert to reading, purchasing, and promoting.

Shared ownership in the library space, collection, and program is key. Gabriel writes, “I’ve been in my library for six years. As the years have progressed, I’ve seen more self-selected, self-formed study groups, organic clubs of students of color who just want to come in and celebrate their interests” (32).

Gabriel recommends following other librarians on social media to stay up to date on the latest in literature and library programming. He uses Instagram to reach out to students to promote books and share his own reading lifestyle. At the time the book went to press, he was organizing a library initiative to involve students and educators to join him in #30SecondBookTalks that would be shared via social media, the library website, and promoted via in-person classes.

Curriculum and Community
As the co-authors note, “For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (34). Readers will find many additional ideas for diversity in collection development and library programming in the Diversity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

Reflection Question
“What steps can you take to affirm diversity beyond the library and reflect on how you can influence stakeholders—and especially other educators—throughout your school?” (34).

Work Cited

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-36. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Diversity in a Culturally Responsive School Library Collection

Chapter by Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert|
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

Chapter 2: Diversity Co-authors
Since I, Judi Moreillon, have the privilege of writing this post, I am beginning by introducing Core Values in School Librarianship readers to the co-authors of the “Diversity” chapter.

Julie Stivers, MLIS, (she/her) is the librarian at Mount Vernon Middle, an alternative public school in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a 2018 ALA Emerging Leader, Julie helped develop AASL’s Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries and she is the author/editor of Include (ALA, 2021). Julie’s research and practical interests include culturally sustaining pedagogy, building inclusive library spaces, and exploring the power of manga and anime with her students. She connects on Twitter at @BespokeLib.

Stephanie Powell, MEITE, is a librarian at Green Level High School in Wake County, North Carolina. A National Board-Certified Teacher and lifelong learner, she has been a classroom teacher and now librarian for nearly 28 years. She earned a Master’s in Instructional Technology from UNC-Chapel Hill and her Master’s in Library and Information Science from UNC-Greensboro. Stephanie is invested in promoting equity and being an advocate for underrepresented voices through library services. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter @spowel15.

Nancy Jo Lambert, MLS, is a Google Certified Trainer with friEdtechnology and high school teacher-librarian at Reedy High School in Frisco, Texas. She advocates for libraries by telling the story of the learning happening in her library. Named TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year, Nancy Jo was AASL Social Media Superstar Curriculum Champion in 2019. She is a cisgender, white, bisexual educator and co-founder of #TeachPride and EduPrideAlliance. Connect with her on Twitter @NancyJoLambert and on her websites: reedylibrary.com and nancyjolambert.com.

“Building, maintaining, using, and promoting a diverse, inclusive collection and library program takes both passion and purpose-driven work.”Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert 2021, 19.

Culturally Responsive Educators
The co-authors make many references to culturally responsive collection development, maintenance, promotion, and teaching throughout this chapter. As Stephanie notes, “Through (their) three points of view, the lenses of our varied perspectives allow (them) to better understand how librarianship plays an important role in meeting those who we serve where they are and what they need” (20). Bringing their individual experiences as well as their collective thoughts together in this chapter makes it an especially powerful read.

One point all three co-authors make is that school library collections must reflect the multiple identity markers of school populations as well as reflect the diversity of experience and perspectives across the country and around the globe. As Julie notes: “Even if—especially if—your school population is mostly or solely White, you should build a collection that is racially diverse and not restrict students to a single lens” (21). This can be a particular challenge because our predominantly White and female profession must have self-knowledge and engage in critical reflection that causes school librarians to take action to diversify the library collection and ensure its use to normalize diversity in all of its manifestations.

This challenge also calls on librarians to consider authors from underrepresented groups and texts with diverse characters in books published for youth. As Julie points out, statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center continue to spotlight the fact that the number of books featuring animals and inanimate objects are more commonly published and even exceed the sum of the number of books featuring all underrepresented groups combined. (See the 2019 stats at https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/the-numbers-are-in-2019-ccbc-diversity-statistics.)

Commitment to Diversity
Readers will find support for their own self-education about various lenses for examining texts. The co-authors cite and describe five frameworks that can help school librarians deepen their knowledge regarding diversity:

  • Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors—Rudine Sims Bishop
  • #OwnVoices—Corinne Duyvis
  • Danger of a Single Voice—Chimananda Adichie
  • Plot-Driven Adventures across Identities—Malinda Lo
  • Black Joy—Many Writers!

The value of auditing the library collection using each of these frameworks is discussed in this chapter.

Diversity Audits
One way librarians’ values are manifest in the library collection is the understanding that the library is not a neutral space; what is included in or excluded from the collection makes a “political” statement. As co-author Nancy Jo notes: “By offering youth a free, public education where they have access to information and all sides of issues, we equip them with the skills they need to navigate learning and to form opinions of their own” (24). In the process, issues related to prejudice, discrimination, and injustice will arise.

In order to build a collection and library program that is relevant to students and that prompts their critical thinking, school librarians can use diversity audits to evaluate the inclusiveness of the collection. This requires librarians to use an equity and diversity lens. Initial audits may focus on aligning the collection with the school’s demographics. Additional analysis of the collection involves searching for gaps related to additional identity markers as well as taking a more global perspective on ideas and information.

Audits are not simple nor are they a one-time exercise. In order to maintain a culturally responsive, inclusive collection, librarians must continuously assess both the fiction and informational texts available to students, classroom teachers, and families. Involving students and other educators in developing, auditing, and maintaining the collection not only builds a stronger more useful collection, it also builds relationships. And relationships are key to a successful school library program that ensures that the collection is used in the service of student learning.

Reflection Questions
“How as your own cultural context influenced the books you’ve read—both within school and personally? How has this shaped your collection development framework as a school librarian?” (34)

Addendum:
Access to Joyce Valenza’s Toolkit: Inclusive Collection Collections and Diversity Audits.

Work Cited

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-36. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Equity from a District-level Perspective

Blog Post by Chapter 1: Equity Co-author Suzanne Sherman“It is very important to our mission to ensure that the district’s school library services truly serve every student” (Searles and Moser, cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 14).(quoted from Long and Sherman 2021, 14)

Transition From a Building-level to a District-level Perspective
At the time Erika Long and I were crafting Chapter 1: Equity in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, I was entering my 12th year as a school librarian at a large, suburban high school in Knox County, Tennessee. Providing equity had always been at the forefront of my thinking and while I like to think that I was seeing this from a broader perspective than just this particular school, the reality was that I primarily applied the principle to the 2,100+ students I interacted with daily. I attempted in my regular practice to ensure that my energy and accompanying resources in lesson design, collection management, and outreach efforts were all-inclusive and provided entry points for every student.

At various points in my career in Knox County Schools, I served in district leadership positions which allowed me from time to time to have a glimpse of the bigger picture and to see some of the challenges around providing equity on such a large scale. Those experiences were partly what led to my decision to apply for the Library Media Services (LMS) Instructional Facilitator position for the district. I was selected for the job and transitioned from the school library setting into the role at the district office in January, 2021. I knew at this point that my vantage point was shifting and suspected that my understanding of equity in school libraries would be as well.

Collectively Learning
I was extremely grateful for the professional development I received during my first week in my new position as it solidified my thinking about collective efficacy and the role it would play in shaping my work. When I saw that one of the primary goals is to help our department of 90+ librarians grow in their practice as a whole, I immediately saw equity in the equation.

As I undertook specific tasks such as continuing the work outlined in Chapter 1: Equity wherein my predecessor and supervisor collaborated with the Knox County Public Library to provide library cards for all KCS students and partnered with one of the preschools to organize and rethink those libraries, I was able to see firsthand the impact this was making in the community.

I was quickly introduced to planning for professional development (PD) and, again, I saw the power of equity on this larger scale. Through careful planning and thoughtful consideration of our different adult learners’ needs, it became clear to me that ensuring that the PD we offer the school librarians in our district is meaningful and relevant has to be at the heart of my practice.

Consistently providing the entire department opportunities to engage with research-based practices and grow in their understanding of what it means to deliver high-quality instruction and maintain current and relevant collections has the capacity to level the playing field for all students when librarians implement their learning in their individual schools. Exploring ideas pertinent to school libraries such as the ones we included in our 2021 summer PD sessions: on-demand access to materials, building inclusive collections, Universal Design for Learning, and Social and Personal Competencies, highlights for the librarians these principles of equity and ultimately has the power to positively impact their instruction and programming.

Achieving Empowerment
Our chapter concludes by saying, “The first step in working to achieve equity within schools is ensuring that all learners in every school have access to a certified school librarian or district leaders who advocate for resources and services within underserved schools where this is not feasible from a staffing standpoint” (15). We are fortunate enough in our district to be allocated the funding for both a supervisor and an instructional facilitator in the LMS department and this is not something that I take lightly or for granted.

The charge that comes with providing resources for all students and dedicated support for the school librarians points always to the pursuit of equity. Modeling the practice becomes a means of providing structures for the librarians and ultimately empowers them to deliver the same equitable services to their students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families.

To learn more about the role equity plays in planning for instruction and services, explore Chapter 1 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Reflection Question
“Brainstorm services your school community lacks. Develop out-of-the-box to meet those needs and create a timeline implementation. What barriers might arise, and how will you overcome them?” (16).

Work Cited
Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-17. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Equity and Social Justice

Chapter 1 Co-authors
Since I, Judi Moreillon, have the privilege of writing this post, I am beginning by introducing Core Values in School Librarianship readers to the co-authors of the “Equity” chapter.

Erika Long, MSIS, is a school librarian in Tennessee. Among other professional activities, Erika served on the AASL Presidential Initiative Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and on ALA’s United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Task Force. Erika brings her teaching through the library program experience as well as her tireless advocacy for social justice to her writing in this chapter.

Suzanne Sherman, MIS, is a former English and Spanish teacher turned librarian. She was a school librarian for 15 years before moving into a coaching role as the Instructional Facilitator for Knox County Schools’ Library Media Services in Knoxville, Tennessee. At the district level, Suzanne focuses on supporting the school librarians in both instruction and management. She also works on collaborating with other district leaders in the Teaching and Learning and School Culture departments. Suzanne takes action for the district’s mission: “To provide excellent and accessible learning opportunities that empower all students to realize their full potential.”

Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman open our book and their chapter with this one-sentence theme:

"Equity is a matter of social justice." Erika Long and Suzanne ShermanWhat Is Equity?
Erika and Suzanne use a National Education Association’s definition of social justice as the first pull quote in their chapter. Since the toolkit they refer to is no longer available, I believe this quote from NEA sums up their intention: “Systemic equity involves a robust system and dynamic process consciously designed to create, support and sustain social justice” (NEA 2021). Equity requires a systemic approach, one for which school librarians with their global view of the learning community are perfectly positioned to lead.

What Is the Connection to Social Justice?
The right to access information is a human, constitutional right that the authors encourage colleagues to stand up for in their work as school librarians. The early months of the pandemic exposed many inequities in terms of technology tools and broadband access that prevented students from success with remote learning. School librarians and other educators were well aware of these opportunity gaps long before schools closed—gaps that still exist 18 months later as another academic year is beginning.

In their chapter, Erika and Suzanne talk about advocating for equitable access as an “obligation to ensure” all students have access to the resources they need to succeed. “Librarians have a duty to ensure every young person has access to any resource, at any time, and commit to making equitable access a reality for all” (Long and Sherman 2021, 5). This obligation was/is never more pressing than during times of remote and hybrid learning.

Chapter 1 Vignettes
Ali Schilpp, school librarian at Northern Middle School in Accident, Maryland, and Sarah Searles and Amber Moser, district-level librarian leaders in Knox County Schools, Tennessee, offer the vignettes in the “Equity” chapter.

In her vignette, Ali shared her passion for serving the students who live and attend school in her small, rural town. She noted how school closures spurred her district to provide broadband access to students who lacked it. Ali worked to prepare classroom educators to provide virtual learning as she positioned the library as the hub for instructional and technology support that benefited the entire learning community. She also noted: “A librarian is the one educator in the school who works directly with every student. Each year/semester/quarter students’ teachers change while the librarian remains a constant ally throughout their school years” (cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 9).

Sarah and Amber shared their district-level perspective in terms of equitable opportunities for all students in their large, urban school district. Their focus was on summer reading as well as literacy learning more broadly. They collaborated with the public libraries in their community to extend students’ pleasure reading and learning beyond school campuses and establish an understanding that libraries support people for lifelong learning. Through this partnership, barriers, such as parental documentation and physical library visits, were overcome when students gained access to the public library’s digital resources. Sarah and Amber note: “We are passionate about our commitment to undertake the work of facilitating equitable access district-wide as a point of social justice for everyone in our school community” (cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 15).

Commitment and Courage
School librarians hone their global perspective on discovering who is left out and find solutions to address the learning needs of every student. They seek to serve the underserved and ensure an equitable educational environment and experience for each learner. School librarians are allies and advocates who take action and show courage when change is necessary to meet their obligation and commitment to equity.

“There are many in our ranks who are self-proclaimed social justice warriors and yet, systemic policies, procedures, and preconceived notions, coupled with either lack of knowledge or the tools to fully implement equitable practices in the field, create stumbling blocks toward reaching the goal” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

It takes commitment and courage to confront policies, procedures, and the status quo, and school librarians are the leaders who can and will stand up for the hard things. For the sake of students, colleagues, administrators, and families, school librarians will continually take action for equity and to reach for social justice.

Reflection Question
What steps will you take to ensure equitable access for all learners? (Long and Sherman 2021, 16)

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-17. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

National Education Association Center for Social Justice. 2021. “Racial Justice in Education: Key Terms and Definitions. Available at https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/tools-tips/racial-justice-education-key-terms-and. Accessed August 17, 2021.