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