Blog Post by Chapter 1: Equity Co-author Suzanne Sherman(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.
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.
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).
“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).
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.