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

 

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.

 

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.

School Librarians Take Action to Support Arizona Public Education

9/29/21 Update:
Arizona public school advocates collected more than enough valid signatures to put two of these referenda on the November, 2022 ballot: SB1828 and SB1783. This means these tax cuts will not go into effect until the voters weigh in. Next year, advocates will work to educate and convince voters so that these cuts are never enacted.

8/2/21 Post:
While we have long known that school district budget priorities are the primary deciding factor as to whether or not a school district employs school librarians, we might have also assumed that the funds available to school districts based on per student spending would also play a large role.

So, one of the surprising (to me) findings of the School Librarian Investigation—Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) Research Project is that per student spending is not a significant factor in terms of school librarian staffing.

“Districts spending the most per pupil ($15,000+) were most likely to have high levels of librarian staffing and least likely to be without librarians. However, districts spending the least per pupil (less than $10,000) had better staffing than districts spending between $10,000 and $15,000 per pupil. Consequently, there was no clear relationship between staffing and funding” (Lance and Kachel 2021, vi).Judi Moreillon gathering signatures outisde public library branchFunding Counts
That said, funding MUST play a role in Arizona: 48th among the 50 states for K-12 per student spending and 47th in educator salaries. Arizona is also 46th in the nation for the number of state-certified school librarians and at least in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), decision-makers cite the cost of staffing state-certified school librarian positions as the barrier to equitable access.

The Legislature passed and on June 30, 2021, the Governor signed three bills that will further underfund public education. This is a crisis.

It behooves us as school librarians and people who care about the quality of education for Arizona students to help put three measures on the 2022 ballot to rescind these tax cuts. We must not allow our elected “representatives” to overturn the will of the voters to decrease rather than increase funding for our public schools.Logo for #INVEST in AZ NowThe following are summaries of three referenda currently circulating in Arizona. Signatures must be collected and submitted by September 28, 2021.

Rescind SB 1828: FLAT TAX
This bill changed the Arizona income tax structure. Before SB 1828, we had a graduated tax with the wealthiest Arizonans paying 4.5%. With this legislation, 2.5% is the maximum flat tax liability and all Arizonans will pay at that rate, disproportionately benefiting the wealthy.

The bill reduces state revenue by $1.9Billion

Consequence: The reductions in state coffers affect all ALL types of services, including libraries, K-12 education, police, fire, and more.

Crisis: In Arizona, overturning tax legislation requires a 2/3 majority of the Legislature, which in effect means these cuts will be permanent if not stopped by the voters NOW.

Rescind SB 1827 TAX CAP
This bill capped total income tax at 4.5%. It reduces the state’s general fund by $900Million.

Consequence: This bill reduces K-12 funding by over $250M per year and will impact other services as well. It undermines voter approved Proposition 208, which increased tax collection for public school funding. If high-income individuals pay the 3.5% Prop. 208 surcharge, they would only pay 1% of income tax while others would pay 2.5%. It benefits wealthy taxpayers only.

Rescind SB 1783: Prop 208 Attack
This bill allows any high-earning individual to file as a “small business” in order to reduce their tax liability. It reduces Prop. 208 funds by $300Million.

Consequence: This bill undermines the will of voters who passed Prop. 208 and renders this voter initiative ineffective.

Bucking the Data
As I noted in last week’s post “SLIDE Project Data and Tools: Focus on Arizona Results,” my current advocacy work is in TUSD. I live within the district’s borders and served as an elementary and a high school librarian in TUSD for 12 years in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, with state-certified librarians serving only 13 of TUSD’s 86 schools, restoring school librarian positions is first and foremost about equity.

Unfortunately, the SLIDE data is not on the side of students achieving equal access to a high-quality education in Arizona and TUSD.

“Districts with higher levels of poverty, more minority students, and more English Language Learners were less likely to have librarians.  Majority Hispanic districts were more than twice as likely to have no librarians and less than half as likely to have the highest level of librarian staffing” (Lance and Kachel 2021, vi).

And

“This study also discovered that, in most cases, once librarian positions were eliminated, they were not reinstated. By 2015-16, almost 3 out of 10 local districts had eliminated all school librarians, and, by 2018-19, 9 out of 10 of those districts had not reinstated them. A study of the almost 10% of districts that lost, but later reinstated, librarians could be informative regarding factors contributing to such reinstatements” (Lance and Kachel 2021, 85).

Meeting the Needs
All 42,000+ TUSD students, educators, and families deserve access to high-quality school library programs led by a state-certified school librarians. TUSD can be THE district in the state and in the country that bucks the data and shows literacy learning is a high priority in a district with a majority of Latinx students and students who qualify for free and reduced meals and with a large number of students who are English language learners.

Let’s show all our students and their families that decision-makers, parents/grandparents, and voters are committed to giving students the tools they need to succeed. Let’s show that we understand that reading proficiency and literacy learning are the foundation on which all academic subjects and life pursuits depend.

Let’s work together to rescind budget cuts for the wealthy, enact the will of the voters who passed Proposition 208 to increase public education funding, and restore school librarian positions in TUSD and throughout Arizona.

References

InvestInAzNow. 2021. https://investinaznow.com/. Accessed August 1, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Available at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives. Accessed August 1, 2021.

SLIDE Project Data and Tools: Focus on Arizona Results

The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution (SLIDE) ProjectPerspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19” report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) and the SLIDE website offer invaluable information and tools to support school librarian advocates with the data they need to understand the relative health of school librarianship in their states and districts. In last week’s post, I offered information from the  SLIDE Research Study: Initial Findings and Perspectives Report.

In this post, I drill down into the Arizona data from the Report and use the interactive tools provided on the SLIDE website that provide users with access to data at the state and district levels and to create graphs and charts that display these data. The following are Arizona data along with some commentary about what these data mean for Arizona’s students, educators, administrators, and families.

My target audience for this post is Arizona school librarians, the Arizona library community, and librarian advocates. Ultimately, I will share this information with Arizona education decision-makers and voters who should know this information and take action to restore school librarian positions. If you believe that literacy learning is fundamental to students’ success in school and in life then…

The “sobering” national reality regarding school librarian positions is even more sobering in Arizona.

I hope advocates in other states will disaggregate their state- and district-level data to get a clearer understanding of the relative health of the school librarian profession in their communities. I hope these data will prompt us all to take action to improve literacy learning for K-12 students through the expertise of effective school librarians with the ultimate goal of at least one librarian per school.

SLIDE state-level data includes:

  • mandates for employing school librarians,
  • school library standards and guidelines,
  • state government school library official,
  • state data on school librarians,
  • state funding directly to school libraries,
  • state-funded or discounted e-resource, and
  • higher education institutions preparing school librarians.

School Librarians in Arizona
In 2018-19, as the Advanced Search SLIDE data tool shows, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported 412.34 school librarian FTEs. This is the most recent year of data available from NCES. In that year, the student to librarian ratio was 1:2,259.63

Arizona: Total Students, Librarian FTEs, Students per Librarian

Image created on the SLIDE Advanced Search Page

According to data available from the Arizona Department of Education, these are the state-certified FTE (Full Time Equivalents) employees in our field for the 2020-2021 Academic Year:
602 – Librarians – 196.58
603 – Media Specialists – 86.32
Total: 282.90 FTEs

Arizona’s student-to-librarian and student-to-teacher ratio
continues to head in the wrong direction.

In 2020-2021, the classified staff serving in school libraries figure was this.
061 – Library Assistants – 592.27

In studying the NCES data from 2018-19, SLIDE researchers discovered that in Arizona 7 out of 10 districts employ library support staff in lieu of school librarians. This is the highest percentage of all the states (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii, 66, 70, 72).

This is educational malpractice.

Image showing state-level data from Arizona

Image created on the SLIDE State Survey Page

State Survey Data: Arizona Compared with Other States
As your state intermediary, I reported Arizona data to the SLIDE researchers. Teacher Librarian Division co-chair Jean Kilker and I conferred to make sure the data we provided were accurate.

Criterion Arizona Other States and D.C. Notes
State-Mandated School Librarians No, not mandated 26 states have mandates, only enforced in 10 states
School Library Standards/Guidelines No 43 states do
State Government School Library Official No 33 states do
State Data on School Librarians Yes 18 states don’t
State Funding Directly to School Libraries No 13 states do
State-Funded/Discounted E-Resources Yes, thanks to the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Only 12 states don’t
Higher Education Institutions Preparing School Librarians None 45 states do; states with multiple preparation institutions have more school librarian positions.

Table created with data from the SLIDE State Survey Page (Lance and Kachel 2021a)

“School librarians are least prevalent and most likely to experience job loss in states with no institutions of higher education preparing school librarians” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vi).

Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19
The Arizona data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) is telling. The following table shows our national ranking in these criteria compared with 49 other states based on NCES 2018-2019 data. The page numbers are from the report. SLs stands for school librarians. FTEs are full time equivalents.

Criterion Ranking Table/Page Number Notes
Number of SL FTEs – 426.17 31 Table 3, 14 MA – similar total population – 621.15 SLs – ranks 25 (#1 Texas – 4,604.80 SLs)
Percent Change 38 Table 4, 16 30.5% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19
Percent Change 28 Table 5, 18 4.3% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19
State-level Ratio of SL FTEs per School 46 Table 6, 20 .18 per school
Percent Change 38 Table 7, 22 33.3% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19
Percent Change 33 Table 8, 24 6.7% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19
Student to SL FTE Ratio 46 Table 9, 27 1:2,679 in 2018-19
Teacher to SL FTE Ratio 44 Table 10, 29 1:114 in 2018-19
District Ratio of SL FTEs per School 47 Table 11, 38 Chart 13, 42 5.6% of schools have at least a .75 FTE

68.7% of schools have zero SL FTEs

% of Districts with Any Librarians 47 Table 14, 53 26.2% of Arizona districts have one or more librarians
States with the Largest % of No School Librarians 46 Table 15, 56 59.3% of Arizona districts have no school librarians

Table created with data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a)

District-level Data Tools
Since my advocacy work in Arizona is currently centered on restoring school librarian positions available in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), the following examples reflect my work. I encourage all Arizona school librarians and library advocates to use the SLIDE tools to access and compare data from their district with other districts within the state or across the nation.

District-level data includes:

  • school librarian employment,
  • employment of selected other educator positions, and
  • selected district characteristics and student demographics.

Profile Tool
The Profile tool allows users to compare data for their own districts with those of comparable districts both within the same state and with similar districts across the nation.

When I first entered TUSD, the tool provided a list of 19 peer districts from across the country based on these criteria:

student population (45K in TUSD), locale (TUSD is a Large, City rather than suburban or rural district), and per pupil expenditures ($8,838).

When I added the number of schools (88 in TUSD), there were only 6 peer districts; when I added English Language Learners (8.54% in TUSD), there was only one peer district: Cherry Creek School District No. 5, Arapah, Colorado.

When I added Free & Reduced-cost Meals (60% in TUSD), there were no longer any peer districts. Other criteria were Majority Non-White (which TUSD is), Majority Hispanic (which TUSD is), and Restrict to Your State.

Comparison between Tucson Unified and Cherry Creek School Districts

Data retrieve/image created on the SLIDE Profile Page

I then used the Cherry Creek School District for comparison. Unfortunately, the NCES data for TUSD’s Library Support Staff is incorrect. In 2020, there were 50.5 FTEs rather than just 1!

What I learned: TUSD is a unique school district in the United States in terms of being a large, urban district, with low per student spending, with a majority Hispanic student population, with a high percentage of students who quality for Free and Reduced-cost Meals. That alone was important information for me in my advocacy work.

As the Perspectives Report notes: “Districts with higher poverty levels, more minority students, and more English Language Learners were less likely to have librarians. Majority Hispanic districts were more than twice as likely to have not librarians and less than half as likely to have the highest level of librarian staffing” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii).

Sadly, for the students, educators, and families in TUSD that description accurately describes the district’s demographics.

Inequitable access to the expertise of school librarians is unconscionable and most egregious for high-needs students and schools.

Advanced Search Tool
The Advanced Search tool allows users to access data from the 2019-20 school year, with the following exceptions: Free & Reduced Cost Meals and English Language Learner data is from 2018-19 and Per Pupil Expenditures data is from 2016-17.

For the search for TUSD, I checked every box and asked for percentages in terms of student demographics. The resulting data image is too wide for a screen shot, so I took advantage of the URL feature to share these data:

https://libslide.org/data-tools/advanced-search/?saved=258f

Tool users can also export these data as an Excel spreadsheet.

Conclusion and Call to Action
In Arizona, school librarians are endangered educators nearing extinction. What are we doing to reverse this situation? To meet the needs of today’s students and classroom teachers, schools need the expertise of state-certified school librarians. (See my 7/12/21 blog post “Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions.”)

According to the Perspectives Report, “school funding alone cannot explain staffing decisions. Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, districts most likely to have employed librarian consistently were those spending the most—and the least—per pupil” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, 59).

While funding isn’t the only problem, it is a piece of the puzzle. For example, according to a statement by Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo at the July 13, 2021 Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board meeting and budget hearing, he and the entire TUSD Board are in agreement about restoring school librarian positions to all 86 schools in the district. At present, there are just 13, leaving 73 schools underserved.

Filling this equity gap will take a huge infusion of funds
(more than $6M/year) that the district simply does not have.

On Friday, July 16, 2021, I attended a training offered by Save Our Schools Arizona (https://sosarizona.org/); on Sunday, July 18, I picked up referenda petitions and began collecting signatures. Next week, I will report on the three referenda that Arizonans who care about public education are working to put on the ballot that will reverse Draconian tax cuts that deplete state revenues. Reversing these cuts could impact whether or not school districts in Arizona will have the funding needed to restore school librarian positions, as promised in Proposition 208, which was passed by the voters in November, 2020.

References

Arizona Department of Education. 2021. School District Employee Report. Available at http://www.ade.az.gov/sder/ReportGenerationPublic.asp. Accessed July 24, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021a. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Available at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives. Accessed July 24, 2021.

SLIDE.org. 2021b. Data and Tools. Available at https://libslide.org/data-tools/. Accessed July 24, 2021.

SLIDE.org. 2021c. State Survey. Available at https://libslide.org/state-survey/. Accessed July 24, 2021.

 

Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions

Dear School Librarianship Readers,
Below is an op-ed I submitted to the Arizona Daily Star on June 3, 2021. It was not published.

Between that time and this, the Arizona Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey passed a 2.5% flat rate for all Arizona state tax payers. Before this legislation, those in the top tax bracket in Arizona had a 4.5% cap so according to Capitol Media Services and as reported in the Daily Star on 7/3/21, 53% of the “savings” for the new tax structure will go to those making more than $1million a year.

In addition, the new tax structure will cap anyone’s taxes at 4.5% including the 3.5% surcharge for Proposition 208, and creates a new category for small-business owners to allow them to sidestep the surcharge for public education.

These changes from our progressive (and fairer) state tax rates were a direct result of Arizona voters passing Prop. 208 in the fall of 2020. This initiative added a 3.5% surcharge to individuals making more than $250,000 and couples filling jointly making more than $500,000 a year; the surcharge is to be collected ONLY on the amount of income OVER these two thresholds.

Before the flat tax passed on a party-line vote, Prop. 208 would have collected $800million for Arizona’s public schools, including funding for school librarians, social workers, and counselors. That amount will be reduced by at least $300million unless…

Arizona voters, especially those of us who supported and voted for Prop. 208, can stop the cuts. We are determined to put an initiative on the fall 2021 ballot to rescind these tax cuts. Polls showed that the majority of Arizona voters did not approve of the cuts so it is likely we can prevail. The work to collect 150,000 signatures begins as soon as the initiative petitions can be crafted and printed.

Today, I’m sharing the unpublished op-ed below in hopes that some piece of this information will support you in your advocacy work for district public school education and hiring and retaining state-certified school librarians.

In addition to the initiative effort, it is clear that Arizona voters must elect different legislators who will follow rather than thwart the will of the voters.

Sincerely,
Judi

3 June 2021

A Note to Governor Ducey and Republican Arizona Legislators Regarding Arizona Public Education:

While you’re at recess, I hope you will rethink Arizona’s budget proposals.

The $1.5B tax cuts you are considering that will disproportionately benefit Arizona’s top earners are ill-timed and reckless. The fact is our state economy is in good shape. Governor Ducey’s own State of Arizona Executive Budget Summary, Fiscal Year 2022, forecasts a structural surplus of $141million, resulting in an ending cash balance of $855million. This revenue, which belongs to all Arizonans, plus our current tax structure could be used to put our state on the path toward a positive and sound education future for our children.

Arizona voters who passed Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, know the facts. In 2019, Arizona ranked 48th among the 50 states for K-12 per student spending and 46th in average teacher salaries. Arizona schools have lower per-pupil administration spending than any other state in the nation.

District public schools are severely economically challenged to provide equitable educational opportunities.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for the public to realize the underfunding crisis in our K-12 schools. In 2020, no students, families, or districts should have been scrambling to provide the learning tools of this century in order for students to fully participate in remote learning. Internet access, laptops and other devices, and technology troubleshooting support should have been as common as pencils and pencil sharpeners in every school. Schools should have had the necessary technology infrastructure to give all students, educators, and families success during remote learning, and yet, a year and a half since the first school closures, opportunity gaps still exist.

This year, standardized test scores will likely show a decrease in students’ literacy proficiency due to a number of factors including the transition to remote learning, stress in home environments, and reduced participation in learning opportunities that educators worked tirelessly to provide.

Research shows that school librarians are key educators who make a difference in student learning outcomes. With their knowledge of print and digital resources, including technology tools, school librarians helped students, classroom teachers, and families navigate remote and hybrid learning. Arizona ranks 46th in the nation for the number of state-certified school librarians so many school communities did not have librarian support during school closures.

In addition, studies are showing that students’ social and emotional health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. According to the American School Counselor Association, Arizona ranks dead last among the states with an average of one counselor for every 905 K-12 students.

These statistics do not describe a K-12 district public school system that is preparing students for success.

Last November, Arizonans voted to reverse a three decades in the making crisis in underfunding schools. We voted to address the teacher shortage, increase educator pay, and train future educators. We voted to increase the number of school librarians and counselors in order to shore up the academic and social-emotional health of our students. We voted to invest in education to improve the prospects for our students in a competitive global economy.

When schools lack key faculty members who are trained literacy learning, technology integration, and health experts, students and educators do not have the support they need and deserve.

It’s time to remember that you represent the people of Arizona. We are the “special” interest group who elected you to meet the challenges and solve the problems that individual citizens, groups of advocates, towns, cities, and counties cannot meet and solve on our own. Our district public schools are our collective responsibility.

The current budget surplus and tax structure plus Proposition 208 provisions that provide a permanent funding stream can support school districts in equitably meeting the high-level of literacy and technology opportunities our children must have to succeed.

Don’t shortchange our students! Wealthy Arizonans do not need tax breaks at the expense of our children.

End of Op-ed

Addendum: In a July 7, 2021 article “In a Drive to Cut Taxes, States Blow an Opportunity to Invest in Underfunded Services” by the non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Arizona is not alone. Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina among others are mentioned alongside the Grand Canyon State. “After a year in which the gross disparities in our economy became even more apparent, tax cuts for thriving high-income households should not register as a priority.”

But here in Arizona, the rich got the tax cuts and the K-12 schools got shortchanged – again! So, now it’s time to once again start circulating those petitions to undo the harm.

References (Required by the AZ Daily Star that accompanied my op-ed submission)

American Association of School Librarians During Remote and Hybrid Learning. 2021. Knowledge Quest (blog). https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/final-school-library-snapshot-survey-results

Arizona Governor. 2021. State of Arizona Executive Budget. https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/summary_book_with_addendum_2-1-21_0.pdf

Arizona PBS. 2019. Arizona School Counselor to Student Ratio Worse in the Nation. https://azpbs.org/horizon/2019/05/arizona-school-counselor-to-student-ratio-worst-in-nation/

Hough, Heather J. 2021. Learning Loss and Test Scores. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2021/04/29/covid-19-the-educational-equity-crisis-and-the-opportunity-ahead/

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us. Kappan Online. https://kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

National Education Association. 2021. Research and Publications: Arizona Education Rankings. https://www.nea.org/research-publications

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/teacher-pay-and-student-spending-how-does-your-state-rank

SLIDE.org. 2021. School Librarian Numbers. https://libslide.org/

Woolf, Nick. 2020. Social-emotional Toll on Students. InsideSEL. https://insidesel.com/2020/11/19/the-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-student-learning-and-social-emotional-development/

Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just,
you have to speak up. You have to say something;
you have to do something.”
Representative John Lewis
(Cited in Moreillon 2021, 168).

Are you registered for the upcoming ABC-CLIO-sponsored webinar “Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice”?

If so, we look forward to having a conversation with you. If not, well… it’s not too late – and it’s free!

Registration – 7/2/21- Find the recording and the handout at:
Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

(The recording is available for two weeks courtesy of ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection. Better yet, why not join the SLC Community?)

Promotion for Webinar with photographs of the presenters

Let’s explore how school librarians’ core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom are foundations for our work toward enacting social justice in our libraries and throughout our school communities. Let’s think together and discuss why collaborating with library stakeholders and advocacy are essential if our efforts to spread social justice are to succeed.

Please join Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) contributors Peter Langella, Suzanne Sannwald, and Kristin Fraga Sierra as they share how they have integrated social justice practices through applying their school librarian core values. Moderated by yours truly, this will be a lively and thought-provoking conversation!

Peter Patrick Langella – @PeterLangella
Suzanne Sannwald – @suzannesannwald
Kristin Fraga Sierra – @lincolnabesread

About the Program
What value statements guide school librarians as we meet challenges such as equitable access and opportunity gaps?

Although school librarians and classroom educators share values such as collaboration, innovation, and literacy as a path to school success and lifelong learning, we have a unique set of values that positively impact the entire learning community: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. It takes commitment and leadership to enact school librarian core values. It also takes courage to stand up for social justice in our school communities.

Target Attendees
This roundtable is intended as a sharing and discussion with Q&A. Who should attend?

  • Of interest to practicing school librarians and library students
  • Discuss how leadership and collaboration go hand in hand
  • Get and share ideas for leading in a values-centered learning community

Possible Questions
These are some of the questions we may have the opportunity to explore during our 40-minute webinar:

  • What are some of the actions school librarians have taken to ensure access and to close gaps for all students, classroom educators, and families?
  • What are some potential barriers to working in accordance with core values and how might you navigate them?
  • How do you sustain this work? How do you balance “doing enough” with also caring for your own mental and emotional well-being?
  • What strategies have you used to turn your library into a hub for courageous conversations?
  • In what ways do our school libraries reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about?
  • How have our students shown their investment and advocacy for the work of their school library and literacy in their communities?
  • Why is collaboration with administrators, colleagues, and others essential to our success?

Listen in and use the chat during the 40-minute discussion by the presenters followed by a ten-minute Q&A. We want to hear about your work, respond to your questions, and elevate the conversation about the impact of school librarians’ core values on learning and teaching in schools as we reach for social justice.

Registration
Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Core Values in School Librarianship at #alaac21

“All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times”
(Moreillon 2021, ix).

Are you registered for the American Library Association Virtual Annual Conference?

If so, may we recommend our On-Demand Video Program, Q&A, and Slow Chat at ALA Virtual Annual Conference from June 23 – 29?

Program Title: “Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries.”

The presenters are contributors to our hot-off-the-presses book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021). We are enthusiastic about sharing our work.

Beginning this week during ALA Virtual we will provide opportunities for you to engage in conversation with us around these core values and their implication for practice:

Equity: Erika Long – @erikaslong

Diversity: Stephanie Powell and Julie Stivers – @spowel15 and @BespokeLib

Inclusion: Meg Boisseau Allison and Peter Patrick Langella – @meg_allison and @PeterLangella

Intellectual Freedom: Suzanne Sannwald – @suzannesannwald

About the Program
In this program, the co-authors and presenters share their values and practices related to the first four chapters of the book. Enacting these core values in school libraries requires a deep understanding of what each value means and how it can be applied for continuous improvement in the K-12 learning environment.

The program is divided into five segments, a brief introduction and one for each of the core values. After the moderator’s introduction, each presenter will organize their portion of the program in this way:

  1. Give a brief introduction and personal connection and commitment to the core value.
  2. Define the core value in terms of school librarian practice.
  3. Give an example of courageous application of the value that demonstrates reaching for social justice.

The presenters invite video viewer participants to reflect with other attendees and us regarding their individual next steps to take action to apply equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom practices in their teaching and leading in their library spaces. Program participants can ask questions or make comments via the ALA virtual system and via the slow chat on Twitter. Presenters will respond.

Learning Objectives:
Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how school library/public library youth/family users will “see” evidence of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom (EDII) in library spaces.
  • Identify and share action steps to achieving EDII in their library and school learning environments.

Invitation to #alaac21 Slow Chat
Please join us throughout ALA 2021 – from June 23 through June 29 – for a slow chat to extend our conversation focused on “Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries.”

We will post questions from our presentation each day. We invite you to engage in the conversation by responding to the questions, asking questions, and sharing your thoughts!

We look forward to the discussion! Be sure to use the hashtags #alaac21 and #SLCoreValues when contributing.

Registration : Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries

Handout

We look forward to learning with you online this week!

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara,

Pride From the Beginning and All Year Long

A Hand Print with Rainbow ColorsI believe that children’s sense of pride is instilled in their families right from the start. It is up to parents, caregivers, and educators to work together to help all children bring their self-esteem to their interactions with others and to feel a sense of belonging, safety, and security in our communities.

Librarians who share literature with children and youth may be guided at times by the concept of “bibliotherapy.” We often read and discuss books with children and young adults that touch on issues of social and emotional health. We are not trained therapists and most of us are not trained in responding in a clinical way to mental health issues; we do not “treat” book listeners/readers as patients. Still, we often recognize when a particular book will speak to an individual student or group of students in our care.

Self-Esteem Titles
A focus on positive self-esteem messages is a place to begin for young children. Books that celebrate the self and difference create in children a feeling that they are worthy and an expectation that people are different and all are worthy of our friendship.

To build self-esteem and caring for others, we read books like Karen Beaumont and David Catrow’s book I Like Myself (Harcourt 2004), Giraffes Can’t Dance written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees (Cartwheel 2012), Red: A Crayon’s Story written and illustrated by Michael Hall (HarperCollins/Greenwillow 2015), I’m New Here by author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge 2015), and I Like Being Me: Poems About Kindness, Friendship, and Making Good Choices by Judy Lalli (Free Spirit 2016).

LGBTQIA+ Books from the Beginning
For me, there are two types of Pride books that set children’s expectations for diversity and inclusion. Diverse books with LGBTQIA+ and gender fluid protagonists such as Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick 2018), When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Candlewick 2019), and My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila 2020).

Inclusion titles communicate a matter-of-fact stance with regard to diversity that can influence children’s expectations for differences in gender identity and family structure. My favorite books for young children in this category are The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith (Dial/Penguin 2010), Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship written by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson (Bloomsbury 2016), and Sam Is My Sister by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley (Whitman 2021).

Resources for Library Collection Development
As you conduct an audit and select new titles, please consider the critical importance of #ownvoices titles as you build your Pride collection and look for opportunities to integrate these books into the classroom curriculum as well as in book club and independent reading selections.

American Library Association: Rainbow Book List

School Library Journal offers several lists and recent articles for your review.

26 LGBTQIA Titles for Teens

LGBTQIA Graphic Novels for Young Readers

People of Pride

Pride for Tweens

I also appreciate this list from Chicago Parent: 29 LGBTQ Children’s Books for Families to Read.

Check your local public library to compare the books they are promoting during Pride Month with the titles in your own library collection. Pima County Public Library, where I live in Tucson, has an excellent list for preK through grades 8 and up list titled “Hope Will Never Be Silent” (in homage to Harvey Milk) and another list for teens and adults (with an unfortunate title) called “Gay Best Friends.”

Pride Month All Year Long
Here in Arizona the regular school year ended in May. If students are still in school in June in other schools across the country, the opportunity to spotlight Pride Month may be compromised by the end-of-the-year rush.

School librarians and classroom teachers absolutely MUST celebrate the literature that shines a spotlight on LGBTQIA+ perspectives and experiences. Just as Black Lives Matter is a social justice issue so are the rights and lives of our LGBTQIA+ students, colleagues, and neighbors.

Perhaps this presents the opportunity for a new “month” at your school.

Social Justice Month is an idea whose time has come.

Image Credit
Mjimages. “Pride LGBTQ.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/pride-lgbtq-symbol-sign-action-6056043/

 

Bibliotherapy Note: Anita Cellucci, school librarian, librarian educator, and contributor to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021), writes about and offers resources for bibliotherapy on her website.

Point of Privilege about Eric Carle’s Passing: I attended my first Arizona Library Association conference when I was a newly minted school librarian, circa 1991. Eric Carle was a guest author at the conference. When I arrived dressed in my everyday school clothing (a simple dress and VERY sensible shoes), I noticed that every other person around me was wearing a suit and all the women were sporting heels! (It was a different time.) Who knew?

I went up to the table to ask Mr. Carle to sign The Very Quiet Cricket (1990). He recognized that I was shy and noticed I was feeling uncomfortable. A twinkle in his eyes, he said, “I really like your dress.” We shared a conspiratorial smile and exchanged further kindnesses. I still have my cricket book (that no longer chirps) with his distinctive signature.

In 2016 after the Midwinter Meeting in Boston, I visited the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, with long-time ALA/AASL friend Connie Champlin. You can read a lovely tribute to Mr. Carle on the museum site.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the museum, do so to experience the profound impact Eric Carle has had on the world of children’s literature—both in writing and illustration. (Another children’s literature great David Wiesner gave a presentation focused on his book Mr. Wuffles the day Connie and I visited the museum.)