There are many wonderful learning opportunities at an AASL national conference, but the true magic is the concurrent sessions. Practicing school librarians and researchers are the experts in our community and having opportunities to learn from the leaders in our field is what makes our profession shine. I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing the presentation, Core Values Lighting Our Way: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Intellectual Freedom. This session was hosted by Judi Moreillon, Suzanne Sannwald, Erika Long, Julie Stivers and Meg Boisseau Allison. Their presentation was based around their book, “Core Values in School Librarianship,” which was published just this year and edited by Judy Moreillon. The book is a passionate discussion of what should be every librarian’s core values – equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom.
Erika kicked off the presentation with her thoughts on equity as a matter of social justice. We all know that our libraries are not just the physical spaces they occupy in the school building, they are wherever our learners are. It should be a priority to bring the library to our students. Thinking beyond material access and accessibility – what scheduling and policy barriers do learners face in accessing materials? The answers to these questions may lead to some courageous conversations with building and district decision makers. Erika challenges us to “ask the unimaginable” and fight for what students deserve.
Next up was Julie with her thoughts on diversity. She has a passionate commitment to diversity as a non-negotiable foundation to all aspects of what we do. In fact she says that diversity is “the beating heart of librarianship.” Our students deserve the truth. They deserve library collections that center marginalized communities and don’t only focus on struggle and trauma. All students deserve stories that focus on joy, adventure, and characters living their best lives. When we think about our non-fiction books, we should look at what stories are being told, and which stories are left out. Who is telling these stories? Courageous thinking about diversity cannot be surface level as it is the cornerstone of all that we do.
Meg followed up with her thoughts on inclusion. Inclusion must be radical if it is going to be effective. Radical inclusion affirms all voices. It is welcoming and de-centers power. Our policies and practices must center equity and justice. We need to eliminate the idea that libraries are neutral spaces and that there are two acceptable sides to every issue. Meg sees the library as a” container for so much possibility.” Sharing power in our libraries by including students in decision making amplifies their voices and makes our library a true, inclusive reflection of our learning community.
Suzanne rounded out the conversation by discussing the fourth core value: intellectual freedom. We often limit our thinking about intellectual freedom to discussions about banned books and curricular challenges. In reality, intellectual freedom shows up in many of our practices as librarians. From the selection and acquisition of materials, to cataloging decisions and conversations with students, we are constantly making space for freedom of critical thinking, freedom of curiosity, and student privacy. When we rethink how we label books or genrefy our collections we are telling students that their intellectual freedom matters in the library. We all are experts on intellectual freedom whether we realize it or not.
How do these values show up in your library program? This is work that is never done. There isn’t a checklist to mark off all the ways we’ve accomplished these goals. As lifelong learning professionals, we need to be consistently checking in with ourselves to evaluate where we can be more inclusive and equitable. There is no quota on diversity. New challenges to intellectual freedom will always pop up, how can we keep ourselves ready to champion these values in our learning communities?
Follow the conversation on Twitter using #SLCoreValues.