At AASL 2019 I attended the session “Equity: Moving Beyond Intention to Inclusive Practice” presented by Julie Stivers, Mount Vernon Library in Raliegh, North Carolina. Julie served as the task force chair for the 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential Theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement and was a 2018 American Library Association Emerging Leader where she was privileged to help create resources related to Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ Materials in School Libraries for AASL. Julie was named a Library Journal 2019 Mover & Shaker.
Julie began her session by recognizing the individuals and organizations who guided her personally or through their scholarship. She acknowledged their work and that she is just one of many people talking about equity in libraries and schools.
Her presentation began explaining the Key Commitment Include: Demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community. Her presentation covered:
- Equity-driven libraries
- Consistency and joy
The question becomes, “Do we care about the book or do we care about the reader?”
Julie shared a resource that I will be starting ASAP and that I hope every school librarian will look into, Project READY: Reimagining Equity & Access for Diverse Youth. It has 27 self-paced modules that cover topics such as the history of race and racism in the United States, implicit bias, racial identity development, and culturally sustaining pedagogy.
She shared several slides about how she approaches equity work in her own library through consistency and joy. The stories she shared about her library were student-centered and focused on the different kinds of projects, opportunities, and organized activities she hosts in and through her library.
This work (and play) is structured around the #LibFive, the Five Key Foundations for Building Inclusive Libraries that Julie and her students created together. School librarians need to understand that research shows that for youth of color, positive racial identity leads to academic success. Julie initiated a process so all students feel welcome and included in the library, its collections, and its programming. The students shared the following:
These statements were combined to make the #LibFive:
- See Me! Listen to Me.
- Show Me On the Shelves + Walls. Read those Books Yourself.
- Graphic Novels + Manga Are Not Extra.
- Show the Joy in Our Stories.
- Make the Library a Sorting-Free Zone.
The final point in Julie’s presentation was about her #TrueBookFAIRs. Everyone in the room felt some kind of way when she made the following points:
- Book fairs are book UNfairs because students without money cannot participate.
- #OwnVoices books are rarely present.
- “Students select new books to keep from a bespoke fair collection that I have intentionally and lovingly curated to reflect our learners and their interests. There is no cost for our learners.”
- Providing new books is key, but the fair is framed so that it isn’t charity. Every student gets 2 books.
- A collection for younger family members is also curated for learners to select books to gift and read.
- “Also, yes, for some schools, book fair profits fill your shelves, but THAT’S A PROBLEM. We shouldn’t be relying on financial support from families and communities to build our collections. Book fair profits should NOT be a foundational collection development strategy.”
Be sure and look for the Shared Foundations: Include book coming in early 2020. Julie edited, contributed, and assembled this guide with many amazing resources. I can’t wait to get this resource when it comes out!
Author: Nancy Jo Lambert
Nancy Jo Lambert is a Google Certified Trainer and high school teacher librarian in Frisco Independent School District at Reedy High School. She is a presenter advocating for libraries by telling the story of the learning happening in her library. She holds positions in the Texas Library Association, Texas Computer Education Association, American Library Association, American Association of School Librarians, and the Texas Association of School Librarians. She has been published in professional journals and won numerous awards and grants and was named TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year and the American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar Curriculum Champion in 2019. She is co-founder of EduPrideAlliance.org and she is known for sharing her professional work on Twitter @NancyJoLambert and her website reedylibrary.com.