This weekend, while camping with my family, my husband decided to take a drive on a little-traveled “road.” I put “road” in quotes because for all real purposes, it was barely a path. With more rocks than smooth parts, it did not take me long to get carsick. My husband loves these crazy, bumpy “roads,” so I try to enjoy them with him and see them as the adventures he does, but these drives are really not my kind of adventure. I like my adventures wrapped neatly in the pages of a book.
But this ride got me thinking. Maybe it was the combination of the “road” and the book that I was reading, a middle grade novel that I know will be challenged when I put it in my school libraries. The past 19 months have been an adventure that most of us would probably have rather not taken. The current school year will likely contain a few additional “adventures” too. What can we do to prepare?
Every time I complained about the bumps on our drive, my husband said, “But this road is on my truck map!” He was prepared. He knew what to expect. He didn’t tell me about the rough road because I wouldn’t have gotten in the car, but he had planned and knew the path. As we prepare for the adventure that this school year will bring, with the challenges that seem to be popping up around education, specifically in the concerns about curriculum, I recommend that we all review our school and district policies and be sure we know the content. If your school or district doesn’t have selection and reconsideration of material policies in place, you may want to create them now. For those looking for guidance, check out ALA’s “Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, and Academic Libraries”: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/selectionpolicytoolkit. We may not be able to see which rocks will be in our path this year, but we can plan and drive carefully so as not to crash.
Many of us have already ridden the bumpy road of having people question what we teach, what resources we choose for our school libraries, and how we share with our learners. If you have not gotten to this bumpy patch yet, know that intellectual freedom is complicated and emotionally fraught for many people. Parents do their best to protect the children they entrust to us. They understandably want to control the bumps in their children’s path. Many of them think hiding certain rocks is the best way to protect their children. However, this doesn’t remove the rocks, but rather makes it harder for their children to navigate them. Librarians are committed to guarding intellectual freedom, and we know that protection does not always prepare children for the future. We believe that showing and teaching about the variety of rocks in their path provides the knowledge needed to drive carefully and navigate the road without wrecking.
Had I focused only on the bumps and rocks on my jaunt with my husband, it would have meant missing out on the gorgeous vista that was at the top of the road, open land with climbing rocks that provided space for my dogs, child, and spirit to run free. This is why my husband doesn’t tell me about these roads before we drive them. He knows I would choose to stay comfortable, and he doesn’t want me to miss out on something remarkable.
As much as I sometimes wish we could remove all the rocks from the road for our learners, it is the navigation of the path that allows them to grow. I stand near the “road” and offer as much support as I can when they get to the rough patches. I stand firm and insist that they have the resources they need to learn to drive their road. I encourage them to reach the beautiful vista that I know is ahead of them.
ALA’s “Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, and Academic Libraries”: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/selectionpolicytoolkit
Comic Book Defense Fund: http://cbldf.org/
National Coalition Against Censorship: https://ncac.org/about-us