Recently I heard the song “The Way It” Is by Bruce Hornsby and the Range and I started thinking about the words:
“Said hey, little boy, you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said hey, old man, how can you stand to think that way?
And did you really think about it before you made the rules?
He said, son
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change”
Everyday a rainbow tapestry of student diversity walk through the doors of our school libraries. Do we really see them? What are the rules each of us employs in collection development and programming? Are the rules we employ just the way it is?
Some things will never change
School Library Journal published a survey on diverse books in 2018 and linked on that page are several articles addressing the results. As school librarians, one of our charges is to curate diverse collections. “The majority of librarians feel it is ‘very important’ to have a book collection representing different points of view, according to responses to SLJ’s Diverse Books Collections Survey.” At a time when our country is embroiled in polarizing political debate, school libraries “provide a unique service to their users, as both a public space and as a portal for meaningful access to the information that people and communities need to learn, grow, and develop. This is particularly essential for youth, who are discovering their independence and identities, and have important information needs” (IFLA 2018).
For more than a year now I have focused on reading inclusive books (Lambert 2019). These books changed how I think about life and other people. I read books by culturally diverse authors, books with characters of different sexual orientations, books about real people telling their life stories, and books with characters dealing with mental health issues. I learned about other cultures through the lens of someone from that culture and about how everyone, no matter their religion, often struggles with their spiritual life.
I saw myself in many of these people and characters. I shed tears for real and imagined people I met in these books because their stories touched me and opened up my mind and heart. I have committed to being more open about my own life journey and who I am with my students and staff. I also know that I will be making very intentional choices about the books being added to the collection in our library. It’s 2019, as the kids would say, and as a school librarian, there are so many identities to take into consideration.
But don’t you believe them
Currently, I am reading With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, and the main character, bi-racial high school senior Emoni Santiago, is working on a college admission essay. She asks her advisory teacher what she should write about for her essay, and the teacher says, “write about the thing that scares you most. Taking risks and making choices inspired by fear is what makes our life story compelling.”
I am going to write about things that scare me the most. I am going to take risks that may make me uncomfortable, but could make my life more compelling. This year I will blog on the topic of racism as a social construct and how that impacts school library collection development and programming. I will also blog to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ information in order to create a positive impact on school library collection development and programming.
“That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them…”
Hornsby, Bruce. 2012. “Bruce Hornsby & The Range – The Way It Is (Official Video).” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOeKidp-iWo&feature=youtu.be.
International Federation of Library Associations. 2018. “How Libraries Provide Safe Spaces for (All) Youth.” https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/66072.
Ishizuka, Kathy. 2018. “Can Diverse Books Save Us? In a Divided World, Librarians Are on a Mission.” School Library Journal. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=can-diverse-books-save-us.
Lambert, Nancy Jo. 2019. “Why We Need Diverse Books: My Reading Journey.” Borchardtlibrary.edublogs.org. http://borchardtlibrary.edublogs.org/2019/05/16/why-we-need-diverse-books-my-reading-journey/.
“SLJ Diverse Books Survey.” n.d. School Library Journal. https://www.slj.com/?page=slj-diverse-books-survey-2018
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.