You Have Always Been My Safe Home: The School Library

“The library is my safe harbor since I dare not go into the cafeteria alone,
a whale surrounded by starving sharks.”
— Lisa Fipps, Starfish

This month being April, I had a veritable menagerie of subjects swirling about in my noggin, all vying for my authorly attention. It is School Library Month (I am, as my bio indicates, “Mistress of the Obvious,” so why wouldn’t I make note of that?); it is Poetry Month (did I mention that I’m a member of the Dead & Living Poets Society?); it is Autism Awareness Month (my son is on the spectrum); and Shakespeare’s birthday is April 23 (I am, if you haven’t picked up on it at some point, a tremendous Shakesgeek). Any one of these would’ve served me well.

Instead, a different topic walked up, sat down at the counter of my mind, and demanded that it be served: the concept of the school library as a safe harbor, as the quote from Lisa Fipps’s recent debut references above, or safe haven.

For thousands and thousands of American kids, libraries are the only safe place they can find to study, a haven free from the dangers of [the] street or the numbing temptations of television.
–Scott Turow

I am a practicing librarian, but I think it’s important to emphasize the word “practicing.” I do consider myself a lifelong learner, so in essence, I’m ALWAYS practicing something, including my profession. In my case, I’m not just speaking figuratively, but literally as well; I have a year to go until I complete my school librarianship Master’s at Longwood University. In many of our SLIB classes–and also at conferences I’ve attended and in posts I’ve seen online–the notion of the library as a safe haven has been put forth. We’ve explored what such a place would be like. Open up your own senses and your imagination now and envision the refuge you have created (or intend to bring into being); how does it sound, look, feel? What can one find there? What can one learn there?

He loved libraries. Nowhere else in the world felt so safe and homey.
–Heather Brewer

No one oasis is going to mimic another exactly; rather, quite the opposite. Each is likely unique in order to meet the needs of the educational community it serves, and, frankly, to reflect the personalities and interests of the educator and the students that inhabit it. That acknowledged, there are constants.

It’s a place where all are welcome; where quiet can reign and laughter can ring; where rights are protected and views are respected; where intellectual freedom is guaranteed and every child is represented; where the environment is comfortable and the librarian is comforting.

Every child needs a safe place to fall–a place where he or she can explore things without worrying about failure and judgment. A library is one of those places.
–Bill Harley

This idea–this truth–is one of the things that makes me proudest of our profession and happiest to be part of it: that as school librarians we provide our students with a judgment-free zone, a site to explore identity, a spot where vulnerability is never used against the weak or defenseless, a locus of reading and respite, somewhere that anyone and everyone can feel at home.

That’s so, SO special. It is important. It is vital.

Besides, I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.
― Roger Zelazny


Author: Lia Fisher Janosz

I am Regina Libris.

I’m…a Bibliothecaria Rebellatrix (“librarian…because Book Wizard isn’t an official job title,” at Sharon Elementary School in Alleghany County, VA) wending a way through the seven ages whilst geeking out over Shakespeare & sundry other stuff. I am rather like Hermione Granger and have “conjured” floating candles in our school library. I’m an admirer of Eowyn and would place myself somewhere in the middle of the shieldmaiden-healer spectrum. I am inimitable, I am an original, and yet I am totally #TeamHamilton (see what I did there?). I’m a graduate of the Longwood University School Librarianship program and an avid reader and lifelong learner (and, apparently, Mistress of the Obvious as well). Any rumors regarding me having a crush on either Stephen Colbert or Chris Martin (or Benedict Cumberbatch or Andrew Scott) are completely…irrefutable. That being acknowledged, I am the loyal consort of an unsung prince of Poland and very proud mother of a tornadic, talented, and talkative wunderkind girl and a happyhopper jollyjumper bouncyboy who has a memory like an elephant.

Categories: Blog Topics, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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2 replies

  1. I loved this blog post and hope are involved in VAASL. As a fellow Longwood Alumni, I am super proud of you.

  2. mm

    Thanks so much, Madame Lambusta! (I can’t believe I just now saw your comment. April was a peculiar month.)

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