Learner Diversity and Learning Differences

My time and experience in obtaining my Master’s of Library Science has fundamentally changed my purpose. I began my coursework with the idea that I would be the curator of books. Now I know that collection development is just one of many responsibilities and expectations of school librarians. Other factors include collaboration with teachers, and other things. Even more so is the importance practicing cultural competence, and inclusiveness for all library users.

How have you displayed inclusiveness, cultural competence or a support of individual and group perspectives during your practicum hours?

New Library Display

When my school librarian lamented that she could not purchase more ALA READ posters due to vendor and purchase constraints, I suggested an idea I had seen on a TED talk in which students who actually attended the school were photographed and made into a mural on the walls of their newly renovated school. We set out to do something similar.

We made announcements for anyone who was interested to participate in a photo shoot. In this photo shoot, they would pose in various places and positions in the library with their favorite book. While this event was a volunteer event, care on our side was taken to ensure that as many demographics were represented as possible. We wanted the students on display to look like a snapshot of at least some aspects of representation of the school.

This displays inclusion of students because having a library with beautiful photographed pictures of students who actually attend the school fundamentally change the library. The library becomes a place that is their home, where they see themselves and where they are the stars of their own library. This is validating to the students and works toward the mission of the library being a haven.

Culturally Responsive Practices

A big challenge with practicum, student teaching or any internship, is that while one is getting on-the-job training, the job is still not your own. So, while I am learning from wonderful mentors, it is not my place to change the expectations, procedures and teaching that is already in place. Therefore, here are a few culturally responsive practices I will consider when I obtain my future library job:

  • Allowing students to check out book(s) if they forgot to bring their library book
  • Not including books or the checking out of books as a punitive measure to undesirable behavior
  • Doing Read-Alouds to ESL, SPED visits
  • Allowing talking during morning library time (with volume expectations)
  • Having extended library hours
Student Interactions

Interactions with students is one of my favorite parts of being a choir director. I love talking with them, getting to know them and making connections. In my time as a teacher and in my master’s program, I have been exposed to the importance of relationship building, restorative practices and embedding social emotional learning into the classroom. Even when a student gets in “trouble,” I look forward to my interaction with them because it is an opportunity for honesty and reflection from the student and an opportunity for me to model conflict resolution and restorative practices.

In my time during my practicum, I have had the opportunity to have many student interactions. Some of the highlights include:

Interaction: Helping facilitate book club with my mentor with 5th graders for the book Holes

How I’ve displayed support of individual perspectives: listening without judgement to opinions and thoughts of students; asking questions about how they arrived at a particiular opinion or conclusion

Interaction: Helping ESL Newcomers with their Social Studies homework

How I displayed cultural competence: Asking students about themselves before we started, speaking a blend of English and Spanish to make both cultural and language connections

Interaction: Participating in book club meetings

How I displayed support of individual and group perspectives: In book club, as students would share their opinion I would make sure to give validation to that opinion even when I felt differently; In addition, I had individual conversations with students about what was important to them in a book, or their favorite genres and why they liked them.

Interaction: Planning and executing the Library Display Event

How I displayed inclusiveness: While participation in the library display photo shoot was optional and based on volunteers, I did reach out on a one on one basis to to demographics that I did not see represented. It is important for students to see themselves represented, in this case, in the photos displayed around the library.

What changes could you make to the library to make it more accessible to people with special needs?

  • Offer students a Safe Zone with materials and activities for
    • Self-regulation
    • students who need a break
    • social emotional learning practice
  • Quiet zone
    • For students who need a place that is tucked away
    • For introverted students
  • Before and after school library hours
    • Students who need a safe place before or after school
  • Offer Playaways for all studentsStudents with visual impairments
    • ELL or ESL learnings
    • Reluctant Readers
    • All students
  • Ensure that bookshelves are in compliance with American Disabilities Act recommendations
  • Ensure that space between chairs, bookshelves and tables allows for wheelchair space

My First Book Display

I almost always grab a book off of a book display. They tend to be children’s books, young adult or graphic novels. So, while I am a single example, I can say, albeit anecdotally, say that displays help circulation.

If we are going old school with display ideas, one need to look no further than the king of library science himself, S.R. Ranganathan. In his book Five Laws of Library Science, he suggests using displays to increase circulation of otherwise low circulated books. Phrases such as “Interesting books just unearthed,” “Books of the hour,” and “Long-forgotten but useful” are not too far from displays that librarians use now to attract the attention of the user (Ranganathan, 1931, p. 306). Ninety years later, Grover upholds this concept by saying that the first purpose is to “give books that are usually overlooked some limelight” (2021).

With all these thoughts in mind, I set out to create my first display. Based off a few Twitter feeds and articles such as Grovers, I had my own ideas for displays. However, the time in which the opportunity presented itself to me to execute my display was in January of 2022. So, I decided on the theme of learning something new.

The Look

For the visual posters, I used Canva. I decided on a positive, joyful message. In my casual interactions with students last semester, I found them to be stressed, overstimulated and just done.

For the second poster, was the main theme of the display which is, “Learn Something New,” in which I encouraged the students to use the hastag #ottolearns to post and tag themselves doing what they decided to learn in this new year.

The Books

The books I selected for this display were all pulled from the non-fiction section. I found it easy to focus mainly on topics of the arts such as cooking and drawing, so I made sure I included other topics such as, camping, learning about being a journalist, graphic design, careers if you like science and books in Spanish.

My First Display- January 2022


This is not my library, but keeping up with circulation based off the display should be as important as the display itself. That will be my goal for my next display. When I have stopped by the library, and have seen books that have been pulled from the display, I have replaced them with other books. Lesson learned? I need to have a system or utilize my collection analytics to see what change, if any, the display is having on user tendencies.

Secondly, while I lightly applaud myself for encouraging social media with the “Post a pic of your learning using this hashtag,” it does not have a focus. I myself have not yet posted a picture of myself using the hashtag and I doubt anyone else has. Perhaps a side display of posts from students could encourage this second element of the display, which is also more native to current middle school users.

Lastly, the amazing display ideas I have seen on Tiktok, Twitter and Pintrest almost always have a 3D element. For a Halloween theme, this might be cobwebs and little pumpkins peppering the display or anything that brings it to life more.

In any case, I was happy with my first display and am excited to already be working on my next one.


Grover, R. (2021, November 01). The art of creating book displays (part 2). Knowledge Quest. https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/the-art-of-creating-book-displays-part-2/

Ranganathan, S. R. (1931). The five laws of library science. Madras Library Association. 

INFO 5200- Information Organization

Why is this class suggested to be so difficult? Why do UNT advisors recommend not taking INFO 5200 in addition to other classes?

Image by Слава Вольгин from Pixabay 

In the semester I took this course, INFO 520, Information Organization, I decided that although it would make further my graduation date, it was worth my mental health with two young kids and my teaching job to just take this class.

Lesson #1

Read directions and then check your work against them

Lesson #2

If you are not proficient in technical writing, you will fail or get better at it

Lesson #3

Turning in your system at the end of the semester is the sweetest feeling

Lesson 1- I remember feeling very good about my first submission where we were instructed to outline the “Collection and Information Objects,” the “Users’ demographics and knowledge” and predict “User’s problems and questions.” I appreciated many aspects of our professor, especially the weekly chats in which he answers questions as long as there are questions. Secondly, in creating this system for this collection, I thought it was incredibly beneficial for the student to choose what their collection wanted to be. In this way, this painstaking process of creating this system has a powerful purpose. In my case, I was creating a collection of diverse books. This allowed me to explore books with diverse characters and come up with what constitutes diverse. In the end, my ten objects included books with LGBTQIA+, Latinx, Native, African American, and immigrant characters as well as characters suffering with mental illness and addiction.

And then I got my first “grade” back. My work was unable to be graded because I did not follow the format given. I submitted it again. It was again returned because my format did not meet the format requirements. I remember screaming and crying. When I calmed myself, I looked again at the format and realized, no, I had not in fact followed the format. Read directions and check your work.

Lesson 2 – As an undergraduate, I once started a Shapespeare essay with “In addition.” I was a horrible writer and only received an A with any writing that I did when it was creative writing. I remember my professor of music something compared my writing to Camus or Satre. Writing like Camus does not help when you are creating a 40 page document of an information system. Thankfully, my first few semesters of my master’s had helped me tame down my writing and write logically and coherently with no sentences starting with “In addition.”

The key to writing technically is being succinct and less is more. At one point, Professor Enoch, answering a question, said that we were welcome to copy phrases and apply them throughout. For example, in my forty page IOP, I wrote “this is because” a total of forty seven times. I use the term “information object” fifty nine times. I use the phrase “is required” twenty times. My favorite fiction writers would never write like that. Chimamda Adichie would never have used such redundancy in Half of a Yellow Sun in describing the horrors of the Biafran War in Nigeria. Gabriel Garcia Marquez would never have used such phrases to demonstrate unrequited love in Love in the Time of Cholera. No, because this is technical writing. I really did improve in this writing style although it was taxing. At one point, I noticed my thinking face during this writing process, froze my facial expression and took a selfie. Technical writing is not my best look but I made it work.

Technical writing thinking face

Lesson 3 – In the end, this mega assignment and journey was a huge success. I cried twice and according to my husband, once said in my sleep that I was quitting my master’s. But I did it and the experience that I had will serve me in understanding my future users (students), tagging, thesauri and most importantly (in my opinion), technical writing. I can be an artist through and through, but whether I am writing a grant proposal or demonstrating the value and worth of the library using statistics and data to my administrator, my writing will need to be technical, succinct and free from verbosity.

Final draft of my IOP


Image by Слава Вольгин from Pixabay

Creating a welcome place for Staff

During our Fall social emotional learning (SEL) professional development, my co-worker and I moderated a community circle of a small group of staff members. The purpose of this community circle was to “unpack” our experience with doing a privilege walk with these fellow staff members. Our community circle questions included:

1.     What happened

2.    How did this exercise make you feel

3.    What were your thoughts as you did this exercise

4.    What have you learned from this experience

5.    What can you do with this information in the future

Many staff members were candid, honest and vulnerable about how the privilege walk made them feel and various staff members shared about their experiences. In regards to the final question, of “what can you do with this information in the future?” many staff members talked about how they wish/would like to speak more regularly to other staff members. One of these people was librarian at my school. 

After the SEL professional development, I asked her if she would be open to hosting a type of meet and greet with treats, inviting staff members to come to the library. The purpose would have the following goals:

  1. Offer the experience to staff members that the library is a:
    1. place to socialize and mingle
    2. place that offers reading for pleasure
    3. place that offers literature on professional development topics
    4. increase circulation of professional non-professional literature from staff


A few of the standards this event addressed were:


Before the event, Karen polled the staff with a google form asking:

  • My favorite Middle School book or series was:
  • My favorite book or series as an adult has been
  • The most helpful book I have read and used during my educational career has been

From here, Karen made a display and eventually pulled books for our display to the staff.

The day before the event, we went to the store and purchased a box of pastries, marshmallows, and hot chocolate mix. I locked my keys in my car as well, which was a type of fun.

We did not have a very high expectation for turn out. It was the day before Winter Break and teachers were MAP testing, which means they needed to be in their rooms to get ready for students to arrive to test. In addition, in my own mind, with all sorts of treats in the lounge, I thought the teachers might be burned out on more treats.

What happened was magical. As soon as we opened our doors with our little spread, a little Christmas tree and Holiday music playing in the background the teachers started coming in. In total, almost 20 staff members showed up.

I had four conversations with staff members not only about their favorite books, but about their journey in their love of reading. Our librarian also had a few casual converstations about books with other staff members. At one point, in the first time I can even remember, a group of teachers sat themselves and chatted.

In total, only one YA Historical Fiction book was circulated, but with engagement, discussions about literature and creating relationships, it was a great start.

Staff Members AttendedNumber of Materials Circulated
Chatting in the library #librarymagic
Fellow teacher browsing our little book displays
My music team, stopping by to support me


While there was only one book circulated during this event, I believe that the impact was incredibly positive and powerful. During the event, for the first time since the pandemic, I saw teachers mingling among the books, sharing their love of reading, and just chatting. Comments from emails included, “Thank you, it truly was a great way to start the day,” “Thank you for hosting,” and “Thank you for doing this” (J. Boutemy, S. Brozak & V. Franco, personal Communication, 12/16/2021).

Going forward, I plan to co-host and organize monthly staff events. The next one will hopefully be:

I look forward to not only promoting the services of the library, but changing the perception of some very important stakeholders, the staff.


American Association of School Librarians. (2018). AASL Standards Framework for Learners. In National School Library Standards. https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/AASL-Standards-Framework-for-Learners-pamphlet.pdf

National Policy Board for Educational Administration (2015). Professional Standards for Educational Leaders. http://www.npbea.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Professional-Standards-for-Educational-Leaders_2015.pdf

Say what now?

How would you react to ideas that go directly against what you thought to be true? In my time while obtaining my master’s in library science, I have come to consider the library the beacon of truth, a place that fights injustice and promotes equality. In addition, to this, my idea of the library has been a romanticized by my experiences. In my mission statement when I submitted my entrance documents to become a student at UNT in the library science master’s program, I stated that the library is a “piazza.” Weigand’s keynote address, and follow up comments and reactions from other library professionals challenged some of my preexisting views on the library, its history and its role in the school.

Romanticized library history

One of the things that Weigand points out is that his book American Public School Librarianship: A History, to come out in the Fall of 2021, there has not yet been a comprehensive history of school libraries in the United States. In his research, he found instances in which the library, “Most of our history shows our professional discourse to be very positive, to be cautious of addressing issues that perplex us.” (2021, 01:20). He then goes on to talk about a story of a black library supervisor, Carrie Coleman Robinson (See Image 1) who was in charge of black segregated libraries in the south. When bringing to light discrimination, and filing suit. Weigand points out that up until this point, the library associations had not dealt with the issue with segregated schools. Then, when the Black Caucus asked the ALA to make a statement about Robinson’s case, they refused. In my mind, this casts a dark shadow on what I believed about the school library as an organization. In one of my first blogposts, I commented on how impressed I was about the comprehensiveness of the ALA and AASL resources and statements. It is important to note, however, that these organizations have evolved. When George Floyd was murdered, and the Black Lives Matter movement was again in full effect, organizations, such as the ALA issued statements about this movement, definitions of terms, and links to resources to take action, from police reform to racial equity in the library. In addition, the ALA admits that in terms of diversity, “the librarian profession suffers from a persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity that shows few signs of improving” (“Libraries Respond,” 2021). This, now to my understanding, is a transparency that is necessary to uphold the so called values of the library.

Carrie Coleman Robinson, Image 1

The Library is the Heart of the school?

The second challenge to my mind is the tendency to compare the library to a human organ. Ross Todd said, “I have read the school library being the heart…brains of the school….I cringe when I hear these terms…I think it is a really timely challenge for us all to think about the language and labels that we ascribe to what we value (01:54). Ross then goes on to suggest that using this way in referring to the library “puts us in competition…[and] isolates us rather than integrates us” (Ross, 2020, 01:55). When he said this, it really stopped me because for the past three years, I have been espousing this idea that the library should be the heart, and hub and brain, and piazza and skeleton of the school. While I still need time to reflect on these comments, I agree with Ross’s statement. Aren’t we lessening the vitalness of the music class, the ELA class, the science class. Perhaps then, we as librarians should start to view each class as its own person, as its own body with a heart, brain, etc. I don’t have an apt metaphor for the library in this new view that I have, but I’ll be working on that.

Maybe we shouldn’t consider the library as the heart of the school…just saying.
Image by un-perfekt from Pixabay


Weigand, W. (2021, July 12-16). Conference opening ceremony and keynote address by Wayne Weigand and panel [Virtual presentation]. International Association of School Librarianship, Denton, Texas, United States.

Libraries respond: Black lives matter. (2020, June 3). American Library Association. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/librariesrespond/black-lives-matter

Separate – and unequal. (2020, October 6). American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2020/10/06/separate-and-unequal-carrie-c-robinson-librarian-challenging-racism/

Adovcating the library to … your parents

Under slept from a year of baby #2 who struggled immensely to sleep through the night, and trying to be relaxed as I faced my last summer of courses for my master’s, we climbed into the Nissan Rouge, my husband, my 1 year old and my 3 year old, and our 17 year old Dachshund on a 516 mile journey to the Rio Grande Valley, the place where my husband and I are from. In this plan, my children and I will be staying with my mother for four weeks – mainly to achieve two objectives – having the kids spend ample grandparent time after a year of quarantine and for help watching them while I worked on my classes.

It proved to be a good choice. Each day, one set of grandparents helped watch the kids for a few hours while I got classwork done. Good memories were made as well.

My little guy sweeping my moms kitchen.
A weekend trip to South Padre Island.

However, some of the most notable memories were are related to my parents and their view of the library. This summer I am taking INFO 5420: Introduction to Youth Literature, where, you guessed it, there is quite a bit of reading – 25 books total (although 15 of those are within the Pre K-6th range). This proved to be quite challenging for two reasons:

  1. Not every book I needed/ wanted was available as an ebook or audiobook
  2. I am not a resident of Edinburg, Texas, so cannot check out books.

If I am being completely honest, I could get away with checking out books in another city. Plano libraries have kiosks where one only has to put in their library card number and last fours digits of their telephone and off they go.

So, in order to check out the books I needed, I had to ask my parents to take me to the library. My parents do NOT frequent the library in any capacity.


When I first arrived to Edinburg, I first wanted to go to the library not to obtain books for my class, but to obtain books to read to my daughter and son. My mom paused and looked at me quizzically, “Vanessa, I have all the Golden books from when you were a child!” It took me a moment to bounce back from this. While that may be true, I had some questions –

Where are the stories of Latinos in the Golden Books of yesteryear (1980s)

Where are the representations of Native Americans, Black Americans, Asian Americans, LGBTQ communtity, people with disabilities?

Where are the representations of science, and more acutely, the representations of women in science?

Where are the representations of being kind and good to yourself and others?

No, the Golden Books are not good enough for me, and they are not good enough for my kids and they are not good enough for young people.


My dear dad did not finish high school, but he reads everyday. He reads the newspaper front to back and had been, surprisingly to me, a champion for underrepresented people and minorities. I ask him for help, trying to give my mom a break for waiting for me as I browse the library. My dad arrives and helps me out my pushing the baby around in the stroller, an impressive feat for him, who never changed a diaper in his life. I find the books I wanted and we both go up to the circulation desk. It turns out that he already had a library card, but needs a replacement card. I pay for the replacement card. After the staff check out my/his books, my dad asks:

“So how what do we owe you?”

“Excuse me?”

“How much for the books?”

“Oh, sir, they are free”

“Wow, well that’s just great. Thank you very much.”

So there it is. My dad did not know that library books are free.

This anecdote, unfortunately, is representative of a much larger demographic.

How does one, whether a person, school library, public library or academic library, advocate for the innumerable benefits of the library? Through the lends of brand advocacy, where the library is conceptualized as a capitalistic establishment that has tangible value. In the article, “Community connections: Advocating for libraries through effective brand advocacy,” Singh and Trinchetta focus on three strategies to this brand advocacy – word of mouth, branding and advocacy. The first of these “represents one of the most influential sources of information transfer by consumers” (Sing & Trinchetta, 2020, p. 296). Though literal word of mouth is of tremendous benefit, a strong social media presence is essential.

” branding can evoke a memory,
a collection of feelings, associations, experiences, and behaviors – a perception,
when people think of their libraries

School libraries can be extensions of advocates for the public library. In one librarian’s web page, there were easy to access links to the plano public library. In another, I saw public library summer reading challenges offered to students in their last days of the school year.

My parents might not become “Friends” of their library or help volunteer at events, but perhaps their summer exposure introduced them to what the library can begin to offer.


Singh, R. & Trinchetta, G. G. (2020) Community connections: Advocating for libraries through effective brand advocacy.  Public Library Quarterly, 39:4, 295-309, DOI: 10.1080/01616846.2019.1613626

My first Makerspace video

Alana, my daughter, newly turned three, was sick. She did not have COVID or the flu, but had croup, an infection little ones apparently get.

By Friday, her third day of convalescence, my second day home from work, she seemed to be doing better enough to walk around and do small activities. For her birthday, our close friends gave her a few Tinker Crates that they had grown out of. Let’s go!

This tinker crate, I was well aware, did not fit the age level of my little three year old, but rather ages 9-16 but I am sure it would still be a type of fun for her.

The tinker crate we opened was “Animation Machine.”

I have a history of tinkering with art type projects. I might paint, or arrange photos, but do not gravitate to STEM tinkering. Also, if I’ve learned anything from my early adult years of assembling my own IKEA furniture, I do not follow directions well. So let’s try this thing out.

It was great! It was very easy to understand (easier than building an IKEA dresser in my opinion), and we did it in less than 15 minutes.

This might be something worth purchasing a subscription to at $19.95. However, it is not practical for the library. I am familiar with makerspaces.com, but need to talk more to my library peeps about what other websites and resources are out there for kits that are economical.

The video is really low quality. I recorded it myself while actually building the machine while reading directions. Neither was I consistent with my use of landscape vs. portrait recording. There is legit one panel that is upside down. There is one panel that is sideways. I would never show this to students. However, this needs to be included here for anyone to see because it is part of the learning process. Yeah, this video is really low quality, but it is a risk, a challenge and gives me the confidence to go forward to do better. I suggest you do the same. Go and do, and don’t worry about how rough the edges are, just do and then hone. You have your whole life to hone…so tinker away!

A Book Review – Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music.

As a light lyric mezzo-soprano, I never felt any great need to watch and listen to Wagner operas. I studied them in music history class and that was the scope of my exposure.

I knew, however, someday, the time would come to end my abstinence of this larger than life composer. One moment of presentiment occurred in 2010. My husband and I were in Chicago, ready to run the Chicago marathon. We had just walked around the University of Chicago and had found our way to a bookstore. It was a used bookstore and as I walked the aisles, I noticed the music. It was dark, and heavy. The orchestration was gargantuan. The music, seemingly, never resolved. Unlike bel canto or verismo operas, there were seemingly no arias. I, of course, knew it was Wagner. There, walking the aisles in a Chicago bookstore, overhearing employees swapping Saul Bellow stories, on the eve of running 26.2 miles, was the most I had ever heard a Wagner opera.

Still, it was not until two months ago, that I decided to enter his world. I am currently taking INFO 5367, Music Libraries and Information Services, and our mid-term assignment is to read a book and review it. I had recently started reading The Rest is Just Noise: Listening to the Twentieth, by Alex Ross, and knew that he was coming out with a new book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. I knew that it was time. I have read the book, and written the review and more importantly, have begun watching his operas. Where do I stand now? I see Wagner everywhere. I hear Wagner everywhere.

Over a decade after the release of his award winning book, The Rest is Just Noise: Listening to the Twentieth, Alex Ross has recently published his new and exhaustively comprehensive book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. In addition to studying music at the university, Ross has written as a music critic for almost 30 years, and currently writes for The New Yorker

While this work deserves a place on the shelf of the academic and public library, it is wholly accessible to the non-musician reader who has interest in music, literature, art or history. Even at an epic 660 pages, it is an accessible read and maintains an interesting and energetic narrative. Only at the beginning is there an excerpt of music notation, from Das Rheingold, the first opera of the Ring cycle, and is less to showcase harmonic structure, but rather to demonstrate the beginning of a new era in art and music.

The book is organized by chapters that are mostly chronological and are each titled with a reference to various mythologies of Wagner operas. The chapter entitled, “Siegfried’s Death: Nazi Germany and Thomas Mann” is a latter chapter that covers the aforementioned time and people. Siegfried is both a key character in Wagner’s operas and also the name of Wagner’s son. Ross expertly weaves these real and mythological characters into a seamless narrative. Resources at the end of the book include a chronology of Wagner’s life, an extensive reference section and an index. A welcome guide that is easy to miss (it is noted in the reference section in the smallest of fonts) is a url link to reviews, a glossary, and an audiovisual companion to the book.

While the title of this book narrows the scope of the behemoth that is Wagner, to art and politics, it remains impressively comprehensive. Ross gives examples from seemingly every art medium to judge Wagner that include literature, philosophy, art, dance, and culture.The strength of Ross’s narrative lies not only in his extensive readings and sources that reference Wagner, but in the manner in which he organizes and ties them together. He recounts how a literary figure first encountered Wagner or his music and how he influenced their work. Ross quotes passages from such figures such as Willa Cather, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Bernard Shaw, Marcel Proust, W.E.B. du Bois and James Joyce. Stories of dancers, choreographers also pepper the tale, with characters such as Isadora Duncan and Serge Diaghilev. In the current national climate of race inequality, it is refreshing to have references, albeit few, of Black Americans in Wagner’s world with stories ranging from opera goers such as W.E.B. du Bois and Langston Hughes to Black opera singers in Germany. 

Wagner is treated with as much objectivity as the primary documents allow. Throughout these anecdotes, Ross consistently addresses the recorded racism of Wagner. The underlying and inescapable question throughout the book is, how do we reconcile Wagner’s antisemetic views with his oeuvre?  Ross confronts Wagner’s antisemitism with directness, quoting or paraphrasing his horrid statements from primary sources. To that end, the main argument of Ross is that, while Wagner published and spoke abominable words against Jewish people, his work has left an indelible mark on every art. Ross tells of how Wagner and his music was used in the most nefarious ways. Leading up to and during World War II, Wagner’s words and music are used everywhere from Nazi propaganda, to military operation[s] with names such as “Siegfried line.”  Yet Ross points out that in reality, “Wagnerism was on the decline in Germany at this time” and that Wagnerites, including Jewish Wagnerites, extolled the themes of love and understanding present in such works as Parsifal. In his postlude, Ross astutely asserts, 

“To blame Wagner for the horrors committed in the wake is an inadequate response to historical complexity: it lets the rest of civilization off the hook. At the same time, to exonerate him is to ignore his insidious ramifications…the ugliness of his racism means that posterity’s picture of him will always be cracked down the middle…” 

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music is an essential work in understanding the momentousness of Wagner’s influence on culture and the arts while understanding his deeply flawed racism. He was just a man. His music, however, is, was and forever will be as transcendent and ever reaching as the gods in his repertoire. 

Bohlman, Andrea F. “Ross, Alex.” Oxford University Press, 2016. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2289326.

Ross, Alex. Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020.

Reading”The Hate U Give” during these times + Intellectual Freedom

Audio books had served me well in the first few months of having my second kid. My idea in selecting books to read (during maternity leave/summer/pandemic) was to alternate between reading a young adult novel and a book of my choosing. So, immediately after giving birth, I started listening to, “The Golden State” by Lydia Kiesling. This was enjoyed with great hilarity, especially due to the serendipitous timing of its content – a book about a mother on the verge of a meltdown traveling with her toddler. I, myself, was adjusting to caring for a newborn and having a 2 year old in the house. After I finished this wonderful novel, “The Hate U Give” was next, having been on my to-read shelf for over a year.

George Floyd had just been murdered. The Black Lives Matter movement was experiencing a massive resurgence across the country and world. This was the landscape in which I read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

I start listening to “The Hate U Give” during my late night feedings without knowing its content. At first, it reminded me of Renee Watson’s, “Piecing Me Together” partly because it had to do with a girl attending a school outside of her community- a school with a mostly white population AND non reflective of her neighborhood. I had this comparison in my mind until, very early into the book, a childhood friend of the protagonist, an unarmed Black male, is killed by a white police officer.

This novel is honest, topical and necessary. In addition to tackling the very serious subject of race and racism (from individuals and institutions), it also addresses self-esteem and worth, gender roles, culture and the challenges between people from different social economic statuses – including expectations, stereotypes, perceptions and equity.

It was a surreal feeling. In the novel it was a police shooting, and in real life it was George Floyd, being pinned down by a police officer, exclaiming, “I can’t breathe,” dying shortly thereafter. At the same time, protest were occurring all around the country and the world, on top of the pandemic.

After I finished, “The Hate U Give,” I discovered that Angie Thomas was compelled to write this book after the 2009 shooting of a young Black man by a transit officer.

I also confirmed that “The Hate U Give” is included in ALA’s Top 10 most challenged books of 2018 and 2017 (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10). According to the ALA, it was challenged in 2018, “because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references” and reasons cited for 2017 were because it is ““pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.”

Being Latina, I learned about the repression of people of color later in life. I learned about the atrocities of the slave trade – how families were torn apart from one another, about how Hernán Cortés and his men brought, along with horses and Catholicism, Smallpox, killing millions of indigenous people – and about how lands were stolen from Native Americans over and over again. On a personal note, I learned that my parents were physically reprimanded for speaking Spanish in school and of examples of institutional racism such as public pool, near where my mother grew up, that had a sign reading “No dogs or Mexicans.”

This generation of young people can and should have the opportunity to hear the truth, and be exposed to these narratives. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that books like “The Hate U Give” remain in libraries and schools. These books must not be banned, hidden or repressed. In times like these, it is more important than ever for people to have access to books that address history, and reality and perspectives that are the same or different from their own. They offer a window into someone else’s experience or mirror their own. All the more reason to challenge censorship by encouraging intellectual freedom and promoting works like this that challenge institutions.

Term Paper on “Diversity in the Young Adult Collection”

Purchase “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas from Edna’s Booktique in Duncanville, Texas. https://pemberton-jones-education-group-inc.square.site/

American Library Association – Frequently Banned Books – http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks

You need a degree for that?

I was on my way to get a haircut after nearly 7 months of neglecting to do so. 

I had chopped my hair off to make my life easier for my current chapter of my life (work, school, kid, trying to live healthy). While I take time to workout, cook my meals and sleep, I do not take the same time to cut my hair, do my nails, go shopping. So, I made an appointment with my hair dresser and here is what transpired, in the form of a play:

Scene One: Saturday afternoon, unnamed Salon and Spa, woman’s head is resting on a shampoo bowl, another woman is starting to wash her hair.

Hair Stylist: What’s new with you?

Me: You know, working and I’m still working on getting my Master’s in Library Science 

Hair Stylist: You know, if I were to make any cuts to the federal budget, that would be one of the first two things to go: library and postal service. I mean, we should just get rid of the mail getting delivered on Saturdays

Me: ….. [surprised, but calm] Ok, do you every go to the library?

Hair Stylist: No, I haven’t set foot in the library in years. 

Me: I’m excited about it because the library serves so many in the community. It is a place where you have access to Wi-fi, books, and all these services for people with different needs

Hair Stylist: [changes subject]

Scene Two: Sunday evening, house of my relative, eating barbeque, potato salad and grilled vegetables

Me: So I’ve decided to get my Master’s in Library Science, to become a school librarian. 

Relative: A librarian? You have to go to school for that? ….Listen, all you need to know is this, “Shhhhh!”

Me: [chuckles uncomfortably] Actually libraries are super different now, they are places to meet and learn and create and they offer lots of services to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

Relative: [changes subject]

As a musician and educator, I never remember feeling that someone verbally lessened my career. When I experienced these interactions above, I was not shocked, but mildly surprised. In INFO 5001, I was exposed to ALA’s elevator speeches. I noted how proactive ALA was about forms of advocacy such as these. http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/speak-out/write-elevator-speech

 Here are the questions that quickly came to my mind upon further reflection:

Were my responses to these comments succinct, thoughtful? Were they a positive, and compelling response? Was I responding as an advocate for the library?

Am I prepared, verbally, to react to comments such as the ones above? 

These people were close and comfortable being open and honest with me. How can I be proactive about advocacy about a large community that might not be as vocal about their thoughts on the library?