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

References

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.

MOM

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.

DAD

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.

References

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

Today I met my mentor in the aisles of the library

Life as a teacher, and as a librarian, I presume, is busy. Add onto that, being a sponsor of extracurricular clubs and then one is, I presume, busier. Add onto that, having a side gig working part time at a library (my mentor) or as a paid singer (me) and one is..busiest?

I have been in contact with my mentor, but with our very busy schedules, we decided to meet in mid-May.

The day is Friday or a day I know as, being raised Catholic, Good Friday. It is a day, therefore, that I have off from school. I sing later in the afternoon, but I take advantage of my free morning by taking my 1 year old to “Rhyme Time”.

“Rhyme time” at Davis library is different from the library near my house. The songs and rhymes are different. There is a book display set up for us to peruse after the event. This display has about 20 different books, and as a Mexican American or Tejana, my eye is drawn to the board books of Selena and Frida Kahlo. As a new parent, I constantly consider how I will share my Hispanic heritage with the baby since we live so far from home (Edinburg).  So, who is in charge of making these displays? How do they pick these books? How do they know I considered purchasing some of these books the last time I was at Target?

Upon leaving “rhyme time”, I grab the Selena board book as well as a Hindi book called ” Follow the ants” and exit the children’s area. During our one phone call, and emails, my mentor has mentioned that she spends time working at the public library. With this in mind, I walk slowly and look closely, but not too awkwardly at the name tags of staff members who are, what looks to be, re-shelving books. I inspect one name tag, nope, not her. I walk slowly, observing the way in which this library serves their Asian community with books and magazines. I see tutoring sessions to my right. I turn the corner and see another staff member. I get close, but not too close to the name tag. It reads, ” Lisa.” That is my mentors name! I make eye contact and ask her last name. Yes, it’s her, my mentor. After we hug, I tell her what I was doing there. In a mere 4 minutes, Ms. Scott’s purpose was obvious. The library is her passion and her act of service. She mentions the tailoring of this specific library’s resources to meet the needs of the community and demographic. She said that working at the public library has helped her so much with organization in her own school library. She talks about how library staff are visible and accessible to library patrons, which was how I ran into her. I couldn’t think of the term that I found on my readings that match this definition. I discovered it later in my quizlet set of library science vocab. The term is ” roving” and according to ODLIS (online dictionary for library science) refers to “the practice of discreetly walking about the reference area of a library in search of users who need assistance, as opposed to remaining seated at the reference desk.”

When my baby starts getting fussy ( nap time), I say a quick goodbye, confirm our mid-May meetup and rush to check out my books. As I fumble for my library card, she approaches me asking if she can help and that helping parents as they checkout is a norm here at this library. I tell her thank you.

How fortunate am I to be with Ms. Scott? She is empathetic, understanding and knows her purpose. What is my purpose? I love teaching, I love the library. Why can’t I formulate a purpose statement?

Here it is: I perceive the library as this entity separate from human hands. It is an institution that is a right. There are 5 in my city alone. I realize this is ridiculous. Libraries exist because of people like Lisa, who advocate. They exist and offer amazing resources because someone has worked to get those resources for the community. That book display with the Selena board book was curated by someone. I try not to be too hard on myself as I reflect on the words I told Ms. Scott when she asked why I wanted to do Library Science. I imagine myself twirling my hair, looking up at the ceiling, shrugging, in a Cinderella voice, ” the library is…magical.” It is not so. Someone made it magical, one step at a time.