There’s one more step we need to take.

An important and ongoing issue in our schools is the importance of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). It is something we must address in how we run our libraries. We recognize all three must be integrated into our daily practices to ensure that the library is a safe, welcoming place for all. But is there more that we can do, and, if so, what is it?

Before looking ahead, it’s important to review how this process has changed. An early understanding was realizing the difference between equality and equity. Equality means everyone gets the same thing, for example, all students get Chrome Books. Equity takes into account that not everyone is starting at the same point and resources are allocated to minimize or, even better, eliminate the difference so all have the same opportunity. It means that not only does every student have a Chrome book, but access to wi-fi so they can be used whenever needed.

Diversity addresses the need for everyone to be represented. Your collection should have materials that show a broad understanding of the many cultures, ethnics, genders, and physical distinctions that make up our communities. Even if our communities appear monochrome, the country and the world aren’t. Your collection must represent this. It’s not a diverse collection if all it has are the five “F’s”(food, festivals, folklore, fashion, and famous people). Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop first talked of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors in 1990 (you can read the full article here). She stated:

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books. (1990, p. ix)

We now look for #ownvoices and other sources to build a wider, more authentic collection.

Inclusion shows up in who is in the top classes and who is in the bottom. We can see it in the members of student government and in academic competitions. It is also visible in the cafeteria and on the bus. To create an inclusive environment where there wasn’t one takes planning, communication and patience, getting different groups to collaborate with each other.

We certainly have become better at creating a safe, welcoming place for all, but there is one more step to take. Belonging goes beyond EDI. Belonging is about emotions. It tells you how people feel about your library. Sometimes EDI feels like you are just following a set of the newest directions set down from administrators. While important, it doesn’t have that added sense of a welcoming embrace.

LaFawn Davis explains to the business world How Belonging Differs from Diversity and Inclusion — and Why It Matters. She quotes Verna Myers who said, “diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Davis then adds, “belonging is knowing all the songs.” You can feel the difference.

Davis recommends surveys to get some answers about belonging, giving this example:

We asked respondents to consider five statements regarding inclusion and belonging and select an answer ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Two of the statements were specifically related to psychological safety, the underpinning of belonging:

  • When I speak up, my opinion is valued.
  • I feel comfortable coming forward with concerns or complaints, without the fear of retaliation.

Do all your students feel their opinion is valued? Do they worry a concern or fear of theirs will be bring retaliation or just be brushed off?  Can you have conversations with students to get answers, or does that already suggest the answer?

She also suggests creating “opportunities for connections” based on interests. As you launch a research project, how can you frame it so that you get diverse members working in collaborative groups. Do formative assessments as they go along to see that all voices are being heard and welcomed.

Your Mission, as Davis says, can promote belonging. Review your Mission and make any tweaks necessary to include belonging. Keep checking to gauge how well this part of your Mission is unfolding and being lived by your audience.

Diversity is having a seat at the table; inclusion being having a voice. Belonging is the support you get for that voice. The school library has been a haven for so many over the years. It’s where countless students have felt safe. Take it one step beyond and make it the place where they feel they belong – and belong with others.

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