ON LIBRARIES: A Safe Welcoming Environment – For All

The library must be a safe, welcoming environment.  We all say this and mean it.  But how is that translating into reality? Having furniture appropriate in size for students?  Featuring student work? Rules that are positively stated? Do you have students who choose to stay in the library during lunch because they feel different or unaccepted by their classmates?  All this is important, but there is more to creating a safe, welcoming environment for all. Those last two words are the key and to create it we need equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Creating a welcoming environment is behind the call for more diversity in our collections. A great website for this is We Need Diverse Books. Under the Resources tab, in addition to a downloadable Booktalking Kit, there is “Where to Find Diverse Books” which gives links for sources for African, African American, Disabilities (only one). American Indian, Islam, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+.

Take the time to look at your current collection.  Do most of your diverse books fall within Sonia Nieto’s description of foods, festivals, fashion, folklore, and famous people?  For students of these diverse backgrounds, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in capturing who they are.  Is your African American collection heavily tilted toward slave days and the civil rights movement?  Certainly, there is much more to present.

As mentioned on the website We Are Teachers, we need to provide Mirrors and Windows.  Mirrors allow students to see themselves in the books in our collections. The same titles provide Windows for other students to see the bigger picture, helping them become the global citizens necessary in our world.  Hopefully, these Windows become Sliding Glass Doors, creating comfort and ease with others who are different from us.

It’s important to see diversity in a somewhat larger setting.  The phrase used in business, education, and especially for our libraries is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion or EDI.  The three words are obviously related, but there are substantive differences among them.

ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee just completed the process for further defining the Library Bill of Rights.  The document, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights is one you need to be familiar with.  Among other explanations, it presents definitions of these three key areas.

Equity, according to the document is: “{Takes} difference into account to ensure a fair process and, ultimately, a fair outcome. Equity recognizes that some groups were (and are) disadvantaged in accessing educational and employment opportunities and are, therefore, underrepresented or marginalized in many organizations and institutions. Equity, therefore, means increasing diversity by ameliorating conditions of disadvantaged groups.”

Equity should not be confused with equality. Equality means everyone gets the same.  Divide the pie into equal portions.  But should the toddler get the same size piece as the teenager?  Obviously not.  Equity is about giving more to those who need more.  A graphic, attributed to the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette (left), shows 3 children of different heights behind a fence watching a baseball game. Equality is giving all three a box of the same height to see over the fence.  Equity is giving them boxes of different sizes.

My favorite version goes beyond even equity. When the planks covering the fence are removed, nobody needs assistance.  The assistance can make students feel different which is not what we want.  For example, if you charge fines for overdues and forgive those who can’t afford them or let them work off their fines in some ways, you are making the situation equitable, but differences are still felt. Eliminating fines eliminates differences.

Diversity according to the ALA document, “can be defined as the sum of the ways that people are both alike and different. When we recognize, value, and embrace diversity, we are recognizing, valuing, and embracing the uniqueness of each individual.” The words “valuing” and “embracing” are what contribute to making the library a safe and welcoming space.

Diversity shows up throughout the National School Library Standards. The standard for C. SHARE III. Collaborate states: “Learners work productively with others to solve problems by: involving diverse perspectives in their own learning process.”  It’s not just your book collection that should be diverse. Integrating diversity within research projects makes it a part of students’ lives.

Inclusion, as stated in the document, “means an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives; have equal access to resources and opportunities; and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”  To me, this is the welcoming statement.  All belong, all contribute.

The National School Library Standards identifies Include as the second of the Shared Foundations, stating that it “Demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community.”  As part of what we do as school librarians, we need to recognize the diverse range of our student population.  In addition to ethnicity, gender identification, and disabilities, we need to be aware of those who are homeless, have an incarcerated family member, a parent serving abroad, or other ways their lives may make them feel different.

It’s not easy. It won’t happen overnight.  It’s an ongoing process of learning for us as well as the communities we serve, but the bottom line is the library must be a safe, welcoming environment for ALL. The work we do with this has a far-reaching – even unlimited – impact.

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES: A Safe Welcoming Environment

back to school. color pencils

Labor Day is over, and the majority of us are back in school. We are eager to welcome students to the start of a new year and want them to find the library a safe, welcoming environment. It’s so important that students and teachers feel this way about the library that the phrase is in many school library’s Mission Statement.  But are we doing everything we can to make it a reality?  Are we inadvertently doing things that create barriers to achieving this goal?

Let’s start with the term “environment.”  Some people say, “A safe, welcoming, space,” which is significant. The room needs to convey that atmosphere, greeting everyone who walks into the library.  As you enter your library this week, try to see your library with fresh eyes.  Walk in and look around. What do you see? What feelings does it communicate?  When I first walked into a library I was about to take over, I immediately noticed some old shelving stored on top of the high bookcases along the wall. Despite the library being summer-neat, those old shelves sent a message of disuse.

Libraries don’t have to be neat.  Good ones rarely are during the school year. But that kind of disorder conveys the feelings of activity with students and teachers exploring ideas and information for academic needs and personal interest.  The message you don’t want to send is one of dusty and musty, which is what the old shelving were saying.

What else does your library say to those entering?  I once visited an elementary school during the summer as part of a district-wide evaluation of the school library program.  The “rules” were neatly printed and posted on two different walls.  If I remember correctly every rule began with the word “No.”  And that was my reaction to the library – NO.  Even as an adult I felt unwelcome.

Your room may be safe and welcoming, but are your policies?  Too often we have set rules that are barriers for many students.  Just as you looked at your library with fresh eyes, you need to do the same for these rules. To make the library a safe, welcoming environment for all, rules (or guidelines) should preferably be developed with student input.  When reviewed with the incoming class, students should be asked whether they agree with the rules. What would they change? Add? When you do this, you give the students a stake in the library and the success of the program.

Recently, a regional library system eliminated fines because these were a barrier for patrons.  Although a large percentage of your users don’t think twice about the minimal cost of fines, for some every penny counts.

Having to pay for lost or damaged books can keep students from using the library the way they should.  Yes, they should be responsible, but it’s better if you can find alternate ways for them to pay for these items and do it in a way that won’t cause them to feel embarrassed. Some libraries allow students to “work” off the cost by helping around the library.

Not allowing students to borrow a book if they have overdues detracts from the library being a safe, welcoming environment.  What is more important — reading or being responsible for what was borrowed?  So many external dynamics can make it difficult for students to bring back books in a timely way, whether that’s custody arrangements, homes that are in turmoil due to substance abuse, physical abuse or illness or any of a number of challenges that are impacting their success.

Which brings me to the issue of diversity in your collection.  Students need to see themselves in the books they read as well as see others who are different from themselves to engender empathy and understanding. We have become more alert to this issue and I am heartened to read of the ways librarians are working to ensure that their collections have books about different ethnics, lifestyles, and home conditions. It can be difficult to accomplish the desired level of variety in some districts, but it’s imperative that we do the best we can to add as many titles of this nature as possible. From books, I learned about rural life, single parenthood, and many other lifestyles far removed from my own world.  It helped me become a more tolerant, empathetic adult. Think about the people and situations you encountered in books long before you encountered them in the world. What can you bring to your students to give them a broader view of the world?

Don’t forget to address students with disabilities especially in the physical layout of your library.  How high is your circulation desk? Are there students who have difficulty accessing computer-based information.?  What changes can you make to address these challenges? Speak with a guidance counselor to get a good handle on issues your students are facing. Then assess your collection and library arrangement to determine what changes need to be made.  If money is a problem –and it usually is—look for grants to help.

Another way to support student connection is to display student-produced work throughout the year which shows you value them and the many varied contributions they make.  Collaborate with the art teacher to bring these projects into the library, rotating them monthly. You might consider having a bulletin board for student achievements whether it’s a sports’ team, academic competition, the drama club production, or student-participation in a community service event.

There are many big and small ways to create a library with a safe, welcoming environment for all, and when you do so you create a lifelong difference for your students and teachers.

ON LIBRARIES: An Ethical Question

As librarians, we are accustomed to celebrating many months.  February is African American History Month.  March is Women’s History Month. And April is School Library Month, Poetry Month, and Math Awareness Month.  I am sure you have displays for all them, just as you do for the holidays in November and December.

June is GLBT Book Month.  Have you done anything to highlight it? I can hear a dead silence (crickets chirping) as I write these words.  Many of you won’t do anything.  Some of you have reason to believe you can’t do anything.  But what about library ethics?

Back in April I did a blog post on the “Many Layers of Diversity.” I was bringing ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee’s draft of the Library Bill of Rights Interpretation – Equity, Diversity, to your attention.  I dealt with all the aspects of the interpretation including meeting the needs of everyone in the school including LGBTQ students. (I am more familiar with LGBTQ rather than GLBT.) 

In June, these young people take center stage. Are you up to the challenge? Have you been avoiding books having LGBTQ characters?  I am not here to preach to those of you who are in untenable positions on the topic.  I know some of you work and live in communities where you would be vilified and possibly fired for purchasing these books. And you would not likely be hired anywhere else since the people in the surrounding towns hold the same views.

If you are sufficiently courageous, you might purchase some titles with your own funds.  Keep them in your office.  Your LGBTQ students in these communities are more isolated and fearful than in other more tolerant areas. When you have identified one of these kids, let them read the books you have in the library.  Taking them home could constitute a danger to you and possibly to them.  But you want your library to be a safe, welcoming environment for all your users.  And these students need to feel safe someplace.

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How far you go in marking this month is up to you.  If you are one step up from the most restrictive communities, consider an annotated booklist. In a more tolerant area you can put the titles on display and post it to your website.

Helen Adams, an active member in AASL and the Freedom to Read Foundation just did a blog for Knowledge Quest entitled “June is GLBQ Book Month.” In it she gives example of how to build a rainbow collection. She encourages you to include GLBT titles among others when you give a book talk, and offers suggestions for educating teachers.

Adams points out, “Of the 323 book challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom for 2016, five of the top 10 challenged books for 2016 included titles that LGBT characters including two with transgender children.”  She reminds librarians if they are facing a book challenge, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is ready and able to offer confidential support.

Do check out the resources and links she provides in the article. Some of you might be surprised by the experiences of one New England middle school librarian who reported, “LGBTQ inclusion has become a normal part of the everyday activities in the library, and I think this has had a positive impact. This year, I’ve had an eighth-grade student ask me a couple times for good coming out stories, and earlier this year a sixth-grade student came to me to ask about pronoun etiquette.”

GLBT kids can be found in every school in the country.  Some are more obvious about it—when they feel safe. Others are desperately trying to hide who they are. They all deserve to know they aren’t alone and your library is a safe place for them. If you think you have a challenge – can you even begin to imagine theirs?

What are you doing for your GLBT students this month – and every month?  How much of a challenge is this for you?

ON LIBRARIES: The Many Layers of Diversity

An unquestioned tenet of librarianship is that the library collection will encompass diverse materials to meet the needs of all users.  Sounds good, but in practice this is not always easy to accomplish. There are challenges librarians must face along with difficult choices.

On the surface, a diverse collection contains fiction and non-fiction and all genres are represented in as many formats as possible. While it took a while in some places for graphic novels to be accepted, they now are in most if not all libraries. But there is far more to diversity.

As the liaison to ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) from ALA’s Committee on Professional Ethics, this topic is on my mind frequently. Currently, IFC has a draft resolution in the works on Library Bill of Rights Interpretation – Equity, Diversity, Inclusion. In fully defining what those terms encompass, the draft is a strong reminder of what libraries stand for—and the challenging decisions implicit in this stance.

Here are some highlights of the document:

  • Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. In a school library, this means you can’t be limited to what the jobbers make available. If you need books in languages other than English (and Spanish), you need to seek out those publishers who have books for whatever ethnics are represented in your school. Fortunately, this information is becoming more widely available. Your collection should also include materials representing difficulties many students face such as homelessness, a parent in prison, a parent serving the military, foster homes, learning and physical limitations of self or siblings, and the stressful situations.  It’s important they see themselves reflected in the collection.  Those who have more traditional lives benefit from being made aware of their good fortune as well as developing empathy for their classmates.
  • Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. Although those working in parochial schools which have a strong doctrinal view on certain subjects do not have to adhere to this, public school libraries are expected to follow this principle. Among the “current” issues that can cause a school librarian to pause before ordering would be climate change and evolution. In some places a sizable group does not accept the general scientific viewpoint.
  • Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. This another area where it gets difficult for librarians, particularly those who are the sole librarian in their school. You are charged with meeting the needs of everyone in the school.  This means those who have same sex parents or are LGBTQ.  In some communities these topics are a red flag and are likely to bring forth challenges. It is easy to just not purchase them.  Who would know?  Your budget is limited in any case.  You can’t afford to put your job at risk.  All true statements. Each librarian needs to make a personal decision between doing what our ethics and philosophy require or taking the safe route. I can’t condemn their choice. But I do applaud and acknowledge those who face this head on.  We are supposed to create a safe, welcoming atmosphere for all our students.  Our LGBTQ students struggle to feel safe, in and out of school.  Countless adults have told stories of how important their school library was in giving them a measure of security and acceptance.
  • A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. This is one is obvious, but it harkens back to the days of segregation. It’s important for students to know our history – the bad as well as the good- so they see injustice can be corrected. There is much nonfiction on the subject, but it’s in fiction—including picture books –that students can discover what it was like in those days, and develop empathy for those who lived then and extend it to those now who are targeted as being “other.”

It’s incumbent on every librarian to be familiar with the ALA Code of Ethics, the Library Bill of Rights, and the Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors. Protect yourself and your students by having a Selection Policy approved by your Board of Education. You can get help in doing so from the Workbook for Selection Policy Writing.

Also, celebrate Choose Privacy Week May 1 -7, and Banned Books Week September 24-30.

Have you been faced with a difficult choice in purchasing a book for your collection?  What did you do?  How do you make your library a safe, welcoming environment? What help do you need or can you offer to others?

ON LIBRARIES – The Value of Values

valuesI have often written and spoken about the importance of having a Mission and a Vision Statement.  They keep you grounded and focused when you are being pulled in multiple directions by students, teachers, and administrators. They also guide you in determining where and why you want to take your program next.

What I haven’t really discussed was the even greater importance of Values.  Mission and Vision are powerful and succinct.  They are usually short so you can memorize and display them for others to see. Values speak to the core of who you are and what you believe.  They should be completely internalized.

Consider first how your values affect your life outside the library.  How you honor your marriage, raise your children, treat your friends, and all the interactions of your daily life are rooted in your values.  Without much thought, you make many decisions based on your values.  The same is true for you as a librarian.whats-important

When you write a Philosophy Statement, as I have my students do in my Management of the School Library Program course, I suggest they look at the “Common Beliefs” at the beginning of the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner to start their thinking process. They are then to consider what they feel a school library program should embody and communicate.

Philosophy Statements generally run from 2/3 to a full page and are, in essence, a statement of your values.  For me, one of the most important value I hold is that the library must be a safe, welcoming space for all.  This has always been important, but it is clearly needed now more than ever.

safe-place-3It seems like such a simple sentence, but when it’s put into practice, it has many implications for you and your program.  Is your collection diverse?  Does it truly reflect your student body?  Are there books in fiction and nonfiction by and about Latinos, African Americans, Muslims and others who make up your school and community population?  Are there titles about homelessness or a parent in jail?  Your students need to see themselves in your collection.

One of the very difficult questions and decisions facing school libraries is buying and shelving LGBTQ books.  Depending on your community and geography, it can be a hard decision, but if one of your values is that the library is a safe, welcoming environment, your choice is to purchase those books or go against your values.

It’s easier if you haven’t identified your values. Then you can dodge the issue, but is that the person you are or want to be? Is that the program you want to lead?

As a member of ALA’s Committee on Professional Ethics, I have been looking at ALA’s Code of Ethics. This represents the Values of our profession.  It’s well worth reading.  This code is one of the things which make me proud to be a librarian even as I sometimes feel challenged to live up to these values. I have been focusing on section VII which reads:code-of-ethics

“We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.”

It’s not always easy to set our personal convictions aside, but it’s our responsibility to do so.  Our values should be governing our decisions.

While at ALA Midwinter in Atlanta, I learned that there seems to be “less interest” in our values. Programs at state and national conferences lean heavily to the practical. But the practical need to be rooted in something.  Our values as librarians, give us a uniting bond with each other.  It makes our organization strong and keeps us all on the same page (no pun intended).

intellectual-freedomI urge you to get in touch with our values as librarians.  Bookmark the Intellectual Freedom page and become familiar with the key documents. Start reading the Intellectual Freedom Blog.  You should know what ALA is doing concerning the issue. Most recently OIF condemned government agency censorship.

What are your Values as a librarian? How do they affect the way you do your job?  What are your Values in your personal life?  How have they influenced your choices? (Don’t you love my Essential Questions at the end of each blog?)

 

ON LIBRARIES: Thankful for the Library as a Safe Place

Safe place2One of the most recurrent phrases in school library Visions (and sometimes in Mission Statements) is the library is a “safe, welcoming environment.” By implication we mean “for all.” We have read many testimonies to that truth from authors (especially, it seems) and others who found the library to be a refuge where they could escape harassment or the pressures of their lives in general whether a school or a public library.

While bullying has a long history, recent events have increased both bullying and fears in schools. In addition, the anonymity and overwhelming presence of cyberspace exacerbates the challenge. As librarians we have an obligation to ensure all our students feel safe—at least in our space, and as teachers to remind students the value in being their “better selves.”

A tall order at any time, but it’s one we can handle. At the elementary level, where you have more control over your lessons begin by using the Thanksgiving and holiday seasons to present a unit on thankfulness and giving. By reading appropriate stories and engaging students in discussions of what they are thankful for and how they would like to give to others, they begin to realize how kindness and generosity become gifts to themselves.be-kind

A member of the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group had a great idea.  Here’s what she posted:

                    After discussing, watching short videos, and reading books about kindness this week, my kiddos are writing and drawing one kind thing they promise to do to make the world a better place (kindergarteners drew themselves doing their kind act and told us what to write). I am covering our library windows with them to inspire kindness in our school. So far it’s looking pretty cool!

Besides books from your collection, look for stories of how kids have made a difference in the lives of others. What do they think of the possibility of doing the same?  What could they do?  It might become a class project done in cooperation with the teacher. If so – inform the principal.

Most elementary schools incorporate Character Education into the curriculum and you can easily work from that.  Take whatever theme of the month is being featured, then read and display books on the topic.  Challenge your students to share how they are incorporating that value into their daily life.

Character Education
Character Education (looks like Divergent factions, yes?)

If your school doesn’t do that, you can work with the 6 Pillars of Character from the Character Counts website. The six are:

  • Trustworthiness – Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal
  • Fairness – Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly
  • Respect – Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements
  • Caring – Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need • Be charitable and unselfish
  • Responsibility – Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Be diligent • Persevere • Do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others
  • Citizenship – Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer

With a few minor changes the examples of how to practice the six pillars come from the website. You don’t have to do them all, and certainly not in that sequence. Obviously a few of the examples are beyond what elementary students can do.  Choose what works in your situation or highlight one a month for the next six months.

It may be more difficult to introduce these themes at the middle and high school level where you need to connect with a teacher to be able to create an appropriate unit.  Social Studies is your primary target but you might be able to work with an English teacher having kids research and create a project. If you focus on harassment and bullying, Health teachers are another possibility.

You can find many helpful resources on Teaching Tolerance a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Click on Classroom Resources for lesson plans that give the topic and grade level.  Southern Poverty Law Center also provides a free magazine to teachers and librarians that’s worth getting.teaching-tolerance

Much of this also comes under the heading of Social Justice, although I didn’t use the term because it has so many meanings and I wanted to focus on the importance of guiding students to becoming more caring people. Even without a unit on the subject, students should recognize through your modeling and behavior that the library is always a safe, welcoming environment for all.

What have you been doing to create that feeling in your library and your school?

ON LIBRARIES: What’s Your Philosophy?

philosophersI’ve blogged about writing Mission and Vision Statements because I think they are vital for keeping grounded and focused in the hectic day-to-day life of a school librarian. However, I haven’t discussed the importance of a having a written philosophy.  It’s been included in several of the books I’ve written for ALA Editions, and I have students in my Management of the School Library course do one, so I think it’s time to put the need for one in the spotlight.

A philosophy is a statement of beliefs.  It identifies your core values. The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner begins with nine “Common Beliefs” which in many ways constitutes the beliefs of the profession. These beliefs are a good place to begin framing your own philosophy.  What is it you hold dear?  What do you feel is essential to your personal definition of what a library is?  What are you willing to fight for?libraries-transform

I embrace all nine Common Beliefs but the one that means the most to me is “Equitable access is a key component for education.”  I couple it with another core value of mine,   “The library is a safe, welcoming place for all its users.”  The two don’t seem to be linked, but in many cases they are and I deeply believe that when the two come together, it can transform the life of a child.

“Equitable access is a key component for education” is a growing concern as the digital divide continues to increase.  Students who don’t have Internet or even a computer at home are at a serious disadvantage. We get stories of students who hang around the school where they can pick up free Wi-Fi for their phones so they can do searches for their classes.  But homework cannot be done on a phone.

As a librarian, I believe you have an obligation to do whatever you can to help those students.  It may mean getting a grant to have the library open after school to accommodate those without home computers.  It means making teachers and administrators aware of the problem.  Too often we take access to the Internet as a given.  The flipped classroom is a great idea.  But it doesn’t work for those who can’t go online.

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A basic truth is that schools and school libraries are not funded equably, sometimes even within the same district.  We always assume this is true in urban areas but rural communities are often in even worse shape. The lack of access to computers is only one aspect of the problem. The ones who need the resources the most are the very students whose schools have libraries with aging collections, if they have a library, and quite possibly no librarian.

ALA has recognized this lack of “equitable access” and is in the process of drafting a resolution on “Equity for All to School Libraries Community.”  It’s still be worked on, but the key points are to have ALA work to get certified librarians in all schools, equitable funding for all school libraries, and work with research committees to document the disproportionate cutting of resources affecting racial and economic populations.

Those are lofty goals. If and when it’s passed it won’t compel districts to hire librarians or fund libraries.  But by putting the weight and lobbying power of ALA behind the resolution, we can raise awareness. And as ESSA is being fleshed out, we have a good chance of making some significant changes. (Be sure you keep aware of what ALA/AASL is doing to keep librarians and libraries positioned to take advantage of all that is in ESSA.)

“Equitable access is a key component for education” is also about intellectual freedom.  I have blogged about Censorship and the lonely courage of a librarian who chooses to purchase a book, recognizing the subject matter is one that may raise challenges. We are all aware that a LGBTQ book will bring out censors in many communities.  But those are the very places where a LGBTQ child feels most vulnerable.

A book, fiction or nonfiction, can help those kids see they are not alone. They can even discover they are “normal.” It can direct them to sources for help and advice.  And this gets back to my other core value of the library being a safe, welcoming environment.

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We have heard from authors and others that the library was a sanctuary for them.  A place where they sometimes could hide and feel safe from whatever and whoever threatened them.  We know schools have anti-bullying codes, but much happens in a school that flies under adult radar.

As a librarian, keep a watchful eye for those who escape to your library.  Sometimes you can have them become “library assistants,” letting them avoid lunch in the cafeteria. You may find you become a confidante and then must travel a careful line between holding their confidentiality and knowing when to contact a guidance counselor or an administrator.  You once again are making lonely decisions.  I have made a few such in my career.  The student never knew how nervous I was, trying to do what was best for the child without violating school policies.

In making these tough decisions it pays to have a written philosophy. It’s longer than a Mission or a Vision, so you have room to include all the beliefs you have about what a library needs to be.  You can mention collaboration, and opening students’ minds to the world around them, helping them become independent learners and critical thinkers.

But you also must include how the library must feel for all its users, whether the child who is keeping his or her homelessness secret, a kid whose parent is  in prison, or one who is abused at home.  The library must be there for them, and so must you be.

As you write your philosophy, you will find out who you are at your core. You may eve revise your Mission or Vision as a result.

Do you have a philosophy?  What is the most important belief in it?