In the Aftermath of Charlottesville

Colleagues-

It has been a week since the Unite the Right white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, my hometown. I am sure by now all of you have seen ALA’s statement on Charlottesville: http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2017/08/ala-condemns-racism-and-violence-charlottesville

My colleague Amelia Gibson and I recently wrote an article for Library Quarterly entitled “We Will Not Be Silent: Amplifying Marginalized Voices in LIS Education and Research” in which we outlined four roles LIS faculty must assume as we stand in solidarity with people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, and others whose very existence is under attack. The article will be published in the Fall.

As I reflect on the events that unfolded in Charlottesville and continue to unfold across our country, I believe these four roles also apply to library staff who work with and for teens – in all libraries, not just in libraries that serve teens who belong to marginalized groups.  If we want to create a more just and equitable world, library staff must not only support teens facing racism and oppression, but also show teens who come from a place of power and privilege how and why they must embrace diversity and respect others who do not look like them. So what can we do?

  1. Be aware of how the history of our field is shaped by power and privilege and learn from those who have done the work before us.
  2. Engage in discussions about institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and other forms of structural oppression with our colleagues. Provide a space for teens to have these discussions.
  3. Amplify the voices of the marginalized in more than just our collectionsConsider also: programs, visiting authors, services, and staff/volunteers.
  4. Speak out about how racism and oppression are counter to the core values of the LIS field such as access, democracy, intellectual freedom, representation, diversity, and social responsibility.  For some of us this may be difficult, especially if were taught to believe libraries are neutral places. However, libraries are not neutral and never have been neutral.

I want to thank you for your efforts to support all teens. I especially want to thank you for supporting teens and their familes who are confronting racism and hate. As a field, we must use our privilege to challenge social and institutional systems that silence, marginalize, and threaten teens. It is important.

Best,

Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President

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