The December Dilemma: Addressing Identity in the Library

The December Dilemma image, white and yellow text on black background.

As we reflect on the holiday season, it is vital to assess our approach to cultural identity and diversity. Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding recently hosted a webinar exploring the many ways educators can embrace diversity during this culturally complex time of year. As library staff, we can use “The December Dilemma” and its accompanying informational documents to analyze and improve our current holiday programming, and continue to foster an inclusive environment throughout the rest of the year.

Regarding holiday-specific diversity, this packet includes timelines and plans for holiday discussions. Perhaps the most thorough of these is the “Holiday Inclusion Planning Template,” which provides an outline for year-long holiday preparation and resource management. The chart’s description encourages users to identify “which part(s) of your curriculum relate most directly to the holiday and provide the best opportunity for a ‘teachable moment.'” Although originally designed for use by teachers in a school setting, the entire program can certainly be implemented in our context. Slight adjustments would result in an extensive and effective approach to this subject suitable for the youth we serve at our libraries.

Beyond discussion surrounding holidays, this webinar and the accompanying informational packet both address the establishment of a respectful atmosphere. Many of these tools, tips, and techniques can easily be adapted for our programming purposes. The “Rules of Respect” portion of this supplemental packet includes prompts for open discussions about respect, conscious listening, and thoughtful inquiry. While some of these activities–like forming a “listening circle” or creating a chart detailing what respect looks and feels like–are aimed towards a younger audience, the core concepts can be employed for a range of age groups. For example, writing and signing a Rules of Respect Agreement could provide a foundation for newly formed teen clubs, or be used as a way to establish expectations for storytime. Another unit, “My Identity and My Family,” includes book suggestions, activity templates, and discussion prompts that could be introduced into already existing programming or used as a stand-alone unit.

While this webinar and toolkit explore diversity within the specific context of the holiday season, they also provide a solid and thorough approach to religious and cultural tolerance. Whether we use this as preparation for holiday programming, or simply as a framework for conducting identity work within our libraries, this is an invaluable resource. The archived webinar and supplemental documents can be found here.

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