YALS Winter 2017: What Cultural Competence Means for Librarians

Patricia Overall describes cultural competence as: “a highly developed ability to understand and respect cultural differences and to address issues of disparity among diverse populations competently.” Elsa Ouvard-Prettol, in her current YALS article What Cultural Competence Means for Librarians: How to Cultivate This Important Skills to Positively Impact Our Patrons, notes that the only way anyone can relate to others, is by “being able to confront and accept one’s cultural background.” This is extremely true and a very important part about working in a diverse library.

According to ALA Diversity Count vs. U.S. Census, library staff do not “reflect the ethnic diversity of the American population.” This is somewhat upsetting as the library serves a wide-range of people in the community. Changes will need to made at the top, even starting with a more diverse population of LIS students, which will lead to libraries having  more diverse staff. As of now, Ouvard-Prettol notes that recruiting diverse LIS students has had challenges, and studies are being made as to why this is a current issue. I think that one way staff could work towards recruiting prospective students is by looking into their teen community and offering a career program, or volunteer program. We currently have various teen volunteers in my branch, who started volunteering because they are interested in librarianship. We also have a librarian who started as a teen volunteer and worked his way up to an adult librarian position.

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30 Days of Social Justice: Wrapping Up and Taking Action

The 30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice campaign is wrapping up, but that doesn’t mean your actions have to end. As I mentioned on December 1st, Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice suggests great ways to get involved in the cause and help spread awareness. Actions range from asking for little effort (but causing a big impact), to major changes we can help implement through our libraries.

If you haven’t tried anything yet, check out the site and do something quick, like:
follow writers and activists of color on social media
teach teens about racism, violence, privilege, and more
diversify your reading list

If you’re attending Midwinter, make room in your schedule for Racial Justice at Your Library hosted by Libraries4BlackLives.

Be sure to check the Hub to make sure you didn’t miss any posts in this collaboration!

30 Days of Social Justice: Why the #OwnVoices Movement Is Crucial for Young Readers

What is the #OwnVoices movement?

Alaina: The #OwnVoices movement originated as a hashtag, started by Corinne Duyvis. Duyvis is an own voices author of OTHERBOUND and THE EDGE OF GONE. Duyvis started the hashtag with children’s literature in mind, but the hashtag has expanded by its users to include all literature or publishing. The hashtag #OwnVoices is meant to showcase works that are created by authors/illustrators who share the identity of their characters, such as a book with a d/Deaf protagonist written by a d/Deaf author.

Why is the movement so important?

Alaina: Whenever we talk about diversity in publishing and literature, there are some critical things to consider. Are we discussing diverse characters, or diverse authors, or diverse gatekeepers and industry professionals? Are we concerned with diversity in that stories are being published with inclusive casts, or are we also talking about the lack of diversity in whose work gets published, and who is sitting at the table making decisions about what to publish? The reason that #OwnVoices creators are so important is because, as marginalized people, we’re the best authority on telling our own stories. It’s great that more people are talking about how to write authentic, sensitive stories outside their experience, and getting sensitivity readers involved, but it’s also important that marginalized people are able to tell their own stories. And that’s what #OwnVoices does—it allows us to be a voice in our own storytelling, when stories about marginalized communities have historically been told by privileged people.

How does the movement relate to other literary movements, such as #WeNeedDiverseBooks?

Alaina: I think a lot of these movements fold together into a central goal—to have more diverse, authentic and intersectional representation across the industry. The different shades of hashtags, such as #OwnVoices and #DisabilityTooWhite (started by Vilissa Thompson), only go to show that there are nuances to the general idea of diversity, whether it’s the idea that disability representation isn’t inclusive of people of color, or the idea that we should prioritize authors writing about their own marginalized experience. These are all unique issues within the larger diversity movement, and I think every time a new hashtag or discussion pops up, it allows us all to dig in deeper and think about the ways we can improve, not just as individuals, but as an industry.

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30 Days of Social Justice: Students and School Culture

YouthTruth, a national nonprofit, that “harnesses student perceptions to help educators accelerate improvements in their K-12 schools and classrooms,” recently conducted a survey about school culture that answers the question: “How do students feel about the culture of their schools?” YouthTruth surveyed 80,000 students, grades five through 12 from 2013 – 2016; this was an anonymous survey across 24 states in a partnership with public schools. The results of the survey brought four major elements to light, but library staff can also use these results to make their library spaces more culturally positive.

The first alarming  fact is that only one in every three students would say their school is culturally positive. Only 30 percent of high school students believe their school is culturally positive, while 37 percent of middle school students believe this. There are many ways the library can make their spaces  culturally positive, especially if your library is located in a diverse community. Library staff can provide information, displays, book lists, and programs about cultures. Periodically, my branch offers a program to teen and adult customers called Discover Another Culture. For this, a volunteer from a specific country comes in to share about their culture. In November, the library held a program about Japan; library customers not only learned about Japan, but learned how to make origami too. There are a wealth of possibilities the library can utilize to make their spaces culturally positive to help fill in the gap that some schools are lacking.

The second fact found may not be alarming to too many. It states that students know they are less respectful to adults than adults are to them. From my experience, I would agree with this fact. Local high school teacher, Catherine Baker states:

“[Teens] think we are there to work for them, so it’s our job to be respectful and as helpful as we can possibly be to them. It’s our job to get them to pass, not the other way around.”

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30 Days of Social Justice: Choose Your World

 

This blog post is inspired by two incidents:

A colleague recently shared with me how, on the morning after the recent Trump presidential win, her nine children– most with special needs and all adopted internationally– were victims of racial and xenophobic slurs at school and needed to be taken home early. Amanda was both grief and guilt stricken, and lamented that she and her spouse sent their children to school the day after the election against their better judgment. Certainly, Amanda and her partner did nothing wrong; school should be the place to send your sons and daughters after a historic occasion. And, sadly, it’s likely that the bullying would have occurred on any day after the election, for as long as there’s divisiveness in America, our children will mimic it. Bias is a learned behavior.

Another story: my niece, Stephanie, and her buddy, Kayla, were playing one day at my parents’ home. Stephanie says to Kayla, “you know when Trump is elected your dad will have to go back to the Bahamas.” Kayla’s mother is Haitian while her father is Bahamian. Though her parents are now U.S. citizens, Kayla wailed, hurried to call her dad and begged him not to leave her behind. Of course, both girls were reassured that America is home (Stephanie is half-Nicaraguan and half-Bahamian) and that their parents are here to stay.

America is not just socially divided. It is socially hurting. From protests, riots, brutality, terrorism and hate crimes to nativist (at best) or xenophobic (at worse) as well as sexist rhetoric, we are teaching our youth how to deal with social strife. And, as seen with viral videos of middle schoolers chanting “build that wall” and “go back home” in cafeterias and mock elections, our youth are demonstrating how well parents, caregivers and instructors are doing when it comes to training them to be responsible with their sentiments. Jacqueline Woodson, in her 2014 autobiographical coming-of-age novel, Brown Girl Dreaming, put it best when she wrote “when there are many worlds you can choose the one you walk into each day” (pg. 138). Now is an opportune time to consider how librarians influence youth to walk into a more civil, just world each day.

Now is the time to promote multicultural children’s and young adult literature. Books, whether print or digital, have a way of teaching the nuggets of tolerance, inclusion, and social justice in ways that youth understand. Books are great vehicles for couching difficult discussions, especially ones with heated opposing viewpoints.

Now is the time for librarians and library staff to redouble their work to foster information literacy among learners of all ages. The 2016 election was a lesson in the perils of false news bytes, inaccurate data and a lack of knowledge, whether conscious or unconscious. Children and teens must learn how to be engaged and informed citizens.

Now is the time for librarians and library staff to be on the hunt for life-changing encounters. Many call it teachable moments, others say it’s interventionist instruction, and perhaps a few consider it roving reference. No matter, there are some exchanges that we simply can’t pass up: the times we overhear kids’ and teens’ conversations, or see a troubled youth, or listen to a concerned parent. Those are the instances when our training, experience and resources are vital. I’ve often said (admittedly in times of both elation and frustration) that there’s a bit of social work involved in librarianship. Even when we want to check out—yep, pun intended—we need to be about the business of more than documents, but growth and development.

This is our moment. Most of us had egalitarian ideals in mind when we chose the world of librarianship. Though we may be disheartened by the recent state of affairs, there is hope in that we are facilitators of change, one visitor at a time.

Hey, we’ve got this.

 

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

 

Ana Ndumu has over 13 years of library experience. She is currently a doctoral student at Florida State University’s School of Information. Her interests include social justice in LIS and understanding the intersection between identity and information. You can reach her at avg05d@my.fsu.edu or anandumu.com.

 

Reference:

Woodson, J. (2014). Brown girl dreaming. New York: Penguin.

30 Days of Social Justice: Working with the Harry Potter Alliance

Currently, there are many social issues that are happening not only in the United States, but across the globe. In this time, teens may look through school, or outside their school, for ways that they can help those in need during these trying times. One great way for teens to do this is to start a campaign, and one organization that has many fun, interesting campaigns is the Harry Potter Alliance.photo

The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit group that works on campaigns to bring social change and donations to those in need. Their motto is that “The Harry Potter Alliance turns fans into heroes,” and their campaigns allow their participants to live up to this idea. The vision of the group is to make a “creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.” 

There are many different chapters to join or start. There are chapters that are affiliated with schools, communities, libraries, etc. There are chapters all over the world, working together to help those in needs. Being a part of the HPA is a great way to get teens active in their community. Starting a library chapter is a great way for teens to work together to make social changes, and give back to their community. It is also a great way for teens to meet other teens in their community, and is a positive outside school activity.

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30 Days of Social Justice: Precision of Language

Whether you are hearing or deaf, American or international, verbal or nonverbal, language makes up humanity’s primary method of communication. Precision of language is an important part of that communication. As children, we learn the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. These are to help us simplify and direct our communications with other people. Answer these five W’s and every conversation will be clear and understandable. Yet, in adulthood, the complexities of communication–non-verbal cues, method of communication, vocabulary, personal bias, visual perception, et cetera–cause us to overlook the value of specific language in our interpersonal interactions. The value of language lies in its ability to communicate with accuracy any idea, thought, feeling, or expression that you want to share with another human. As librarians, we ought to be very concerned with how much value is in our communication with customers.

Librarianship is a customer service based industry. We have a responsibility to our customers to provide them with an interaction that has value, regardless of what information or service a customer has requested. That value can be delivered any number of ways, be it through correct information, a pleasant conversation, or an introduction to new, relevant services. But all of those added values can only be achieved with precision of language.

Our responsibility to bring value to customer service interactions is incredibly important as it relates to social justice. Libraries are free of censorship and open to anyone who may come in the door. Regardless of your own background, we as professionals need to be prepared for interactions with people whose backgrounds and realities may be different than our own. We must be prepared to empathize with the lived experiences of our customers by affording them the basic dignities of personhood. To be blunt, we have to do better at accepting differences and mastering the vocabulary to interact with customers of other races/ethnicities and members of the LGBTIQ+ and disabled communities.

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30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice

December 1st kicks off 30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice, a collaboration between YALSAblog and the Hub. On the odd days of December, you’ll find social justice posts here on YALSAblog. On even days, make sure you check the Hub for more information and resources.

Let’s start the month by thinking critically. Think about your library’s population: Is it diverse? If you answered no, why don’t you think the population is diverse? Keep in mind that diversity is not always something you can see, like skin color, a hijab, or a wheelchair.

Beth Yoke, the executive director of YALSA, shared a great resource to help everyone think about their library population and what they can do to promote social justice for their patrons. This month, in the spirit of 30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice, you’re encouraged to visit Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice.

Read over the site, and try to accomplish the challenge posed:

“Commit to taking 3 actions in the next month, and share these with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member in order to increase your accountability to follow through on your commitment.  Can you take at least one action in the next two weeks in the Ally or Accomplice category?”

Email information about the actions you take and how it impacts your library’s teens to yalsablogmanager [at] gmail.com. We’ll share the submissions in a wrap-up post at the end of the month.

When Libraries Become a Refuge for Youth in a Post-Election World

Provided by Kyna Styes

Provided by Kyna Styes

On November 8, 2016, the United States of America elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The campaign process and the election was both tumultuous and divisive. When the results of the election were announced, some people took to the streets to protest their anger and disappointment while others expressed hatred and bigotry in acts of violence, vandalism, and intimidation. Needless to say, our country is hurting and many of our patrons are living in fear for themselves and their families. In times like these, many assume that libraries must remain neutral and continue business as usual. However, for those of us who work on the front lines, we see the pain and we see the fear, especially from the youth. As young adult library staff, we can no longer remain neutral because it our responsibility to stand up for youth and convey to our communities that libraries are a safe space for all and we will not tolerate any behaviors that threaten the safety and the well-being of our youth.

Before we create a plan of action, we need to go back to the fundamentals of what it means to be a young adult professional. On June 27, 2015, the YALSA Board of Directors adopted the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession (developed by YALSA’s Professional Values Taskforce) that outlines nine values that set the foundation for young adult professionals. Here are the nine values: Accountability, Collaboration, Compassion, Excellence, Innovation, Inclusion, Integrity, Professional Duty, and Social Responsibility. If you have not reviewed this document, take a few minutes to read it, especially the values that focus on: Compassion, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility. As young adult library professionals, some of us have already witnessed the backlash of the election as teens divulged their fears, shed tears, and made hasty decisions to do things that could harm them in the future. By upholding these core values, we have a responsibility to inform teens that they are safe in our buildings and that we, as library professionals, will help them in any way we can to make sure they have access to services and information to overcome any adversity they may face. More importantly, by demonstrating these values with our teen patrons, we have the opportunity to build, or reinforce, relationships where they know we care about them and that they are not alone. Here are some great ideas that youth services library workers are doing for their communities, post-election:

By standing up for our youth, not only are we modeling positive behaviors between youth services staff and teens, we are conveying to our non-youth services colleagues, fellow city workers, and community partners that we need to work together to ensure our youth is provided for, nurtured, and protected. In other words, start partnering with your city organizations to create a united front to convey to the community that we will stand up and protect the youth of our cities. More importantly, relay patron concerns to city officials and ask them to stand with us and our partners. As the Social Responsibility states, “[Social responsibility creates a] mutual trust between the profession and the larger public [by responding] to societal needs as they relate to teens and libraries” (2015).  YALSA has some partnering resources on its wiki that you may want to explore. Continue reading

YALSA Town Hall Nov. 16: Supporting Youth during Challenging Times

Due to the outcome of the recent election, many young people are feeling anxiety and uncertainty, as described in this recent Chicago Tribune article, Soothing Kids Fears about a Donald Trump Presidency. Unfortunately, the fears of these young people are very real, as shown by recent threats and assaults that some young people have experienced, as reported in this other Tribune article Muslim and Latino Youth in California are Targeted following Trump’s Election.

Libraries can play a role in helping youth cope with the challenges, stress and even threats that have arisen for many of them recently. Therefore, I would like to change the topic of the Town Hall I had planned for November 16. Instead of exploring ideas about how YALSA can increase its presence at the state and local level to support members, I would like to explore the ways that libraries can step up right now during this challenging time to support youth.  So far we’ve compiled some resources on the wiki that we hope will be of help to libraries right now, and we expect this list to expand and evolve.

Please join me by phone or by video over the web any time from 5:00 – 6:00 pm Eastern on Wed. Nov. 16th to be a part of this discussion, so as a group we can come together and identify strategies and solutions. While space in the town hall is limited to 100, we will be recording the session and sharing that out. You can also follow along via Twitter with #yalsachat. Members will find the web link and phone number for joining the Town Hall in their Nov. 2, 9 & 16th YALSA eNews.

Also, please don’t forget about the resources we have on the wiki to help you better serve diverse youth, as well as to help you build empathy and understanding among youth. Thanks for all that you do to help the nation’s youth, especially those who are the most vulnerable, and I look forward to a fruitful discussion on Nov. 16th.