Middle School Monday: Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 2

Last Monday, I talked about the benefits of a middle school collection in a public library, and how we chose a name, chose a collection size, and gathered feedback for my Library’s new Middle Ground.  Our next steps were to get into the specifics of what exactly belonged in the Middle Ground versus the Juvenile and Young Adult Collections.

As I said in my last post, the way you structure and build your collection is going to depend on your community.  I’m providing an account of how I did it as an example, to give you some things to think about while creating your own collection.  For more guidance, check out YALSA’s Collections and Content Curation wiki page.

Formats

We learned through surveying that many of our middle school patrons were interested in nonfiction and graphic novels.  Nonfiction and graphic titles tend to appeal to a wider age range of readers than fiction.  In Middle Ground Fiction we were collecting books that spoke directly to middle schoolers, but such books are few in nonfiction and graphic novels.  We wanted to include these collections in the Middle Ground, but chose to tweak the rules a bit for them.

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Middle School Monday: Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 1

A year and a half ago, I was tasked with creating a collection of reading materials aimed at middle schoolers for my public library.  These types of collections—sometimes called junior high or tween collections—are becoming more popular in response to growing demand from patrons, but creating them poses some unique challenges.  In my next two blog posts, I’ll share some information on my Library’s process: we did, why we did it, what we learned, what, and how you might begin your own process of creating such a collection.  This can only serve as a guideline.  You will need to develop your own methods to build a collection that meets the specific needs of your community.

In this post, I will discuss reasons for having a middle school collection in the public library and first steps to creating one.  The next post will be about selection guidelines for the collection, and how to use those selection guidelines.

I will use the term “middle school collection” to refer to any collection designed to serve readers in the range of ages 10-14.

This is my library’s Middle Ground collection as it currently appears. We are working on expanding it to some additional shelving.

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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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Promoting Diversity in Homogeneous Communities

Last month at the YALSA Symposium in Pittsburgh, I caught myself in a disturbing thought. The conference featured discussion and idea sharing about all kinds of diversity, especially racial diversity. There was advice about building inclusive collections, providing vital services to underserved populations, and making the library a safe space for people of all races to express themselves and feel valued. On the last day of the Symposium, sitting in one of many sessions that touched on this topic, I thought, “This is so great. I wish I worked in a community where I could do this stuff.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that this thought was very, very wrong.

I work in an upper-middle class, mostly white, mostly Christian suburban community. Being near a large city, we have access to a lot of diversity around us, but our community itself is commonly referred to as a “bubble.”

Libraries are here to pop those bubbles. Continue reading

Libraries and the FBI Guidelines for Preventing Extremism in Schools

As pointed out in Intellectual Freedom News recently, the FBI has announced plans to refer more suspects showing leanings toward becoming terrorists—particularly juveniles—to interventions by involving community leaders, educators, mental health professionals, religious leaders, parents and peers, depending on the circumstances. In these cases, the FBI will not necessarily cease its criminal investigation and will remain alert to suspects who become dangerous or plan to travel to join extremists overseas. To assist this effort, the FBI has published guidelines for secondary school personnel regarding at-risk behaviors that serve as “drivers of violent extremism,” to facilitate intervention activities that would disengage youth from them.

While this may seem expedient from the FBI’s law enforcement perspective, there is little published evidence that high schools are hotbeds of potential terrorist recruits. For example the September 2015 report lists 54 “American foreign fighter aspirants and recruits” in Appendix II whose ages are listed. Of these 54, 3 are age 15-17 (all are from one Colorado family), and 2 are age 18 (both from Minnesota). Far more are over age 30.

The FBI Guidelines imply that there should be increased surveillance of adolescents deemed “at risk” by a variety of criteria, especially those youth who use social media and the Internet to access information. Given the changing demographics of the high school population, it is incumbent on school media specialists and their public library counterparts to remember that minority teenagers are already oversurveilled online and in person in a variety of contexts. Adding libraries to this list of surveilled institutions runs in direct opposition to the institution’s mission as well as its attractiveness and usefulness to young people.

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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: 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.