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: 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.

Board Update: Board Self-Assessments

The YALSA Board works year-round, tackling projects and other tasks in between conferences. One of those projects is updating the YALSA Board self-assessment tool.

Self-assessment is an essential part of professional development. Self-assessments help us gage the success of our efforts and identify areas for growth. After all, an organization, be it YALSA or your library, can only successful if the people leading and working in the organization are successful.

YALSA’s Board Members are expected to conduct self-assessment to ensure YALSA’s leadership is effective.  At ALA Annual 2016, the Board discussed the need for an updated assessment tool and process that better reflects the new Organizational Plan. Diane Colson, Jennifer Korn, and Kate McNair are in the process of developing that new assessment tool and process. We examined the prior YALSA self-assessment tool, tools used by other organizations within and beyond ALA, and professional literature on the topic to create an effective and user-friendly self-assessment rubric. The Board at large is now in the process of examining and offering feedback about the current draft of this tool.

This finished tool will be used by all board members annually at minimum. Results will be used to develop individual and group goals, which will ensure YALSA keeps moving forward in its teens-first mission. The tool will also be used by members interested in pursuing a YALSA Leadership role to better understand Board work and expectations, and will be available to the entire membership on YALSA’s website.

As the Board continues to work on this and other projects, we encourage you to also think about your personal self-assessment and growth. Teen services in our libraries thrives because of your work and development!

Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

President’s Report – August 2016

Wondering what the Board has been up to? Read the president’s report below!

Completed

  • Held a board meeting August 1 to complete work from Annual about transforming member participation
  • Organized and led a Member Town Hall on August 17
  • Filling strategic committee vacancies as they become open
  • Board created a new YALSA Los Angeles County Area Interest Group. To join, see here.
  • Board approved the location of the 2018 YA Services Symposium–Salt Lake City!
  • Board’s three standing committees (Advocacy, Funder & Partner Development, Leading the Transformation of Teen Services) met to discuss committee task lists and quarterly reports
  • Held September monthly board chat to discuss member survey results and committee reports and task lists
  • Nominating committees completed roster for Spring 2017 ballot
  • Appointed Crystle Martin to be the YALS editor, as Linda Braun is stepping down. Crystle has done an excellent job managing the YALSAblog, and is looking forward to this new role.   Look for an announcement soon about the search for a new YALSAblog Manager.

Works in Progress

  • Selection List Transition Task Force invites have been sent
  • Applications being reviewed for Member Manager for Teen Programming HQ
  • Preparing for YALSA’s YA Services Symposium & Fall Executive Committee meeting that will be held in Pittsburgh

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President’s Report – July 2016

I can’t believe it’s already time for my first monthly president’s report! Tune in monthly to find out what I’ve been up to.   Most importantly, a huge thank you to the YALSA Board, staff, and members who made Annual 2016 great!

Here’s what I’ve been working on since then:

Completed

  • Appointments to the Edwards, Printz, and Nonfiction committees
  • Virtual online training for new board members
  • Assigned board mentors, board liaisons, and standing board committee members
  • Wrote column for Fall 2016 issue of YALS
  • Wrote YALSA Blog post on Presidential Initiative: Real Teens, Real Ready
  • Worked with YALSA board to appoint Nick Buron to fill Linda Braun’s vacancy as Fiscal Officer
  • Hosted first monthly chat with the YALSA Board to continue the work from Annual
  • Contacted YALSA’s IFLA rep to discuss what YALSA information should be shared with the group in August
  • Met with chair of presidential program task force to plan program activities
  • Voted for ALA Conference Committee representatives

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YALS Summer 2016 – Succeeding in Today’s Library Workplace: A Reflection

In her recent article in YALS, Workplace Expectations for Today’s Library,  Kimberly Sweetman asks “what should you be able to do in order to succeed in today’s workplace?” This brings to mind many thoughts about what was once expected in the library workplace, and what is currently expected.

Sweetman mentions that from the 1990s, and into the future, libraries are more about distribution of power, systems thinking, improved collaboration and more. These are all very important to understand when working in the library. Collaboration is great because with today’s technology, library staff can share ideas throughout their system or nationally with faster results than ever before. Collaboration also is key when “people who have different areas and levels of expertise” work together. This was just one of the ways that I was able to become more efficient at my job, and learn skills that made it easier to transition into higher library positions. I am always learning from fellow library employees, and some of the best ideas come from collaboration with others.

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YALSA @ ALA Annual 2016: Update on Board Meetings, Discussions & Actions

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!

As we celebrated our country’s independence last weekend, YALSA, too, has sought to break free from past models of association work and is currently exploring new ways to engage our members that better meet their interests, skills and busy lifestyles.

It was with those #teensfirst  and members’ first ideals in mind that the 2015-2016 YALSA Board approached our work before and during ALA Annual last month as we worked on aligning existing YALSA groups, programs and services with the association’s new Organizational Plan.

Here are some highlights:

– The Board adopted the following consent items, which were items that were discussed and voted on previous to annual, including:

– The Board also approved a more concrete structure to support and revitalize interest groups.

– The Board approved experimenting with new kinds of member engagement opportunities, especially virtual and short-term ones.

As part of its effort to align YALSA’s existing work with the new Organizational Plan, as well as update member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, the Board began a review of all existing member groups at our June meeting.  While the Board was not able complete the review, we did come to decisions about some of the groups.

– The Board agreed that the following committees’ structure and workflow will remain as they currently are:

  • Alex Award Committee
  • Editorial Advisory Board for YALS/YALSAblog
  • Financial Advancement Committee
  • Margaret Edwards Award Committee
  • Mentoring Task Force
  • Michael Printz Award Committee
  • Morris Award Committee
  • Nonfiction Award Committee
  • Odyssey Award Interdivisional Committee
  • Organization and Bylaws Committee
  • The Hub Advisory Board

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YALSA 101- What I learned attending this session twice!

My second ALA annual conference is done and I am starting to feel like a seasoned pro. However, I am still learning so many new things I missed my first time around. I attended YALSA 101 last year and was inspired to be more active. A few months later though, I had forgotten about time requirements for “book” committees, what exactly were award committees, and there was something about badges. I decided to attend YALSA 101 again this year to brush up on what is offered in my YALSA membership and learn where I could volunteer my services.

Speaking of selection versus award committees, I have some clarification. Juries select grant or award winners, like the Great Books Giveaway. Selection committees are the book committees that select specific media and booklists such as Great Graphic Novels for Teens or Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Book committee members are responsible for obtaining review copies, but many are provided by publishers or shared by committee members. Selection committees usually have a two-year commitment. Being a selection committee administrative assistant, the person who distributes the nomination lists, organizes the committee and acts as its secretary, is a lot of work. However, it can be a foot in the door to join a selection committee. Strategic committees run the business of YALSA. Strategic committees carry out many roles like planning Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week, membership recruitment, running The Hub and YALSA Blog, and more. Except for the Executive Committee, all strategic committees meet virtually, with no requirements to attend conferences. Most strategic committee appointments last for one year.

One topic of YALSA 101 was advocacy. I did not realize how many options there are to easily approach our legislators to advocate for libraries. I can participate in National Library Legislative Day by going to the offices of my legislators in my state or Washington, D.C. I can tweet or email them if I am unable to travel and I can do this anytime I want to. One idea I came away with is inviting a local politician who is a stakeholder such as a school superintendent, town selectman, or school board member to come be “Librarian for Day” so they can see my job in action.

I had forgotten about YALSA’s YouTube channel. YALSA Academy has a series of short, five minute long videos for training or inspiration. You can take a quick break and get ideas for maker spaces, coding, Twitter basics, or starting a mock Printz award program. Any librarian can create a video for YALSA Academy, so think about showing off something you do for summer learning/reading, Teen Read Week or Teen Tech Week. As a brand new feature, the YouTube channel also has “snack break” videos that are about fifteen minutes long. These videos give guidance on partnering with a local museum or assessing program impact.

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YALSA Board @ ALA Annual 2016: YALSA @ ALA Highlights

Happy LGBTQIA Pride Month & Happy National Week of Making!

YALSA’s Board has been hard at work since their last meeting in Boston: finalizing and adopting a new organizational plan, continuing the roll-out of activities related to the Futures Report, and planning for ALA Annual in Orlando!

Now, the Annual Conference is fast approaching, and I’m looking forward to the Printz Ceremony on Friday night, honoring David Levithan at the Edwards Award Brunch on Saturday morning, talking with members at Saturday’s Member Happy Hour and at our Membership Meeting and President’s Program and so much more! You can find the details about these events and many more YALSA activities on the YALSA wiki.

The Board agenda is up online, and nearly all of the documents have been posted. Members can check them out in advance and send comments or feedback to me at candice.yalsa@gmail.com. If you’ll be in Orlando for the conference, the first ten minutes of each of our board meetings are open to public comment. If you have a question for a particular board member about a document they’ve written, you can reach out to them here.

At Annual, the board will spend most of its time discussing how the Board needs to be re-envisioned in order to be well-positioned to achieve the work laid out in the new organizational plan. This is a first step in a bigger process of organizational realignment. It makes sense for the Board to get its own house in order before looking outward to the rest of YALSA.  The Board will be thinking about what needs to change about its own structure and processes, as well as what knowledge and skills will Board members need to gain in order to best lead YALSA and support its members.

Also on the agenda for Annual

You can stay up to date with all the conversations by following Executive Director Beth Yoke (@yalsa_director), myself (@tinylibrarian), and/or other YALSA board members for live tweets of adopted actions and discussion highlights. In addition, there will be follow-up blog posts explaining decisions and board actions once the conference is done.

Thanks for all that you do to make YALSA an awesome association, safe travels and hope to see you in Orlando!