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.

OUTREACH SERVICES FOR TEEN LIBRARY STAFF: WHAT SOME STAFF ARE DOING OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF LIBRARIES

The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The President of YALSA, Candice Mack, is focusing her year as President with an initiative, “3-2-1 Impact: Inclusive and Impactful Teen Services,” which will focus on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations.  Visit YALSA’s wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence.

Each month I will profile a teen librarian or staff working in teen services providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens. The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.

This month I interview Pamela McCarter, Outreach Specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Pamela McCarter 2

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Working with and For Refugee and Immigrant Teens

Libraries by their very nature provide resources, access, information and materials  that are free to all.  We may or may not know it but we are all working with immigrant and refugee populations.  I’m sure we do know who we serve and hopefully we are addressing some of the needs these populations may need.  But as we have all been reading news as of late there is some significant movement with some populations in the United State and in other countries.  What is the distinction between refugees and immigrants? In the simplest of terms; an immigrant is someone who chooses to resettle to another country.  A refugee has been forced to flee his or her home country. As such, refugees can apply for asylum in the United States and this process can take years.  It also isn’t an easy process.

Background

The United States is the world’s top resettlement country for refugees. For people living in repressive, autocratic, or conflict-embroiled nations, or those who are members of vulnerable social groups in countries around the world, migration is often a means of survival and—for those most at risk—resettlement is key to safety. In fiscal year 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people.

The Obama administration’s proposal to significantly increase the number of worldwide refugees the United States accepts annually up to 100,000 in FY 2017 would mark the largest yearly increases in refugee admissions since 1990.

The proposed 85,000 worldwide ceiling for FY 2016 would include 10,000 Syrians and is further broken down into regional caps: 34,000 resettlement places for refugees from the Near East and South Asia (up 1,000 from 2015); 13,000 from East Asia (no change); 25,000 from Africa (up 12,000); 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean (down 1,000); and 4,000 from Europe and Central Asia (up 3,000). The unallocated reserve also increased from 2,000 in 2015 to 6,000 in 2016.

The numbers from recently war torn Syria is not as high as numbers of other nations; Nationals of Burma (also known as Myanmar), Iraq, and Somalia were the top three countries of origin for refugees in 2015, representing 57 percent (39,920 individuals) of resettlements. Rounding out the top ten countries were: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bhutan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, and Cuba. *Information from Migration Policy Institute 

What are libraries doing to address needs of refugee and immigrant populations?

What are libraries across the country doing to help support and understand the needs from these refugees and new immigrants?  Are there things that you may be able to provide based off of some of this information?

We probably all read the amazing news article about Gary Trudeau passing out wordless picture books to Syrian refugees in Canada. What can libraries do to welcome immigrant or refugee teens to the libraries?

Look at what the city of Toronto Public Library did

A good number of libraries across the country already offer citizenship classes, ESL classes and workshops.  The Los Angeles Public Library offers citizenship programs and classes

San Francisco Public Library citizenship classes and other organizations to help

Austin Public Library has the New Immigrants Center citizenship classes, ESL classes, computer classes in other languages, job searching, legal help and more. How are they providing outreach and working with immigrant populations?

The NYPL promotes its work with immigrants and refugees visibly on their homepage under Outreach Services and Adult Programming  by calling it “Immigrant Services

Ady Huertas and the San Diego Public Library are addressing immigrant and refugee needs by partnering with organizations that work directly with them and providing library services.

Libraries Without Borders founded in 2008 is an organization that responds to the vital need for books, culture, and information in developing regions. In doing this, they provide relief in humanitarian emergencies and the building blocks for long term development. Launched its Ideas Box-The Ideas Box provides access to a wide variety of resources carefully selected by our team based on the needs of diverse cultural and linguistic areas and populations of each implementation zone. Its four content modules allow beneficiaries to connect, learn, play and create. Each Ideas Box is equipped with:

  • 15 touch-pads and 4 laptops with satellite Internet connection;
  • 50 e-readers, 5000 e-books and 250 paper books;
  • MOOCs and stand alone Internet contents (Wikipedia, Khan Academy…);
  • An in-built TV set, a retractable projection screen and 100 films;
  • Board & video games, and other recreational activities;
  • 5 HD cameras for participatory journalism and film-making;
  • 3 GPS devices for participatory mapping
  • Arts & crafts materials and more

Queens Library right on homepage “New Americans” that provides services in areas of financial services, citizenship classes, ESL, including connections to other organizations providing mental health services, legal services and more

The REFORMA Children in Crisis Project with the recent arrival of over 70,000 children crossing the southern border into the United States has created an unprecedented humanitarian refugee crisis that compels REFORMA as an organization to act.The children, mostly Spanish speaking, are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  While recent news coverage of this event has focused on legal, medical and emergency response to services, there are few if any news stories that demonstrate the social-emotional and information needs of these children and families.  A view of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities shows children waiting in large storage like facilities with no activities to occupy the children’s minds through learning and play while they are being processed.

And this is just what REFORMA Children in Crisis Project is providing; books.  On their homepage they provide lists of books they bring to children and teens in detention centers, group homes, and other locations where these teens may be detained. Book lists can be accessed for some ideas.

Salt Lake County Library System has worked since 1939 in serving and actively working with immigrant and refugee populations in Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City has worked since 1898.  They provide a list of all of their partners and services they provide  which identifies partners like; Refugee and Immigrant Center of Utah, the International Rescue Committee and others.

YALSA resources such as Serving Diverse Teens @Your Library is a good one stop shop with everything you may need to help you get started; research, reports, resources, connections, networks and more.

Library Journal had a recent article about the work that libraries are doing with refugee populations.
So what can you do? Being aware of who is in your community is a good start.  Seeing what the influx of new immigrant and refugee patterns are is helpful.  Identifying organizations through your city, town or county that are working directly with refugee and immigrant populations and reaching out to these agencies to see about partnering and collaborating.   But mostly sharing what the library can provide and really listening to what their needs are and how the library can address those needs. Maybe working with your collection development team in expanding the resources your library has available in other languages and then working with organizations to share out that collection.  Sharing the work your library is doing with and for teens on the YALSA Blog, Library Journal and other publications is important too so that others can learn and replicate some of those initiatives.

How Food, Music, Gaming, and Volunteering Can Transcend Fear and Intolerance

Recently, teens have been bombarded with rhetoric and actions that do not support their development or provide a safe environment for them to thrive. Unfortunately, there are far too many recent examples of young people being bullied or harassed by their peers or adults. For example, a report from the Council on Islamic American Relations of California indicated that more than half of Muslim students ages 11 to 18 report having been bullied because of their religion. As teen library staff, we should address this atmosphere of fear and social injustice and work with teens to turn it into something positive by promoting the intrinsic values of tolerance, equality, and acceptance. And we should do this regardless of whether or not our communities include a large population of people from diverse backgrounds. In order to be successful, well-adjusted adults, we need to help all of our teens learn how to understand, accept and work with others, regardless of their background.

Recent discussions at a national level about immigrants and Muslim-Americans point to the need to help young people separate fact from fiction. Regardless of whether or not your community is hosting immigrant families or has a large Muslim community, now is great opportunity to convey to our teens the importance of compassion and inclusion for people of all backgrounds. One tool that I found incredibly helpful is the YALSA’s Cultural Competence Task Force1. This task force has compiled an extensive list of resources that not only provides general information and training information in regards to cultural competence, there is a great section of resources that we can use to help our teens develop cultural competencies through youth involvement. One article, entitled Engaging Youth to Create Positive Change: Parent Support Network of Rhode Island published by National Center for Cultural Competence, Center for Child and Human Development, and Georgetown University, states the following:

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How to Have the Same Old, Same Old Black History Month

Happy February! If you have no interest in reigniting your observance of Black History Month, read on for tips on how to continue doing the same tired thing every year.

1. Definitely put together a display for Black History Month and then never again feature black authors or stories at any other time throughout the year.
While Black History Month is a wonderful time to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to literature, history, politics, and culture, sometimes it’s used as a crutch to avoid promoting these individuals and these stories for the rest of the year. And while booktalking and displaying people by all races and ethnicities is something to be done year-round, ask yourself if you are integrating these books into general displays or if your habit is to always mention that an author or character is black, instead of focusing on the vampire romance or the great writing or the hilarious flying panda bear, you’re not going to get the circulation you want. And you’re being unfair to the book. White authors are recognized for their stories, not their identities. Give that same courtesy to everyone else. Continue reading

YA Lit Symposium: Some Post-Conference Reflections

There’ve been some great summaries of sessions at the 2010 YA Lit Symposium here, and I’ve written in detail about all of the sessions I attended on my own blog, but now that I’ve had some time to process everything I heard and talked about over the weekend and what I’ve read about the symposium since then, I thought I’d share some of my overall impressions from the entire conference here to continue the discussion.

One of of the themes I saw come up across multiple sessions was that reading allows us to vicariously experience things that are not part of our own lived experience, so reading books about people who are different from us helps educate us, allows us to test our values, and de-Others people like the character. In “Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: YA Lit and Disability Diversity: How Far Have We Come?” the presenters mentioned that for a lot of teens, reading a book about a person with disabilities may be their first experience with disability. Making sure that portrayal is balanced rather than stereotypical and that the character’s disability isn’t the primary problem in the story gives teens a more accurate portrayal of what people with disabilities can be like–that is, that people with disabilities are people, too. Continue reading

YA Literature Symposium — Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup

The YA Literature Symposium is quickly approaching! Have you registered yet? The list of programs with times is now available.

The featured program this week/today is:

Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: Young Adult Literature and Disability Diversity: How Far Have We Come?

Today’s teens are likely to have friends and classmates with disabilities. Young adult literature increasingly reflects the diverse identities found among today’s teens, and scaffolds the social beliefs they hold about people with disabilities, by including positive portrayals of characters with disabilities. Session participants will critically examine how changing social beliefs about disability are reflected in historical through contemporary fiction and nonfiction YA lit and explore methods to promote acceptance of diversity through the genre. Participants will be able to apply this knowledge when selecting and teaching YA lit. Speakers are Dr. Heather Garrison, Dr. Katherine Schneider, and author Terry Trueman.

The interview with Drs. Heather Garrison and Katherine Schneider is available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

The YA Literature Symposium is November 5-7 in Albuquerque, NM. To give everyone a sneak peek into the presentations I be posting portions of interviews with program presenters weekly until the symposium. Full interviews will be available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

YA Lit Symposium – Heroes in International Literature

This week’s featured program from the Young Adult Literature Symposium is Heroes in International Literature!

This week’s featured presenter is Rosemary Chance.

KH: Can you share one interesting or thought provoking fact from your presentation?
RC:’  In a panel four American editors will address the joys and challenges of editing books from other countries. They are the editors of The Shadows of Ghadames, The Century: Ring of Fire, Winter’s End, and Tiger Moon.

KH: Who should come to your presentation?
RC:’  Anyone interested in stories with foreign settings, stories of heroes, and stories that will expand the worlds of young adults.

**The complete interview can be found at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

The YA Literature Symposium is November 5-7 in Albuquerque, NM. To give everyone a sneak peek into the presentations I be posting portions of interviews with program presenters weekly until the symposium. Full interviews will be available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

YA Lit Symposium – Doomed to Repeat It: Diversity in Historical Fiction

This week’s featured program from the Young Adult Literature Symposium is Doomed to Repeat It: Diversity in Historical Fiction!

This week’s featured presenter is Melissa Rabey.

KH: Who should come to your presentation?

MR: Hopefully, everyone!’  But I think this presentation will be most helpful to librarians who work in diverse communities, who would like to find works of historical fiction to recommend to multicultural teens or would like to learn more about the culture of their service area.

KH: Who will be presenting along with you?

MR: After I present on a variety of novels, two debut authors will be joining me to discuss their works of YA historical fiction.’  Christina Gonzalez, author of THE RED UMBRELLA, will talk about how she was inspired to write about Operation Pedro Pan, which brought many Cuban children to the US in the 1960s.’  Then, Ruta Sepetys will share how she wrote BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, a novel set in the Ukraine during World War II.

**The complete interview can be found at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

The YA Literature Symposium is November 5-7 in Albuquerque, NM. To give everyone a sneak peek into the presentations I be posting portions of interviews with program presenters weekly until the symposium. Full interviews will be available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.