Celebrate Pride Through Advocacy and Awareness @ Your Library

Every year, LGBTQIA communities host amazing parades, marches, and events to celebrate their pride. Whether we are members of this community, family members, or allies, these events have been joyous celebrations of love, appreciation, and acceptance.  However, as youth advocates, we must also remember that Pride celebrations are in remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising on June 27, 1969 in New York City. Not only did these series of events expose the New York City Police Department’s intolerance of the LGBTQIA community, it spurred an entire community to demand equal rights, which turned into a movement that is alive and well.

After the Stonewall Uprising, libraries have played a significant part in providing the LGBTQIA community not just access to information, but created the “Task Force on Gay Liberation  that sought to provide the LGBTQIA community with greater representation in libraries and the community. While libraries have been providing programs and services to the LGBTQIA community for forty seven years, the current political and social climate has seen a resurgence of hate and intolerance towards LGBTQIA people. However, as teen library staff, we can support our LFBTQIA teens by giving them access to knowledge and opportunities to help them advocate for themselves.

In order to implement programs and services, we need to ensure that our libraries are safe places where teens do not have to fear prejudice or intimidation. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics report (2016):

There were 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 19.7 percent because of a religious bias; 17.7 percent because of a sexual orientation bias; 1.7 percent because of a gender identity bias; 1.2 percent because of a disability bias; and 0.4 percent because of a gender bias.

As unsettling as these numbers are, libraries can do a number of things to support LGBTQIA youth.  One action we can take is to check all of our policies, specifically behavior and collection polices. By re-visiting our behavior policies, we can check to see if there are statements that specifically state what behavior will not be tolerated.  By updating, or revising, this policy, we inform the public that there are rules that must be maintained to provide a safe environment for everyone who steps through the door. We can inform the public in a variety including handouts or signage the welcomes everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, and identity.  Another policy we need to review is collection development policies. By reviewing the language and the timeliness of these guidelines, we can support teens’ right to read even when members of the community who wish to have specific materials removed based on their personal and private opinions. According to the Library Bill of Rights (in regards to minors):

“Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” The “right to use a library” includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.

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Teen Read Week: An Opportunity for Outreach

This has been a rough week in my school. In our county, four teenagers have committed suicide in the space of a week, apparently unrelated in any way to one another. Yesterday, our school, which has thankfully been untouched aside from having students who were friends with some of the victims, had an assembly where we delivered the message of the resources the school had available, a brief religious message (we are a private independent school), and then sent our students into small advisor groups for discussion. Coincidentally, the entire U.S. Army engaged in suicide prevention education as well, having experienced in 2012 some of the highest suicide rates in its history.

When I heard of the army’s situation, the first thought which occurred to me was that the military is full of adolescents, the age group to whom I provide library services. Many members of the military are new recruits 18 or 19 years of age, placing them firmly in the age range of adolescent development. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Since the YALSA mission statement clearly states that its “mission is to expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18,” this at risk age group is our target demographic.

I guess the fact that I was thinking about suicide while also pondering the upcoming programming for Banned Books Week and Teen Read Week made me wonder how these two disparate ideas could be linked. But while intellectual freedom programming or celebrating recreational reading don’t seem to have much impact on preventing suicide, in a small way they do. In fact it relates to my personal mission as a librarian, which includes the statement.

There is no such thing as too many caring adults in a student’s life.

Hopefully our programming, no matter how fluffy or serious it may be, includes a plan to reach out to a variety of interests and personality types in our target group. My “It Came from the Library” brainstorming will include my Library Advisory Board (LAB), a group of students specifically chosen for their friendly personalities and variety of activities and interests. By constructing a board which possesses multiple layers of diversity, their guidance and ideas automatically assists me in reaching different groups of students. Add to that their goal of developing themed programming which includes as many students as possible, and I’m putting their brainpower to work making the library as inclusive as it can be.

So I’m turning to my TRW Manual and my LAB for ideas that will make my library a fun sanctuary for everyone in the hope that my efforts will be not only informative and enjoyable, but help every student who enters this space realize that he or she is deeply cared about. Caring can come from the library, too.

Courtney L. Lewis, Director of Libraries, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, Kingston, PA.

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YALSA Seeks Leaders for Summit on Teens & Libraries

As part of its year-long National Forum on Libraries and Teens project, YALSA will host a Teens & Libraries Summit Jan. 23-24, 2013, in Seattle.’  The Summit will feature speakers, panels and small group discussion to examine the current state of library services for and with young adults, and to explore how library services may need to evolve to meet the needs of 21st century adolescents.’  Funds provided by IMLS will be used to cover the cost of travel and related expenses for 15 applicants who wish to participate in the Summit.’  Key stakeholders from the areas of libraries, education, technology, adolescent development and the for-profit and nonprofit sectors are encouraged to apply (.doc) by Nov. 1, 2012.’  The 15 accepted applicants will join with approximately 35 other stakeholders at the face-to-face Summit.’  At the conclusion of the year-long Forum, YALSA will produce a white paper which will provide direction on how library services for and with teens needs to adapt and potentially change to better meet the needs of 21st century teens.’  To learn more about the National Forum, read the initial press release.