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Middle School Monday: Professional Development. Not the Optional Kind.

A Crucial Strand of PD.

We have an early-release day coming up. Does your school have those? Where you get to squeeze the work of a whole school day with students into a shorter time frame and then stay for meetings and/or professional development? Just typing that out is making me a bit tired.

This year, our staff is breaking up into small groups to work together on a professional development ‘strand’ of our choice. Two of our ELA teachers asked me to lead a strand on diverse literature. How awesome is that?

I eagerly said yes. Not only is it a favorite subject—and my guiding framework for collection development—but, we all need to be engaging in PD on this topic. We all need to continually be learning more. Thus, our REFLECTIVE LITERATURE PD strand was born. In addition to our ELA teachers from each grade, we also count our Assistant Principal and one of our Social Studies teachers as members.

Of course, the need for reflective literature is part of a larger conversation. When we talk about having books in our schools that reflect our students, their lived experiences, and their interests, it’s necessary to situate that idea in a discussion on culturally relevant pedagogy, structural inequities, institutional racism, and white privilege.

As we engage in these discussions with school staff, it’s helpful to remember that we are all at different points on our own cultural competence journeys. I thought I’d share our four point plan for our first meeting as these are resources or ideas that you might enjoy for yourself or want to share.

One. The Danger of a Single Story.

In Chimamanda Adichie’s illuminating TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, she shares her own first experiences with reading to drive home the point how “impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.” She brings together insights on reading, writing, power, stereotypes and story. And the joy of reading books that reflect you. Even if you’ve seen this before, each time is a gift for us as viewers—new understandings, powerful ideas, and favorite quotes. It made an ideal kick-off to our discussion.

Two. Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 Infographic.

The CCBC infographic below—Diversity in Children’s Books 2015—appeared on Sarah Park Dahlen’s post, Picture This: Follow Up. [The powerful imagery draws on the Windows/Mirrors analogy for literature first written by Rudine Sims Bishop. If you’ve never read her original article, find it here.]

diversityinchildrensbooks2015_f

This infographic is talking strictly about QUANTITY. Debbie Reese’s post at A Close Look at CCBC’s 2015 Data breaks down the 0.9% for American Indians/First Nations even further—taking into account reviews and authors. It is a crucial complement to the raw publishing data.

We didn’t start with these numbers to depress us, but rather to galvanize us.

Three. Race: The Power of an Illusion.

After a quick walk-through of PBS’s informative site, Race: The Power of an Illusion, we broke apart to engage with the site on our own.

Four. #ownvoices.

We then talked about the importance and necessity of #ownvoices titles. I had curated a stack of novels from our library collection and gave EXTREMELY quick booktalks on the titles. We each then chose one to read for our next PD strand meeting. Below are some of the titles chosen.

picture-of-five-covers-ownvoices

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib and I get excited talking about reflective literature!

Putting the Science Back in Library Science: Collection Development, Diversity Audits, & Understanding Teens – Analyzing Data for Decision Making

I began working at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio in January of 2015, for the second time. This was actually the public library I got my start in and I, along with a peer named Holly, were the first people ever hired to do teen services at this library. We started the collection from scratch as paraprofessionals and it has been interesting to return and work with this collection once again, a little over 20 years later.

As an experienced and now professional librarian, I work with collections much differently than I did when I began in the early 1990s. For one, there is now far more YA literature than there was in the beginning. Also, my understanding of adolescent development, collection development, and the role of libraries has changed dramatically. I have a greater sense of purpose that comes with having more experience and a stronger foundational knowledge. The collections I build today are more purposeful, and less personal, than they were in the beginning.

So after spending the first year getting re-acclimated to my home library, I dived deep into some real data analysis. I like working with data, facts and figures, to help me better understand who I’m serving, what they’re reading, and how I can best meet their needs. Below I will outline the lengthy process I went through to put together some good data and a plan of recommendations that I drew from analyzing that data.

Step 1: Understanding Teens as a Whole

Serving Full TILT Infographic

As part of our Serving Full T.I.L.T. series a few years back, several fellow YA librarians and myself went through and put together a good, foundational statistical report of what we knew about teens today in the United States. This helps us understand what teenage life is like in the United States.

Step 2: Local Community Demographics

communityprofile3 communityprofile2 communityprofile1

I then went through the process of putting together an extensive local community demographics profile. I searched high and low for every piece of data I could find about our community, including census data, poverty rates, high school graduation rates, etc. I didn’t just focus on teens at this point, though it does have a lot of data about teens which I eventually extracted out for my final report. These two steps gave me a solid portrait of what the national picture of teens looks like as well as at my local level. I won’t go into the process in depth here because I wrote a post about this step here: Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

Step 3: Diversity Audit

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I then spent a solid month really look at my library collection, focusing on YA fiction and GNs/Manga, to get a look at how diverse my collection was – or wasn’t – to help guide selections and acquisitions. My goal was to build a more diverse collection to help my teens live in a more diverse world. I wanted them to see both themselves reflected and to step into the shoes of lives different than their own to help increase their knowledge, understanding, and compassion of the world they are living in. Again, I have previously blogged about this process and you can read those posts here:

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: The How To (Part 2)

Step 4: Circulation and Collection Analysis

collectionanaylsis

I then worked with reports to do a lot of weeding, a lot of purchasing, and a lot of data analysis. I looked at what percentage of the collection each part of my YA collections made up and compared it to the overall library holdings. I compared circulation statistics in the same way. For example, I could determine that my YA Fiction holdings were approximately 2% of the entire library holdings and then look to see what percentage of the overall circulation YA Fic items made up. You want the percentage to be the same or more than the holdings. So if YA Fic is 2% of the overall holdings, you want the circulation to be 2% or more of the overall circulation.

If the percentage of holdings is less than the percentage of circulation, you then have to work to find out why. For example, we have a small physical YA Audio collection that is an even smaller percentage of our overall circulation. The most probable reason why is that most teens no longer have CD players to play books on CD on. But the statistics make it clear that these items are not circulating well for us and we should devote less money and shelf space to these items.

In comparison, we have a fairly small collection of GNs and Manga, but the percentage of their circulation is higher. This means that one way we could increase our circulation may be to increase the size and holding of our GN and manga collection.

The data I collected included:

  • Total number of items held in the library collection
  • Total number of item per each collection that I purchased for, including YA fiction, graphic novels and manga, YA audio, and YA nonfiction
  • Total number of circulations for the entire library collection
  • Total number of circulations per each collection that I purchased for, including YA fiction, graphic novels and manga, YA audio, and YA nonfiction
  • Total percentage of holding for each collection that I purchase for
  • Total percentage of overall circulation for each collection that I purchase for
  • Percentage of collection that hasn’t circulated in the last calendar year
  • Number of items added to each collection in the last calendar year
  • Total amount spent on purchasing new items for the collection in the last calendar year
  • Average cost per item spent in the last calendar year
  • Total number of items weeded in each collection in the last calendar year

Some of the data I wanted to analyze I did not have good access to. For example, we subscribe to Hoopla and they do not break out YA items from children/youth items. We have contacted Hoopla and hope that they will work to provide some better data for us in the future.

We do not catalog or shelve our YA titles by genre, but if you do this type of analysis can also help guide future purchasing as you develop a better idea of what types of books your teens are reading. I can do this to some extent just by weeding because I have a long track record in YA, read it a lot, and have just worked a lot with YA fiction. Someone new to YA would have a harder time, though it would definitely help them learn more about their new collection.

Step 5: Findings and Recommendations

I took all of this data and put it into a visual report, an infographic, and then submitted a number of findings and recommendations. For example, I suggested that we stop purchasing YA on CDs and allow the collection to self-weed and put a greater emphasis on our digital YA audio collections. I recommended a variety of other things as well, such as moving the physical location of a couple of collections, increasing the size of a couple of collections, and looking into keeping track of in-house item use for materials such as GNs, manga and nonfiction because a lot of our patrons tend to read them in-house, put them on a shelving cart, and never really check them out. I have observed teens sitting in the YA area and reading entire stacks of GNs and manga that never get checked out and we are missing not only circulation stats, but useful collection development numbers to help guide series retention.

I did all of this background work while doing the daily business of managing staff, maintaining a Teen MakerSpace, working the Reference desk on occasion, etc. So yes, it took a few months to almost a year, but the information I have gained has been invaluable. I now have a much deeper understanding of my local community and a more comprehensive knowledge of my collection. I feel like I am making more informed decisions all around in serving my teens and building our collections. I enjoyed both the process and the outcome. I highly recommend it.

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Building the Stacks: What I wish administrators, publishers and authors knew about collection development

The other day, I was interviewed by up and coming ya author Victoria Scott regarding Collection Development.  Collection development is, of course, one of the biggest parts of our job.  Although, ironically, I once worked at a library that put together a spread sheet of how much time you should spend each week of your 40 hours doing what and they allotted 1 hour a week to collection development. This was, of course, a pretty absurd time table.  It takes a lot of time to read reviews, put together carts through your jobber, weed collections, etc.  All of this helps us reach our primary goal: having collections that teens want to check out and read.

It must seem to others like some type of a magical process . . . new books keep appearing in the library.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I take my job to build collections very seriously.  In order to have a good collection, I need sufficient funds, and in order to have sufficient funds, I need to have a well circulating collection.  It can be an upward spiral or a downward spiral.  But the truth is, we can’t have good circulation numbers if we don’t have good materials.  This means we continually need new materials – and in a timely manner.  Library systems don’t always have ordering processes in place that allow for the quick acquisition of new materials.  And we all know that budgets are shrinking.

In my previous library system, we ordered materials every two weeks and it was a beautiful thing.  Realize that all your copies of Catching Fire have been lost or damaged?  No problem, a new order goes in every two weeks.  Did you just find out that book you ordered was number two in a new trilogy?  Also not a problem, you can order book one pronto.  (And yes, yes I have done this more times than I would like to admit. I would love it if reviewers would make a point of mentioning that a book is in a series, what number it is in the series and, if at all possible, the other titles in the series – especially if this is book two.)

Here are some things I wish that administrators knew:

We can’t have a high circulating collection if I don’t have the funds and ordering processes in place to build high circulating collections.  You can’t put the cart before the horse and demand it be successful.  Sometimes, you have to invest in something in order to see good results.  High circulating collections need time, space, and money.

Teen publishing is literally exploding these last few years.  There are so many titles being published, and such high demand for the titles, we need to make sure our budgets and spaces account for that.

We need space for face out shelving. That is all.

In my interview with Victoria Scott I mention the requirement that some libraries have that a book have a professional review in order to be added to the collection. Not just a professional review, but a positive professional review which justifies spending money to add the material to the collection.  But, the truth is, the Internet and inclusion of books in places like Wal-Mart and Target are changing the landscape of reading and what teens ask for.  In addition, they want to see tie-in novels to their favorite tv shows and movies, which are often not reviewed.  There needs to be ways to successfully include recreational reading in our collections.  These type of collection development policies leave teens with two choices, read only those books that adults have declared “quality” reading materials or read nothing.  I would rather that they read something, anything, with the hope that it will be the bridge to reading that finally makes them a satisfied library customer than walking out our doors unsatisfied.

We can’t keep ignoring the success of e-books.  We need to look at our collection development policies and budgets to make sure we have successful ways of meeting our patrons e-book needs. Yes, teens read e-books.  Even my tween has an e-book reader.  One can make the argument that not everyone has an e-reader and we dilute our funds for many but reaching out to meet the needs of a few; but we also risk alienating those few – and they are growing in number – as library supporters if we don’t prove our relevancy and meet their needs.  They will see no need to vote for supporting us because we no longer meet their needs and they have gone elsewhere.

The bottom line is this, if teens can’t find what they are looking for in the library, they aren’t coming back because there are so many other ways for teens to find what they want to read.  We may be free, but if teens have continued unsuccessful trips to the library, we still become irrelevant.

Here are some things I wish publishers knew:

If at all possible, try and show your book cover as much as possible in your ads, online, etc.  Teens judge a book by its cover and I am going to be honest, I judge a book by its cover.  It is, of course, not the most important factor – but it is something that I have to realistically consider.  If I have to cut an order because I have gone over my budgeted amount (which by the way is always), I am going to cut those lesser known titles that have boring or outdated covers because the bottom line is my teens won’t check them out.

If a book is a part of a series, make sure and mention that.  If at all possible, mention the other titles in the series.  It’s win/win for us both.

Every time you mention your book or show your cover, please make sure your ISBN is there.  I can’t order a book without the ISBN (with the ordering system we use, ISBN is the easiest access point) and it muddies the process if I have to go looking for it.  Along with less funds, we have less time as well.

All hail the power of the ARC! Although it is true that I can’t read every ARC I get, I look at them all and read a great many.  Like I said in my interview with Victoria, it really helps take some of the (albeit educated) guesswork out of collection development.  It also allows me to get actual teen feedback before making a purchase.  This is especially true for newer authors, new series, etc.  New is always a risky proposition, but you can help me take some of the risk out of it.

Here are some things I wish authors (and publishers) knew:

The other day, as I read my fifth book in a row about teens trapped somewhere – a mall, a school, wherever – I thought about diversity.  Not people diversity, but book plot diversity.  It is true that a lot of my teens are looking for the next Hunger Games – but that doesn’t mean it has to be a literal Hunger Games type plot. Sometimes when they say they want the next Hunger Games, it just means the are looking for the next big thing.  And to be honest, I have a lot of teens who haven’t read the Hunger Games or didn’t finish the series because they just didn’t like it.  There must be that temptation, I am sure, to write and publish those books that seem so similar to what is selling like hotcakes.  Heck, there is that same temptation to add it to our library collections.  But everything has a saturation point.  And I can’t help but look at those teens coming into my library who don’t find what they need in our collections; who don’t find themselves reflected in the books that they read.

Case in point: I’m going to age myself here, but when I was growing up I used to watch this little show called The Cosby Show. It was a funny, touching show about a family that was basically just like mine.  They fought over every day things.  Their parents were embarrassing but for all the right reasons. And they often did stupid things.  They did, of course, happen to be an African American family.  But the show wasn’t about them being an African American family, it was about them being a family.  Twice this week – and it’s only Tuesday as I write this – I have had tweens come in looking for books and everything that we discussed that was popular had a fair skinned main character.

One of the reasons that I loved The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez is because it tells the story of a boy who doesn’t usually get to have his story told.  Girls are not swooning over him.  He does not have washboard abs and a killer smile.  But Charlie’s is a story that needs to be told because there are so many Charlie’s out there.

Sometimes, it is precisely because something is unique and different that it becomes so special.  We need those stories on our shelves to.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you wish your administrators knew about collection development? How about authors and publishers?

Edelweiss, Or Crack Cocaine for Librarians/Collection Development People (Stephanie Wilkes)

This is one of those ‘informative training type’ posts where I want to let you guys in on a little website that has completely blown my Snuggie off.  (Don’t steal my phrase…I’m gonna trademark that.)  Basically, if you are a librarian who orders books or if you work in collection development, you are going to want info about this website.  Edelweiss is a website that has this tagline: “Whether you’re a bookseller, sales rep, librarian, reviewer, or publisher, you have the same goal: to connect readers with books”.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Basically, this website is an amalgamation of publisher’s catalogs.  All of them.   EVER.  Well, probably not all of them but pretty much all of the ones that you are ordering books for your collection from.  Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Egmont USA, Houghton Mifflin….you name it.  (I’m not paid by anyone to rep their publishing companies at all…if I left you off it was just because of a major lack of coffee and like I said, every publisher in the WORLD is on this site.  So that is your inclusion.  I’m going to stop now.)



So, instead of waiting for those color catalogs to come in the mail and letting them pile up on a corner in your office along with all other mail that we get daily, you can create an account and peruse the catalogs one by one all day long.

Now why is it crack-cocaine for you?  Because you can sit there and go through these catalogs for hours. Days.  Weeks.  Possibly months if you are an extremely slow reader, clicker, and you have an older computer.  Basically, the books are all listed in the catalog and you can see publication date, a ranking on Goodreads and the blogosphere of reactions, if it is the Frontlist or Backlist, the blurbs for the book, about the author info, publicity info from the publisher, and the list goes on.  Here is a sample of one of the listings for a book that I am absolutely salivating over:

See the page here

You can see the sale date, the ISBN #, the targeted audience, pages, sales rights, the Goodreads meter that shows the popularity of the title, summary, bio, marketing plans, selling points (which can be used for book talks), and quotes and reviews.  What more could you ask for?

Oh, well this:

See the page here

That little green button?  Yes, on Edelweiss you can Request a Review Copy for your e-reader.  So, it takes what NetGalley has done and brought it up to a collection development level.  I will say that NetGalley does have more YA titles than Edelweiss though, not sure why. 

Here’s the deal…with the abundance of rights being sold for trilogies and series, it is in your absolute best interest to use resources like these when you are working on collection development.  I preach day in and day out that Amazon should not be your discovery point for book selection and I 100% stand by that statement.  If you are a true professional, you should be using professional resources.  If you are training to be a librarian, work in a library, or want to ever work in this field, you should be learning how to use professional resources, not websites like Amazon, to determine what books are coming out and when.  There are several websites that collect information about release dates for YA books (http://yalit.com) and TeenReads (www.teenreads.com).   And, personally, if you want to browse a website to see what is selling, I urge you to use Indie Bound (www.indiebound.org).

There are other options you can use on this site to help you, some of which I am just now starting to use now that the glazed eyes have worn off after a three-day collection development spree.  For example, creating your own collections and even using a feature called GeoSearch, which enables you to find materials published that may have your city mentioned or authors near you. 

Okay, so a recap.  Schedule yourself a good 4 days in your office.  Make a large pot of coffee/tea/beverage of choice and sit down at your computer.  Crack your knuckles.  Pop your neck.  Go to http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.comand create an account.  We’ll see you next week and Karen and I will try not to post anything very exciting until then.  And for those of you who already have an addiction to Edelweiss, we will be having our first Edelweiss Non-Anonymous meeting soon via Twitter. 

If you have questions about Edelweiss, feel free use their help page or contact them via Twitter @weiss_squad.  They are super helpful, super friendly, and as with all metaphorical drug dealers, readily available. – Stephanie Wilkes

Sunday Reflections: What if we are our own worst enemies? A reflection on librarianship.

I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy was in us.” – Platoon

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When I was a teen, I was obsessed with the movie Platoon, in large part because Charlie Sheen was one of my James Deans. Yes, I know it turns out that he was absolute trash, but we didn’t know it at the time. But because of this obsession, I had purchased the Platoon soundtrack – on vinyl thank you very much – and memorized the closing speech which contains the line above. The line above has always stuck with me and I keep thinking about it lately in terms of the MLS and the devaluing of libraries, in part through the devaluing of the library profession by none other than librarians. Hear me out.

Before I begin, let me just take a moment to say that I have the utmost respect for paraprofessionals. I myself started out as a paraprofessional YA associate before choosing to go on and get my MLS. Some of my best friends are paraprofessionals, including my best friend who happens to be a nondegreed director of a small, rural library. Our very own Amanda MacGregor, who is my most trusted reviewer and someone I go to frequently for advice and information, is not an MLS librarian, though I believe you all know I love, value and respect her fiercely. This is not a diatribe against paraprofessionals or anyone who works in the library; it is, however, a reflection on how we talk about the profession and the lingering effect it has and how people perceive the value of the library.

Time and time again, I hear many people talking as if the MLS no longer matters in any way, shape or form, and this concerns me. There is even, recently, a vote discussing whether or not the director of the ALA – the American LIBRARY Association – should hold an MLS. And I was surprised by how many people felt that this prerequisite was an obviously absurd idea. I feel quite differently about this; I believe that the director of the ALA should be a person who holds an MLS from an ALA certified school. To me, to forgo putting someone with an MLS as the director of the ALA would be like putting someone who doesn’t have a background in psychology in charge of the APA or someone who isn’t licensed in medicine in charge of the AMA. I want someone who has the education, knowledge and experience to be directing the organization.

But it’s not just about whether or not the director of the ALA should hold an MLS. More and more, I hear professional librarians talking as if the MLS education is completely unnecessary, and I would argue that this is harmful to our profession. What we say and do matters and transforms how people think about our profession. If we ourselves devalue our profession, than why shouldn’t our public, including community boards and legislators? I think of it somewhat as branding, and we are hurting our brand.

One of the last library systems I worked at went from having a staff of around 80 people and 12 MLS librarians to around 40 employees and only 2 MLS librarians. All specialists, including children’s librarians, were done away with. But of course, none of the services or programming were, so now fewer and less invested people are tasked with doing the same responsibilities. At another library, the retiring MLS director was replaced with the city’s marketing manager who had never worked in the library. The benefit is that the library gets a lot of good marketing, but the daily business of the library – it’s philosophy and foundations of the library in the community – was no longer at the core.

In contrast, at one system I worked at an individual from the business world was hired to be an operations manager, but this person worked closely with the library director, an experiences MLS librarian, to keep the foundations of librarianship at the center while blending those ideals with that of the business world to keep the library moving forward in terms of budgeting and HR practices.

But what happens when we start saying that librarians and librarianship aren’t really necessary in libraries? What happens when we devalue professional librarians? I would argue that those outside the library community see this and take that discussion one step further. If librarians aren’t important, if the education and experience isn’t important, then perhaps libraries themselves aren’t that important?

How many times have I, an MLS librarian, been asked if I am a volunteer? Too many too count. How many times have I been asked why I need a degree to do my job? Again, too many to count. The truth is, we don’t do a very good job of informing our public about what we do, why it matters, and why having educated and professional librarians involved in the library is important. And if it doesn’t really matter, then why should our communities support them with their tax monies?

Have you ever worked at a library where it has been suggested that staff could be let go and replaced by volunteers? I have, and it’s very disheartening. But I also think, we do this to ourselves in some ways. When staff are reduced, workloads are not reduced in kind. We replace retiring professionals with paraprofessionals to reduce staffing costs and the library is populated with fewer and fewer librarians. Sometimes, there are no professional librarians to be found.

This conversation gets tricky because not all libraries are the same. For example, there are a lot of small, rural libraries out there being well run by passionate paraprofessionals and a just a handful of staff to cover the circulation desk. You can not compare a small rural library with a large urban library system, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. But when even our largest library systems begin to do away with professional librarians, it definitely communicates a message to the larger public about the value of both librarians and libraries. And I would argue that this message is not in our favor.

These past few weeks we have seen public school teachers fighting for respect and pay that matches their job. We demand of our teachers a degree and hold them to a standard, and yet teachers are another maligned profession. We do not culturally value teachers, in part I would argue because it is seen as a feminized profession, much as librarianship is. But these past few weeks, teachers have united together and demanded to be fairly compensated for their work.

In comparison, I continue to see librarians degrading the profession in the ways that we talk about our field, in the ways that we don’t demand adequate compensation for our jobs, or the ways in which library directors eliminate professional staff and professional development when forced to make budget cuts.

As I mentioned, I was a paraprofessional before I became an MLS degree holding librarian. I have been dedicated and passionate about my job every step of the way. But getting my degree changed who I was as a librarian. My education really helped me understand so many aspects of both my job and my teens. It made me a better librarian.

The irony is that today, when I hear people say that they want to get their MLS, my knee jerk reaction is that I want to tell them not to do it. Not because I don’t believe in it, I think it has tremendous value and I think it helps establish us as a profession. No, I want to tell them not to do it because I understand that the job prospects for MLS librarians are shrinking. Libraries now hire fewer and fewer librarians, and we are often inadequately compensated salary wise for our level of education and experience. Many libraries now only want to hire degreed librarians in management positions, though it is hard for MLS librarians to get the experience required for those positions because we aren’t hiring librarians in non-management positions for them to get the necessary experience.

So yes, I would like the director of the American Library Association to hold an MLS degree from an ALA certified school. To me, that helps communicate the value of the library profession to the public that we serve. I would also, for the record, like the ALA to spend part of its financial resources marketing the idea of libraries to the general public in much the same way that you see the AMA marketing the medical field to the public. And for the record, I am not an ALA member because I can’t afford the fees.

But this post isn’t really about the director of the ALA, as I mentioned, I’m not an ALA member and I don’t get a vote. But what this post is, I hope, is a reflection on how I worry that we librarians have become our very own enemies when it comes to branding and marketing of libraries. If we continue to devalue the educational foundation of our profession, does that not in some way devalue the idea of libraries themselves? I would argue that it is possible that it does and we see that in the ways our boards ask us to replace full-time professional positions with 2 part-time paraprofessional positions and the ways in which our legislators slash our hours and our budgets.

The conversation is, of course, bigger than this post. For example, do we need age specialists? I would argue that we do. I know that my teens are better served because they have a librarian who has taken the time to study adolescent development, just as babies are better served by someone who has studied early childhood development. And of course, there is something to be said about paraprofessionals who have worked with and trained with good, quality librarians. And there is something to be said about how overwhelmingly white our profession is and about how in a profession dominated by women men rise to leadership positions faster and more often. These are all valid conversations that we need to be having.

My point is this: I would like us all to consider the ways that we talk about our profession, our education, our experiences, and the very concept of a library and to consider the ways in which we may be undermining our very own profession. I want us to consider whether or not we are being our own enemies and to make the changes necessary to be advocates instead.

National School Climate Survey results about LGBTQ students’ experiences in school

GLSEN-NSCS-2015-Cover_0GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its biennial National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBTQ students from across the country, in mid December 2016. The good news is that things have improved slightly from their 2013 survey. The bad news is that it’s still really ugly out there.

174 page report (which is available as a PDF) looks at discrimination, harassment, assault, biased language, school resources and support, and more, and examines how these factors affect educational performance, safety, and mental health of LGBTQ teens. The report is filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBTQ students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported.  Being knowledgeable of the potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction. As GLSEN reports, “The survey has consistently indicated that specific school-based supports are related to a safer and more inclusive school climate, including: supportive educators, LGBT-inclusive curriculum, comprehensive anti-bullying policies, and supportive student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).” Also, “For the first time, GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey also includes insights on bisexual student experiences, school policies that specifically affect transgender students, and anti-bullying student education. The survey also asks students about discriminatory policies and practices around extracurricular activities and traditions like graduation, portraits, homecoming and prom.” (See here for the media release, where this quote came from, for more quick facts.) This report should be required reading for anyone who works with teenagers. 

The following data is taken from the survey results.

 

Findings of the 2015 National School Climate Survey include: 

GLSEN 1

Anti-LGBTQ Remarks at School

• Just over two-thirds of LGBTQ students heard the word “gay” used in a negative way often or frequently at school.

• More than half of LGBTQ students heard homophobic remarks such as “fag” or “dyke” often or frequently at school.

• Just under two-thirds of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks about gender expression often or frequently at school. Remarks about students not acting “masculine enough” were more common than remarks about students not acting “feminine enough.”

• Two-fifths of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she,” often or frequently.

• More than half of LGBTQ students heard homophobic remarks from school staff, and nearly two-thirds heard remarks from staff about students’ gender expression.

 

School Safety, Harassment, and Assault at School

• Close to 9 in 10 LGBTQ students were harassed at school.

• Sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBTQ students were harassed or assaulted at school.

• Nearly three quarters of students reported being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; more than half were verbally harassed because of their gender expression.

• Over a quarter of students reported being physically harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; 1 in 5 were physically harassed because of their gender expression.

• About 1 in 6 students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year, primarily because of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender.

• Relational aggression, i.e. spreading rumors or deliberate exclusion, was reported by the vast majority of students.

• About half of students reported experiencing some form of electronic harassment (“cyberbullying”) in the past year.

• Over half of students were sexually harassed at school in past year.

 

The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely, if ever, intervene on behalf of LGBT students.

The majority of LGBTQ students who were harassed or assaulted at school did not report these incidents to school staff.

• The most common reasons that LGBTQ students did not report incidents of victimization to school staff were doubts that effective intervention would occur, and fears that reporting would make the situation worse.

• Less than a third of LGBTQ who had reported incidents of victimization to school staff said that staff had effectively addressed the problem.

• When asked to describe how staff responded to reports of victimization, LGBTQ students most commonly said that staff did nothing or told the student to ignore it; 1 in 4 students were told to change their behavior (e.g., to not act “so gay” or dress in a certain way).

 

The report goes on to discuss: 

GLSEN 3

*absenteeism (“[A] lack of safety may lead to missing school, which can result in a student being pushed out of school by school disciplinary or criminal sanctions for truancy or dropping out of school as a result of poor academic achievement or disengaging with school due to the days missed.”)

*academic achievement (“We assessed the relationship between school safety and educational aspirations for students in our survey and found that LGBTQ students who reported higher levels of victimization based on their sexual orientation or gender expression were more likely than other students to report lower educational aspirations.”)

*psychological well-being (“Previous research has shown that being harassed or assaulted at school may have a negative impact on students’ mental health and self-esteem. Given that LGBTQ students face an increased likelihood for experiencing harassment and assault in school, it is especially important to examine how these experiences relate to their well-being.”)

 

Additionally, it looks at discriminatory policies, discriminatory discipline, restrictions, and prohibitions regarding public displays of affection, attending dances, forming a GSA, writing about LGBTQ topics, etc. It breaks the data down by race, ethnicity, school type, location, region, and more.

 

GLSEN offers many recommendations for turning these statistics around, such as giving students more access to LGBTQ-related information (literature, history, etc), forming GSA groups, providing professional development to increase the number of supportive teachers and staff, ensuring school policies are not discriminatory, having anti-bullying and harassment policies that make it clear that they provide safety for LGBTQ students, and teaching an inclusive curriculum.

 

LGBTQ students experienced a safer, more positive school environment when:

GLSEN 2

– Their school had a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar student club

– They were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history, and events through their school curriculum

– They had supportive school staff who frequently intervened in biased remarks and effectively responded to reports of harassment and assault

– Their school had an anti-bullying/ harassment policy that specifically included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

 

Previously at TLT:

Check out my previous post GLBTQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens, which compiles articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your library collections and how to support GLBTQ youth. Another previous post here at TLT is Back to School: How to support and respect LGBTQIA+ students. More posts can be found by searching the tag LGBTQIA+ on the blog.

 

Also check out:

The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Project, which “is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.”

 

Unfamiliar with GLSEN?

From their site: GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

@GLSEN on Twitter

You Don’t Have to Use the Internet & Other Absurd Things Politicians Say in 2017

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschool

Internet privacy is under attack with the current administration. This means that the things you say and do online can no longer be considered private in the same ways we thought of them a few weeks ago. Congress has ruled that Internet providers can sale your information in an effort to make more money. You, my friends, are for sale. But one law maker contends that it’s okay that you don’t have Internet privacy because YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO ONLINE!

But wait, is that true? Let’s count discuss just a few of the ways that people do in fact have no choice but to go online in the year 2017.

Do you want a job? Chances are you can only apply online. And in order to apply, you’ll need access to a computer, the Internet, and an email address.

Do you want paycheck stubs for a loan or to apply for college? Yep, you can probably only get those online as well.

If I want to know what grades my child is getting in school, I can only find out online. Our school district does not send out any paper report cards at all.

Need to go to the doctor? You’ll have to fill our those per-certification forms online.

Want to apply for the FAFSA to get financial aid for college? Online thank you.

Want to keep in contact with professional colleagues? Participate in professional development? Online classes? Webinars?

Keep in contact with military family stationed in far away places?

Want to participate in politics? Contact an elected representative?

What about contacting a business or corporation to get more information or file a complaint?

Are you a student who wants to graduate? Chances are you will have to submit homework and assignments online.

The truth is, if you want to communicate, learn, work, grow or anything in the year 2017, you do in fact have to get online. Very few people manage to effectively live off the grid because our world is designed to be very much on the grid. And now that we’re all there and need it to survive, the government wants to take away our reasonable rights to privacy. This is something that I think we should all be concerned about.

How to Protect Your Online Privacy Now That Congress Sold You Out

So what do we do? Continue to talk about the importance of online and data privacy. Contact your legislators. You can also look into building a VPN to help protect your privacy. But the important thing is this: We can not let the false narrative that being online is a choice stand.

And here is where I would like to add a note about the power and importance of libraries. Every day libraries around the world open their doors to those who don’t have steady, dependable access to the Internet for a variety of reasons. We provide the access they need to do all of the things we talked about above and more. And libraries have been stalwart defenders of patron privacy. Online privacy matters.

Middle School Monday: A Crucial Strand of PD. Part Two.

MSM1After last week’s post on Day One of a Reflective Literature professional development strand, readers reached out to learn more. As we had Day Two of our strand just last Friday, I thought I’d do two things today. 1: tell you what our plan was for that PD and 2: first, briefly talk about the most critical part of this sort of PD.

What is the most critical part of PD on equity training/culturally relevant pedagogy? Answer: It’s ongoing. It’s daily. It’s never finished.

How do I engage in this PD daily? 1. By learning from my students. 2. By following and learning from educators, authors, and activists on Twitter who are experts in this field, including:

@TheJLV @djolder @debreese

@davidekirkland @chrisemdin @CrazyQuilts

@zettaelliott @jbakernyc @Tolerance_org

@malindalo @RafranzDavis @EvaVegaWorld

A reminder: engaging in equity training requires that we be willing to sit in discomfort as we examine our own bias, identify structural inequities in our own institutions, and engage in discussions with colleagues.

One. Implicit Bias.

To jump start our discussion on implicit bias, I used the beginning of a presentation from the 2014 YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium titled Using Multicultural YA Literature to Examine the Impact of Racism on the Lives of Teens of Color. Full disclosure–it’s a presentation I worked on that explored the realities of institutional racism, the reasons why talking about race and racism is necessary, and ways to use diverse YA literature to open up these dialogues with teens. We only did the first few slides, but there are certainly different portions that could be used in these discussions.

Two. Checking in with our #ownvoices novels.

It will be lovely if at each PD meeting, a member discusses the #ownvoices novel she/he chose to read at the first session. On Friday, I talked about Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Well, I didn’t talk about it…I wanted my colleagues to hear Jason Reynolds talk about it. [We watched a portion of his talk at the National Book Festival.] I’ll talk more about Ghost with all of you down the road, but, I:

  1. Loved it.
  2. Want to use it as a sixth grade class text in the Spring.

Three. Individual Work.

After introducing Harvard’s Project Implicit, I shared the link and suggested that we all engage in at least two of their implicit bias tests.

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib and I hope you have a great week. I’d love to hear about your favorite/most crucial Twitter follows!

Friday Finds: December 2, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Common Sense isn’t Really all that Common

Middle School Monday: Professional Development. Not the Optional Kind.

Teaching Teens Media Literacy 101

Book Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

Book Review: Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students by Michael Sadowski

Video Games Weekly: Lego Harry Potter Collection

Behold the Power of Reading; Or, how my 8-year-old was inspired to start her own #TrashTuesdays

#MHYALit: Unbearable: A Reflection on Hunger, a guest post by Lindsay Eagar

#SJYALit, Social Justice in YA Lit – The 2017 TLT Project

Finding an Authentic Teenage Voice, a guest post by author Amy S. Foster

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