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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

My favorite tools: Trello

This is the first of a series of post on productivity and organizational tools that I’m finding useful in my library work.

I’ve been using Trello off and on, for professional and personal projects, since 2014. It’s visually appealing, simple to use, and dovetails nicely with Google apps. Trello, at its most basic, is a collection of lists of lists. Imagine a digital cork board with post-its that you can move from section to section. Here’s a board my coworker and I use to share our planning and ideas for the department:

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 10.18.14 AMNote that within each list is a “card”. Cards can be dragged and dropped from one list to another. So from our “ideas” list, we can easily pull something from a brainstorming session into our list of programs to schedule out for the next season. Each card can then contain its own list, conversation, to-do, attachment, or link and you can also push notifications on cards to people who are members of the list, as I did with this card for a teen service learning project:

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The boards get really fun when you start adding images!

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Trello will save your boards until you archive them, and it allows you to duplicate boards and move lists from board to board. This comes in handy for yearly planning tasks, like summer reading, or big events like our town’s annual summer party. I copy the board, change the year, and already have a to-do list to adapt for the current year.

On the main landing page you’ll see all of your boards. This includes those you create and those other people add you to as a collaborator. Star the boards you want to see at the top. Active boards float up too, with less active boards floating down to reduce visual clutter.

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Note here that I have two “Gathering On The Green” boards as I mentioned above. Because you can color code boards, I’ve greyed out last year’s board. Note also, that my personal board for Christmas can live here too — all of the sharing happens on the boards themselves, so I can keep my gift list, my family’s clothing sizes, and holiday dinner menu brainstorming in a similarly tidy and organized fashion and it’s not connected to my work boards.

Keeping on with the visual aids, you can color code cards themselves, as I did here. Each list is a reminder of items to acquire and then pack for an outreach event. Green meant “packed and ready to go,” yellow was “in progress,” and red still needed to be done.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 10.46.33 AMI like that Trello can work this way on a very minute, granular scale, and also work to organize big idea brainstorming and “what if” kinds of conversations. Each board and each list has its own flavor, and the flexibility that offers is very helpful to me. If you’re a Bullet Journal user wishing you could share your lists and work collaboratively within the Bullet Journal structure, take a look at Trello. Trello also offers a blog with productivity tips and suggestions for making the tool more useful for you, in addition to highlighting new features.

I highly recommend Trello if you’re trying to juggle multiple projects and roles (like most of us do) and you like the flexibility of having an online platform that can go anywhere with you and plays nicely with your other cloud based work. It’s also available as a mobile app. And it’s pretty.

The Importance of School Visits, by Kate-Lynn Brown

As a teen librarian, I’ve done three school visits for two different libraries. The first was while I was still in college. I spoke to the sixth graders about volunteering for the Summer Reading Club during their lunch.

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A middle school cafeteria at lunchtime. I was thrown to the wolves. Even the most seasoned veteran would be scared by the gossip, the hormones, the frenzied atmosphere created during the teens’ social hour. It was a moment that made me realize I was cut out to work with teenagers: yes, my palms were clammy. No, I was not afraid to stand in front of this group and convince them volunteering at the library would be the best part of their summer. I got on the microphone and scanned the tables for familiar faces. I caught a few and smiled. The speech I had rehearsed all week came out naturally. Students waited for me to finish (and were relatively attentive while I spoke), then swarmed me for fliers. I stopped by each section of tables to make sure they didn’t have any questions. I nailed it.

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My subsequent school visits have been in more official capacities: with a full-time teen librarian, I spend all day in a classroom or media lab performing book talks. We each pick three or four books to present to the teens, offering variety with at least one nonfiction title, one graphic novel, and one fiction book. To prep we read the books, pick passages to read aloud, and create and practice a presentation to get the teens interested in each selection. My coworkers who have been doing this for a while have impressive Google Doc archives of their go-to book talks.

The day is exhausting–and I don’t know how teachers run through a lesson multiple times in a day or week!  Bright and early, we run through our library spiel: Who has a library card? Here’s how you get one! Who comes to the library? Here’s why you should! We let the students pick the order we’ll talk about the books in, taking questions and initiating conversations about each title throughout the class period. The bell rings, and we start over again.

So why are school visits so important?

  1. We get out into the community! I have been thinking a lot about outreach lately, and it’s something that successful public libraries all seem to do and do well. That being said…
  2. The library is much more than its building! Someone said this to me at a graduate school event recently, and it resonated. You might know that the library is more than a building with books in it, but you should remind the members of the community you serve of this, too. So, as a teen librarian, going to the schools serves that purpose. I directly serve the teenage population, so they should see me in spaces important to them.
  3. We reach students who we might not have otherwise! Some kids might never come into the library–and if they do, might not approach the librarian and ask for a recommendation. This ensures we’re reaching a much wider audience and getting more teens excited about different things the library has to offer. If they recognize us, they might even feel more comfortable coming up to ask a question.
  4. We are given a captive audience. Teens hear about titles we have, events we’re running, and programs we’re starting. It’s one of the few times we’re guaranteed a captive audience! What we have to say isn’t lost in their social media feeds or irrelevant when compared to their after school chatter. Whether they doze off at their desks or hold on to every word we say, for that class period the teens are ours. Of course, in a classroom we’re not going to see every teen patron that visits the library; but over the course of a semester worth of visits we hope to reach a good percentage of them.
  5. We get so much out of it.  I see the teens in a new environment where they’re more comfortable. I’m going into their workspace instead of having them come into mine. I see kids get excited about reading who might not be big readers! That’s the point of book talks for me: how can I sell this book so even a reluctant reader might be drawn in enough to pick it up? What can I tell an avid reader to make him go for this title over any other other? It’s one of the challenges of this job that I love.
  6. We get to read outloud- and the teens get to listen! I love reading to them. One of my favorite parts of creating a book talk is picking out what passages to read aloud.Teens love being read to. Even the teachers love being read to! I’ve gotten to the end of a passage only to look up and see every eye in the room is on me, at full attention. While younger kids are read to all the time, it really doesn’t happen often for teens. I think being read to is a totally underappreciated art, and a great way for people to experience a story in a different way.

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One of the times I feel most important as a librarian is when I leave the physical space of the library and go out into my community.  As a teen librarian, going on school visits is a huge part of that. I love any chance to interact with my teens and try to create a meaningful experience for them, especially when a book or another resource we have is a part of that experience!

Meet Kate-Lynn Brown

katelynnbrown

Kate-Lynn is a teen services information assistant in New Jersey. She is currently a student in the Rutgers Master of Information program, which she will complete in May 2018. She loves reading thrillers and creative nonfiction. You can find her digital portfolio here and follow her on Twitter, @katelynnbrown95.

Doing a YA Diversity Audit: Answering some follow up questions, including “What about the Conservatives?”

On posts, in tweets, and in my mailbox, one of the questions we – TLT – get asked a lot is “What about the conservatives?” Because we post regularly about GLBTQAI+ literature, talk about advocacy, etc., some are left with the impression that we do not care about meeting the needs of the more conservative parts of our population, which is in no way true. This question came up multiple times regarding my recent series of posts on doing a collection diversity audit.

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To begin, some background, both personal and professional: I have worked in libraries for 24 years. 4 different library systems in two different states. Personally, I am in fact a Christian. I have an undergraduate degree in Youth Ministry from a conservative Christian college. I live and work in conservative towns. I can assure you, the conservative view point is in no way under represented. In fact, doing a collection audit will help you have the factual information you need to help address these concerns.

Also, I want to address the question of what does it mean when someone says that libraries are liberal and don’t respect conservatives. By definition, public libraries should be inclusive which means they should have books on their shelves representing every point of view. That makes us default liberal, I suppose. But what do people mean when they ask about the conservative viewpoint? They could mean politically conservative, fiscally conservative, dealing with religious beliefs, or just wanting what is commonly referred to as “clean reads”. Often they mean from a Christian or political point of view, but even in non-Christian religions there are both more progressive and conservative points of view. When we talk about religion in the public library, it is vitally important that we stop operating from a Christian point of view.

Because I work with teens, I have found they are most frequently talking about 1) this concept of “clean reads” and 2) the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature. I’m not going to debate the basic humanity of any marginalized people, so the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature in a library isn’t up for debate. An individual can choose to read or not read, but a public library can not choose to buy or not buy.

I find the concept of “clean reads” to be troublesome because 1) it’s very personal, 2) it implies that other types of books are by definition dirty or less than and 3) unless a person has read every single book in their collection (and no librarian ever has or ever will), this can be a very difficult question to answer. So, what I find to be a “clean read” might be different than what the person I am talking to considers to be a clean, or let’s use the word appropriate because what they are in fact looking for is a book that is appropriate for them or their child. Doing an extensive RA interview can help answer this question, but it’s not foolproof. So I always try to add caveats and give the person I am talking to tools to do further research themselves. This includes teaching them how to use the online catalog and subject headings, finding reviews, etc.

So from the get go, the idea of how do public libraries serve and include the conservative point of view isn’t as straightforward as it is presented. Another issue with the question is that the conservative point of view often works from the standpoint that non-conservative points of view shouldn’t be in our public libraries at all, which is by the mission and definition of a public library an incorrect point of view. Many conservatives, and I know this as a member of the conservative Christian community, believe that any point of view that is contrary to their own should not be permitted because it is offensive. The public library is not there to represent only a portion of the population, it is there to serve and represent the whole, although I would argue that there are in fact some exceptions. For example, works that advocate against the basic humanity and safety of any population group would be considered hate speech and should not be purchased because they put a segment of the population at harm. My POC or GLBTQAI+ teens should be able to come safely into the public library and not have their very existence threatened by the books in my collection.

The reality is that the very thing many conservatives fear is the answer to the question of how are they being served: inclusive collections. Inclusive collections mean that conservatives, whether they be politically or religious conservatives or just readers wanting the appropriate book for them, are best served by truly inclusive collections.

amishreads3 amishreads2 amishreads1

The library that I currently work at, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, has a large, dedicated Amish fiction collection. This is, of course, in part because we serve a large Amish and conservative population. We understand our local community and work hard to meet its needs in inclusive ways. I have worked at other libraries with large Chinese and Vietnamese collections because there was a large, local Chinese and Vietnamese population. Every library works to understand and serve their local communities in a variety of ways.

I would argue, however, that building inclusive (or diverse) collections, is part of that service. For one, even if it represents a small percentage of your local population, that small percentage still deserves to be represented respectfully in their local library. Their existence is not up for debate, their worth and their rights aren’t either. Secondly, reading diversely is part of the educational value of a public library, the whole “walking in another person’s shoes” and developing compassion for your fellow human beings. We fail our local communities in that aspect of service if we don’t actively build inclusive collections. Even if you serve a local community that is 99% white and conservative, building inclusive collections is part of your mission statement, or at least it should be, because reading outside of one’s own experience is part of a holistic education experience. We are not helping our local communities become educated citizens if we neglect the reality that we live in a diverse world.

We must also never forget that what a person reads ultimately comes down to personal choice. However, our patrons can’t make choices to read diversely if we don’t provide them access to diverse collections. What they ultimately choose to read is on them, but what we provide them access to is on us. If we take away their choices because we presume to know what they want because of a set of very specific and local statistics, then we are failing our local communities.

That’s what inclusive collections are about: ACCESS and CHOICE. That is also why librarians make the statement that if you don’t find something offensive in your local public library, then they are doing it wrong. Take politics out of the mix for a moment and let’s examine another topic: baby care. Not everyone agrees on the topic of baby care. If you have had a baby or listened to people who have tried to raise babies, you will recognize the truth of this statement. Should you let a baby cry it out and sleep train or should you respond to a baby’s every cry and practice kangaroo care? You can find people who will advocate, and quite passionately, for both sides of this coin. And you should be able to find books in your local public library that represent both of these arguments. The person who bought those books might have an opinion on the matter – I certainly do – but that personal opinion doesn’t matter when building a public library collection. We buy authoritative, well reviewed books to represent all points of views. If you walk up to your religion and politics collections, you should find the same: a well balanced collection of titles that represents multiple points of view on a variety of controversial topics.

The truth is, when libraries start doing the work of actively building inclusive collections, it can seem to the majority groups that marginalized groups are taking over. This is part of the fear that comes in equality because those groups that have historically held a position of power are being asked to give up that power in the name of equality, and they almost never want to. For example, men, white cishet Christian men in particular, have historically made up the bulk of the publishing world and there has been a real push of late for publishing to include more diversity and for libraries to build more inclusive collections. And I hear the men saying, well we don’t get to have a voice any more. Which is still statistically not true. I do a diversity audit of my monthly book orders and I can categorically with facts and data prove that this is not true. And even with a very targeted attempt to build a more inclusive YA collection, a thorough audit of my YA collection also reveals that this is not true. Even with targeted, intentional purchasing, my collection is still over 70% white and over 93% straight.

Slide18

One of the questions I get asked repeatedly when I talk about my collection audit and the journey I have taken to build a more intentional and purposeful YA collection is about community push back. I have worked in two fairly conservative communities and have experienced book challenges in both. This is where it’s important that we have up to date collection development policies and make sure that we have trained our staff, and trained them well, to talk about the role of the public library and the value of inclusive collections to our patrons. And if we truly have built inclusive collections, then we should be able to say, “this book may not have been for you, but we have others in our collections that may fit your needs, let me help you find those.”

The truth is, building inclusive collections isn’t about excluding anyone, it’s about including everyone.

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

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

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

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

diversityaudt1

So yesterday I began telling you about doing my diversity audit. I began in a place that many people wouldn’t suspect, by doing a local community needs and assessment evaluation. I thought if I wanted to understand why I was building a diverse/inclusive collection, I also wanted to understand who I was doing it for. Also, this was part of my process on researching target goals. The question I asked myself is this: what does an inclusive YA collection look like? And to do that I thought I needed to better understand what my local community and the world at large actually looks like. No guessing, no anecdotes, but facts.

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After looking at my local community demographics, I then researched what the U.S. population looks like, keeping in mind that U.S. Census data comes out every ten years and involves a lot of margin for error because respondents must use per-detetermined categories to respond and many people identify in more than one way. (Note: please see uploaded outline below for a more complete look at stats and diversity categories to investigate.)

2010 census data

Serving Teens in Libraries Infographic

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Then I dived deep into what diversity in children’s publishing looks like (spoiler alert: it’s not good). I used resources like the Lee and Low Diversity Baseline Survey to get a better understanding of what diversity in children’s publishing looks like. A realistic diversity goal has to include an understanding of what is being published. We can’t buy diverse titles that don’t exist, which is why we must continue to ask the publishing world to work towards better inclusion at all levels of publishing.

Childrens Books Infographic 18 24 V3

“This year, the number jumped to 28% . . . ” – http://blog.leeandlow.com/2017/03/30/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-book-publishing-2017/

Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection | Lee & Low

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Another worksheet example can be found here: http://sfpsmom.com/black-history-month-12-diversify-bookshelves/

With a better understanding of what the world looks like and some real investigation into my own personal biases and privilege (which is an ongoing process), I then began looking at my collection in depth. This was a painstaking process that involved a lot of research. I researched each title and author in my collection to the extent that was reasonably possible. Reasonably meaning given an appropriate use of my time, skills, and what information is available. For example, not all authors are publicly out and they deserve to make that decision for themselves, but it can affect a count of Own Voices GLBTQAI+ titles. Please note: you can make your headings and count whatever it is you wish to audit.

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My excel worksheet, created by importing a shelf list, looks like this

At one point my fellow TLTer Robin Willis came out for a week long visit and we went title by title through my shelf list discussing whether or not a title had a main or supporting character that was something other than white, male, cisgender. We had a lot of quality discussions about individual titles, authors and the idea of diversity and inclusion as a whole. And yes, public librarians do indeed end up taking weird vacations, so thank you Robin for taking your time to come spend with me and help me with this project.

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After doing the inventory several times and determining that I had the best knowledge that I could have, I then went and did the math that told me which percentage of my collection was diverse, Own Voices, GLBTQAI+ or featured a teen with a disability. I assumed I was doing a good job of building diverse, inclusive collections. It “felt” like I was doing a good job. I was trying to do a good job. Spoiler alert: I was not. Even when I was being intentional in building inclusive collections, I was not doing as well as I thought I was. For example, the percentage of titles featuring a teen with a disability were dismal at only 2.2%. However, after some targeted ordering, my GLBTQAI+ percentage went from around 3% up to 6.5%. This is part of why this type of collection audit is informative: I thought I was doing a good job of buying diverse titles, but an audit revealed that I wasn’t doing as good of a job as I thought I was and helped me make more informed and purposeful purchasing decisions. I thought I was doing a good job, I learned that I wasn’t, now I am doing better and have the data to back that statement up.

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As a tangential note, I will also admit that this in depth collection analysis has also led me on a quest to investigate subject headings in our catalog. For example, we had books with the heading of transvestite, transsexual and transgender, and since transgender is the term that teen readers will be most familiar with and is the currently preferred term, we added a subject heading of transgender (transgender people – fiction) to all titles. Similarly, we looked at titles like Tash Hearts Tolstoy to make sure that teens looking for asexual representation could find that title using our card catalog without having to ask an adult. Teens looking for GLBTQAI+ materials in particular don’t always want or feel comfortable asking an adult for help so we are working on making these titles accessible in multiple ways for teens who want to read but don’t necessarily want to ask for help in locating titles.

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This work is ongoing for me. As I mentioned above, it helps inform my monthly book ordering. Now when I do a book order, I do a sort of mini audit of each book order to make sure that I am doing the work of building an inclusive collection each and every order. I will also do occasional targeted audits, like this summer when I went through each and every letter of the GLBTQAI+ umbrella and made sure I had quality titles that represented each letter. A yearly or every few years audit combined with monthly book order audits and targeted audits makes my collection development more intentional. It’s not enough to think I’m doing the work, I now do the work. And having concrete facts and figures in front of me helps me to stop assuming while confronting my purchasing biases head on. And since I just took over this collection 3 years ago (new library), it has helped me better know and understand this collection as well as what is offered, making for some amazing RA to be honest. It also helped me fill in title holes and re-order missing or lost books that I think every collection should have.

The benefits of doing a diversity collection audit are plentiful and I highly recommend it, with a few caveats. First, it’s important that we remember that not all representation is good representation. There are a lot of tropes, stereotypes, and controversial titles out there that you should be aware of. You’ll also want to take the time to make yourself more familiar with Own Voices authors and titles. Remember that even when we talk about diversity, we should have diverse titles within that diverse representation. For example, not all GLBTQAI+ titles should be coming out stories, and not all coming out stories are the same. And, finally, we should remember and value the importance of intersectionality: most people identify as more than one thing, and that should be represented in our literature as well. For example, a black woman may identify as having a disability and being bisexual, because we are all complex human beings who are more than one thing and all more than our labels. Those stories deserve to be told and read.

With all that said, here is an in depth outline of this project: Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

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

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Edited to Add: Someone asked about measuring intersectionality. You could simply add a column heading for intersectionality and any book that has more than one tally mark in a column would also have a tally mark for intersectionality. Then you would do the math and have an idea of how many intersectional titles are in your collection.

Also, after you do your original collection audit, you can then just do an audit of all the titles added since the date of your last audit and combine the information. If you do book order audits, that information could also be added to your original audit to keep your figures current.

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

Tomorrow as part of the Library Journal/School Library Journal training on diversity Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA (which you should do), I will be doing a presentation on doing a diversity audit. I will outline what a diversity audit is, how to do one, and what I learned doing mine. I will be sharing parts of that presentation with you here tomorrow.

As part of doing a diversity audit, I tried to develop an understanding of what a diverse/inclusive book collection might look like: I tried to develop target goals. This task was harder to conceptualize than I imagined; we all talk about the need for diverse YA collections but there isn’t a lot of discussion about what, exactly, that should look like in concrete terms. So as part of my research process I decided to do some community needs and assessment research. Who are the teens I’m serving is a foundational question. I wanted to know who my teens were in concrete terms so that I could make sure that every teen in my community who walked into my library could find a book that represented them. If part of building good collections is windows and mirrors, then I wanted to make sure that I had some solid information for the mirrors part.

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We can all tell you, informally and anecdotally, a lot about the local communities we serve. But I wanted to take the deep dive into facts and figures to make sure what I thought I knew about the local community I served was in fact a realistic picture of that very community. So I did research, and a lot of it. And then I put it all together in a notebook (because you know I love me some notebooks) that I could consult and update and refer back to time and time again.

The information I looked for was curated into a table of contents that looks like this:

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1. Basic Demographics

Comprehensive Population Profile

Political Leanings

Religious Affiliation

2. Housing Information – including owning vs. renting, single vs. multiple family dwellings, etc.

3. Overall Economy – including incomes and unemployment

4. Education

5. Entertainment and Recreation – which outlines local resources that are good for networking

6. The State of Our Youth – here I looked specifically at the youth in my local community, including things like foster care, mental health, CPS stats and more

7. Crime Statistics

8. Overall Health

9. Physical Environment

Breakdown of the County

Key Community Facilities and Resources

10. Environmental Issues

11. Transportation – this includes a look at things like vehicle ownership, average lengths of commutes, and more

12. Community Strengths

13. Community Needs/Challenges

14. Additional Resources

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In the Additional Resources category I printed off and curated a large volume of the same types of studies from other area agencies. For example, the health department had a pretty thorough investigation into these same types of questions and it was an invaluable resource, so I printed it off and put it in my notebook. The county itself has a county profile online. The Ohio Department of Youth Services had a statistical report of juvenile crime, so in it went. Other information included the basic U.S. Census data profile and the county sheriff’s office safety statistics.

I want to call special attention to the Knox County United Way Community Assessment because it was an incredibly useful tool and it provided a lot of the organization for my own outline.

All together, this information helped me to develop a more complete picture of the teens that I am serving at my library. Now instead of telling you anecdotally that I serve a primarily white community, I can tell you that I serve a community that is 96.7% white. Instead of telling you that a lot of my teens are economically challenged, I can tell you that 57.5% qualify for free and reduced lunch.

So this was the first part of really diving into the diversity audit, having a really comprehensive understanding of the local community in which I am serving. The next part is developing a better understanding of my collection to make sure I’m not just providing mirrors, but windows and doors and access to a richer, more realistic, more inclusive world view. Tomorrow, I will share with you the rest of my process.

About Windows and Mirrors

Windows and Mirrors: Why We Need Diverse Books

FAQ | We Need Diverse Books

Building on Windows and Mirrors – Children’s Literature Assembly

Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

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

The Teacher I Met and How Hurricane Harvey will Affect Her Classroom

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On Monday the family and I drove down from the DFW area to the Houston area, Katy to be specific, to help out a friend whose home was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The Mr. works on cars and he went to look at their cars and see if they could be fixed or were a loss. While there we were there a church group was driving through the neighborhood letting everyone know that hot meals were being handed out in the clubhouse at the entrance of the neighborhood. This led to a series of events in which we met a teacher who lived just a few houses down from my friend. This woman’s story broke our hearts.

This woman was an older woman, probably in her fifties, who lived alone with her three dogs. Her house had gotten up to five feet of water in it. Because her house was damaged and not safe to live in, she was sleeping in a cot on her driveway with her three dogs. She had spent one night in a hotel but it was too expensive and no one really wants to take in three dogs. Her appliances were all damaged and her clothes were wet and mildewing, so my friend took her clothes and started doing her laundry for her.

Outside her lawn was filled with ruined books. There were professional books about teaching. There were classroom sets of books. There were bags and bags of markers and crayons all full of water. You see, this woman was a teacher. She was a Hispanic woman who taught dual language classes in ages raging from Kindergarten to Third Grade. This year she was going to be teaching the 3rd graders. Every year at the end of the year she brought home boxes and boxes of supplies so that she could reorganize them for the next year, depending on what year the district was going to have her teach. This year it was going to be 3rd grade.

This teacher, E I will call her, stood outside and cried as she told us the stories of the books she owned. She told us about the professional conferences she had gone to and how she had bought each book to better help her kids. Some of them had been signed to her by the speakers as she had stood briefly and spoken to them about how to be a better teacher and shared stories of the children she had taught over the years. Her loss was palpable and real. Not only could you see it all around you, but you could feel how it how shook her to the core.

As I tweeted about meeting this teacher, many people messaged me and said they would love to help her replace her books, which she will eventually need. But that day, we all stood in her drive way and worked to find a safe place for her to stay that wasn’t outside and wasn’t inside a house that was wet and already starting to mold.

I am back home in DFW today, but I have not stopped thinking about E.

Below I have storified my tweets from that day.

Seeing the Effects of Hurricane Harvey//

  1. So we came down from DFW to outside Houston to help a friend clean up after the flood. We’re not even near the worst of it, but:
  2. 4 gas stations have no gas.
    The one with gas would only let you buy $30 worth after paying inside.
    Their food shelves were empty.
  3. We had to be rerouted because one of the roads is 15 feet under water.
    Service roads are flooded.
  4. We just passed an emergency National Guard center.
  5. My friends lost all of their furniture, books, toys, clothes. The Mr is going to see if their cars can be salvaged.
  6. They were rescued by boat at the last minute and they are now stay with family members not affected.
  7. This is the pile of stuff ruined in the flood. Every house for miles has a pile like this outside. https://t.co/O2ZJqu22td

    This is the pile of stuff ruined in the flood. Every house for miles has a pile like this outside. pic.twitter.com/O2ZJqu22td
  8. This is a poorer family. They rent. Dad works 4 part-time jobs, mom works one. 3 kids. They’ve applied for FEMA aid.
  9. Everything smells. The outside smells. It smells like mold and mildew and sludge.
  10. A church group just drove through. They are passing out hot meals and water. That made me cry.
  11. We bought and fit as much h2o, feminine hygiene products, tp, & blankets as we can into our car 2 bring. It's just a smudge of the need https://t.co/luUhfQchwD

    We bought and fit as much h2o, feminine hygiene products, tp, & blankets as we can into our car 2 bring. It’s just a smudge of the need pic.twitter.com/luUhfQchwD
  12. @txlibrarianbabs I’m in Katy, not in Houston proper. This where our friend lives & it also flooded. Chest deep on her husband. Rescued by boat.
  13. This is a box of Scholastic early beginning readers lost in the flood https://t.co/42vYcNHYZq

    This is a box of Scholastic early beginning readers lost in the flood pic.twitter.com/42vYcNHYZq
  14. People are out here in 95% heat emptying houses, pulling up carpet, and knocking down flooded walls https://t.co/IfMuy9eNHt

    People are out here in 95% heat emptying houses, pulling up carpet, and knocking down flooded walls pic.twitter.com/IfMuy9eNHt
  15. @txlibrarianbabs I’ll have to look up where Richmond is. I know a lot of surrounding areas were also badly affected. It’s devastating to see.
  16. Looking at the piles of waste everywhere, it’s hard to imagine where it will all go. This is an environmental disaster on so many levels.
  17. This woman teaches 3rd grade. Her classroom sets of books are ruined. https://t.co/a2xb7TknyV

    This woman teaches 3rd grade. Her classroom sets of books are ruined. pic.twitter.com/a2xb7TknyV
  18. She has been sleeping outside in her driveway in a cot because her house isn't safe. A church is now here helping her find housing. https://t.co/zSNLC486gf

    She has been sleeping outside in her driveway in a cot because her house isn’t safe. A church is now here helping her find housing. pic.twitter.com/zSNLC486gf
  19. These are her professional education books. Can you guys help me replace them and get her professional collection replaced? https://t.co/Ts1WRXvm9W

    These are her professional education books. Can you guys help me replace them and get her professional collection replaced? pic.twitter.com/Ts1WRXvm9W
  20. @BethanyRobison @DonorsChoose I am telling her about donors choose but she is not in a place yet to do this. She is crying and overwhelmed.
  21. A lot of Houston teachers are going to need help
    keep your eye on @DonorsChoose
    But it will prob. be a while until they can set up pages  https://twitter.com/TLT16/status/904815475804254208 …
  22. This woman washer is flooded, clothes flooded. So my friend is now doing her laundry. People are helping people.
  23. But this woman is older and lives alone and clean up is a big job. That’s where people will need help & it will take a long time.
  24. Already walls are starting to mold. They will have to be torn out. https://t.co/lGMAMnL8qz

    Already walls are starting to mold. They will have to be torn out. pic.twitter.com/lGMAMnL8qz
  25. @DiandraMae I just told her and sent her these links. Thank you.
  26. @g33f33 It was signed to her too. She said she got it at a conference because she has kids with anxiety. She really cares about her kids.

 

 

ALA Recap: Libraries are Not Neutral Spaces (Things I Never Learned in Library School)

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolThis past Sunday I had the honor of presenting with a panel of fabulous librarians about how libraries are NOT neutral spaces. Like most librarians, I spent a major part of my career proclaiming that we were. But over time, I have come to realize that we are, in fact, not. For example, if during the month of December you put up a Christmas tree or a Christmas display but don’t acknowledge that any other holidays exist, you are making a non-neutral statement and highlighting certain faiths and traditions over others. Did you choose to avoid putting up a Black Lives Matter display? That was not a neutral decision. This month is Pride, did you put up a Pride display? Whether you answer yes or no to this question, your answer is not a neutral decision. Every decision to do or not do something in our libraries is not a neutral decision, and it often reflects our own personal, cultural or institutional biases.

You can find the slides to our ALA Presentation here (a log in is required)

You can read tweets about the presentation under the #CritLibAla17 at #ALAAC17

It has been a process for me to learn how to examine and break down my personal biases in considering everything I do in my library, from putting up a display to deciding when, where, and how to program. The work of being inclusive and advocating for my teen patrons – ALL of my teen patrons – is ongoing and never done. It takes some intentionality on my part and I am working on training my staff to have that same type of intentionality.

In fact, for me, displays and collections are a big part of how I try and be intentional and inclusive. I didn’t have a term for it until this weekend thanks to someone one Twitter, but I regularly perform diversity audits of my YA collection. I will sit down monthly with some type of topic or focus in mind and go through my collection to make sure I have a well represented number of titles and authors that represent that topic. For example, with Pride approaching, I spent the month of April going through every single letter in GLBTQAI+ to make sure that I had a good representation of titles for each letter in my collection. And when doing so I go through and make sure that they include as many POC, LatinX, Native American, Asian and more authors as possible. I don’t want to just be diverse in having GLBTQAI+ titles, I want to make sure that those titles are as diverse and representative as possible.

I recently went through the process of re-writing my display policy and procedures for my staff to help achieve this same goal. I want to make sure that every display we put up is inclusive. If we do a fantasy display, my staff is reminded to go through and check to make sure that there are books by diverse authors featuring diverse characters on that display. A display that solely features cis-het-white male authors is not acceptable in my department, but building them takes dedicated work on all levels. It means that I have to make sure I am building good collections for my staff to pull titles from and it means that my staff has to do the work of looking at the display daily to make sure they have a good balance of titles to choose from.

#SJYALit: Making a Social Justice Book Display that Engages Teens

Storytime Underground Libraries are Not Neutral Spaces Handouts

I discuss displays more here: The Display Must Go On. In the future I hope to add a statement to my display policy, which is included in the link, specifying that 50% or more of the display must feature diverse authors and main characters. And since we have a display notebook where we are making note of past displays so that we have good notes for future displays, I would like to create a form where we list the titles put on display and the theme of the display. This not only will provide us good info for doing RA or creating/repeating future displays, but it will help us do those diversity audits so that we can make sure we are being inclusive not just in our collections but in our displays.

sjyalit#SJYALit (2017)

The Social Justice in YA Lit Project/Discussion, using YA literature to discuss a variety of social justice issues including own voices, representation, discrimination, education, poverty and more.

Although I talked a lot about displays, many others on the panel talked about other good points and I highly recommend that you check out the slides and read the work of those I had the honor of speaking with. I learned a lot from my peers. For example, I have never processed what it means that Christian creation stories are catalogued in religion while Native American creation stories are catalogued as folklore. This was a profound moment of realization for me that finally helped me more fully understand what settler colonialism means. Doing the work means being engaged in the professional community and learning from your peers. It’s important to follow and read from librarians from different backgrounds.

I want to make one final note about holiday programming, which comes up frequently when we talk about libraries as neutral spaces. Many libraries engage in Christmas programming in their libraries and there is an ongoing argument that this is what our communities want and that Christmas is a secular holiday. For me, as a Christian, Christmas is a profoundly religious holiday and I decided when I had children not to discuss or introduce the concept of Santa to my children because I did not want to dilute the sacredness of this day. So no, our communities, even our Christian communities, don’t all want us to be doing holiday or Santa programming at the library. Even some of the fundamental beliefs we have about what our communities want may be wrong.

As I mentioned, this was truly an important and enlightening discussion for me. I continue to learn and grow as a librarian and appreciate every opportunity to talk with my peers, challenge my beliefs and make sure that I am heading in the right direction as a librarian for myself, for my teens, and for my community. I want to keep doing the good work, and sometimes that means changing what I think I know, what I believe, what I do, and the how and why of how I do it. It’s often uncomfortable, but I keep doing the work anyway.

Thank you to my co-presenters:

Nicole Cooke

Assistant Professor / Director of the MS/LIS Program, School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois

Cory Eckert

Librarian, The Post Oak School

Kendra Jones

District Manager, Youth & Family Services, Timberland Regional Library, Washington

Jessica Anne Liddell

Branch Manager, Grand Rapids Public Library

Debbie Reese

Founder and Editor, American Indians in Children’s Literature

Teen Book Club – Creating a Place to Read and Belong! (a guest post by Sheri Schubbe)

Everyone who works with teens in an educational library setting knows it’s a struggle to compete for a their time and attention. We’re up against schoolwork, sports, various extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, social media and technology. We want teens to spend time in our libraries and love reading, but it can be challenging to get them in the doors. Three years ago, after being a classroom teacher for many years, I became our district’s library media specialist. One of my first goals was to start a book club and, over the past few years, it’s become one of the most successful extra-curricular activities in our school. This year we have 530 students in our school, and about 40 are involved in Book Club. Here’s what I’ve learned since its inception in 2014.

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  • Start by partnering with the Youth Services Librarian from your local public library. When the school and public library work together, a community is strengthened. Katelyn Boyle, the Youth Services Manager at the Peotone Public Library, assists in planning and is able to access books through our  interlibrary loan system. She even comes to each book club meeting! Our teens know her as a public library partner to their education, which is a positive thing.

 

  • Meet regularly. Our book club meets one Friday a month at 7:30 AM. Yes, that’s early, but this is the time that conflicts the least with sports, clubs, and part-time jobs. I serve a simple continental breakfast at each meeting and am flexible in allowing bus-riding students to arrive late. We only meet during the school year; we tried a summer meeting one time, but it was not successful.

 

  • Create a welcoming, comfortable, and accepting environment. In our Media Center, we push tables together so everyone faces each other. There are also couches and lounge chairs nearby, so students have a choice of where to sit at the meeting. From the beginning, students understand that there are no topics off-limits and all viewpoints are welcomed.There have been discussions where members have expressed different opinions, but we have never had a situation where a student was disrespectful to another. Our kids are aware and proud of this!

 

  • Select the books yourself. Some school librarians may disagree and believe it’s best to give students a choice, but Katelyn and I feel it’s best we take that responsibility. Our students trust us to pick books they will enjoy. And that is critical. Choose books they will enjoy, not books you, as the librarian, believe would enrich the curriculum. We’ve tried a few award-winning non-fiction titles, but they have not been well-received by our group. Students told us that they are too similar to their required reading for their classes. Listen to what your teens tell you! If they love what they’re reading with the book club and get involved in the discussions, they will keep coming back!

 

  • Obtain as many copies of your book club selection as possible to hand out at the meeting. Sometimes, we are unable to have enough copies for everyone, so our faster readers know to turn in their books to me as soon as they are finished. I keep a list and contact students when copies become available. To assure that we can obtain many copies of a book through interlibrary loan, we often choose titles that are a few years old.

 

  • Have activities and discussion questions prepared for each meeting. Sometimes, I’ll start with a brief readers’ theater, book trailer, author interview video, or book review video I find on the author’s website, on YouTube, or on the publisher’s website. In case it’s needed, I always have questions available in a jar that students can randomly pick to get discussion started. Most of the time, it’s not needed.

 

  • Offer opportunities for book club students to get involved with more than just the monthly meetings. For example, our students help decorate the media center, volunteer at the Eighth Grade Orientation Night to promote our program, work at our annual Barnes & Noble Bookfair, attend book-to-movie outings, participate in book craft events, and work as “Library Helpers” assisting with tasks in the school library. Some of our non-meeting activities are held at the public library to encourage students to become more familiar with the building and the resources available there.

 

  • Plan activities for your teens to share their love of reading with others. Reading to elementary students in the district or participating in community literacy events are great outreach activities. This year so far, our teens have led a literacy activity for children at the University of Illinois Youth Literature Festival and our district book fair.

 

  • Reward your awesome teen readers with an author visit. Our students love to read a book, and then meet the author. Even schools on a tight budget, like ours, can find local authors who do not charge a fortune, but give terrific and motivational presentations to teens. Always meet with students ahead of time and help them to prepare for the event by planning questions and comments for the author.

 

  • Promote your book club by reaching out to younger students in your district. It’s important to meet with middle grade students to  tell them about Book Club and encourage them to get  involved. The continuation of your program depends on new members each year. Ask your current members to tell eighth graders about the Book Club. Our middle schoolers love to hear from the high school students!

 

  • Communicate often with your readers. I use a group email (all students have a school gmail account) and my teacher website to touch base with my students regularly. I also use the Remind App for text communication. Recently, with administrative approval, we started a Peotone High School Book Club Instagram page. Students cannot post directly to the page, but may e-mail photos to our club gmail account for consideration. In addition to our current members, several of our junior high students and alumni follow the Instagram page. It’s another way to encourage younger students to join the group once they get into high school and to keep in touch with our grads.

 

  • Design a Book Club T-shirt. We design one each year that members can purchase at a reasonable cost. It gives us that “team” feel, and we look great when we dress alike for events. Consider adopting a slogan as well. We use a John Green quote, “Great books help you understand, and they help you to feel understood.” This year, since our teens participated in the Youth Literature Festival, I bought a professionally printed vertical banner for our group. It displays a beautiful book graphic with our school logo and our slogan. The kids love it!

 

  • Personally invite students to join Book Club. At any point in the school year, when I see a student who seems to need a “place,” I invite him or her to join. The mix of students in our group is one of my favorite things. Students who probably would never talk to each other in the Commons before school, are interacting and forming friendships at Book Club!

 

  • Word of mouth! Encourage some of your most enthusiastic members to tell their friends how much they love Book Club. Word will get around, and you’ll be thrilled when students wander into the library media center asking how they can join!

Sheri Schubbe

Library Media Specialist, IL

Things I Never Learned in Library School: The Best Made Plans . . . Still Sometimes Fail

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschool

On paper, it’s the perfect program.

Con Con Flyer

An afternoon spent making as we help teens learn various tasks they may need to participate in cosplay? Sounds like a great idea. It was an idea sparked by a comment made by a presenter at ALA in 2016. And we ran with it because 1) we have an awesome Teen MakerSpace and 2) we have on staff a pretty spectacular cosplayer. We called in the Con Con, the convention to help teens learn about and get ready for conventions. Con Con wasn’t just a fun program idea, it’s fun to say.

So we started to plan. We experimented with ideas, spacing, layouts, staffing and budgets. The ideas were not a problem, but space, staffing and budgets really were. I developed a program planning worksheet to help us plan this program. A lot of time, thought and energy went in to investigating how we might be able to make our program idea a reality. As you can see, we even made flyers promoting our event, although they never were made public because we didn’t promote the event. We postponed it – not once, but twice. Then we cancelled it. Now we’re working on modifying it in ways that work realistically for our library.

Obstacle #1: Staffing

Our Teen MakerSpace is staffed by 2 part-time people, both of whom are both excellent with teens and enthusiastic about our cosplay con idea. But pulling them out of the Teen MakerSpace to do a program of this magnitude would leave the space unstaffed on another day and time, and this would be a problem for both our regular teen users and the circulation staff. The circulation staff is right across from our Teen MakerSpace and when the TMS is left unstaffed, which it sometimes is when an emergency or illness comes up, there is an increased burden on circulation staff who are left answering teen complaints about the TMS and dealing with the behavior issues of bored teens who came to the library to use the TMS only to find that it isn’t available on this day.

In addition, doing a program of this magnitude would require more than the 3 staff we have available to us. We were looking at sessions and stations and more. It’s a pretty big program idea to pull off with a small amount of staff.

Obstacle #2: Money

But staffing wasn’t our only issue, space and money were issues as well. Having a program of this magnitude would have ended up using a large portion of our yearly budget in one pop. This meant that we may have been forced to forgo important TMS supplies later in the year. And as I have mentioned before, our TMS is popular and well trafficked, I would hate to find ourselves without the supplies we needed later in the year because we spent all of our financial resources on one big program.

Obstacle #3: Space

And then there is the issue of space. If you have attended any conference or convention of any kind, you know that space is a huge issue. If we wanted to have multiple sessions for people to choose from, we needed multiple locations. We are a small library with one decent size meeting room. The demand for this space, both internally and from the public, is high, so finding a day and time that is available is already a challenge – that’s how we landed on a Sunday. We could have, in theory, also used our small genealogy room to host a class, but we know that we have many out of town visitors who come to use these resources, so if they happened to show up on that day then our plan would be a bust.

We discussed the pros and cons of having the program after hours vs. during normal operating hours so that we could have more space, but then we came back around to staffing. Each concern looped back into another concern. If we had the program after hours, we would need more additional staff but couldn’t afford to pull the additional staff off of the normal operating schedule.

The Value of Questions, Instinct and Experience

We postponed the program twice as we felt uneasy about some of the kinks we kept spotting in our plan. In the end, we decided that the negatives far outweighed the positives for our library at this time and we decided to scrap our plan for a large, one day con. Although it’s a great program, it’s not the right program for a library our size with a staff and budget our size at this time. I think all parts of that sentence are important – it wasn’t the right plan for OUR LIBRARY at THIS TIME.

Failure is Not Always Failure

But it’s not all a failure.

We are now working on adapting the sessions to fit into our TMS program model. You see, we rotate themes and ideas in our Teen MakerSpace. In April, for example, we will be celebrating National Poetry Month by hosting a variety of poetry related activities. We will be hosting Star Wars STEM activities the week of May the 4th. As part of our TSRC, we will be having Mod-A-Tee Mondays (I’ll be sharing more about that with you soon). This allows us to have drop-in programs that teens can come to at their convenience as opposed to ours and keeps our TMS new, fresh, and invigorating. So we’re breaking the Con Con sessions into modules for the month of October. October seems like a good time to learn some cosplay skills. This IS the right plan for OUR LIBRARY at THIS TIME.

We have a program model that is currently working well for us. It works for our library staffing, space, size and budgets. It’s working for our teens. It’s working for our community. It’s working for a small library with one public meeting/library program room with high demand. It just works, so instead of fighting against it we are embracing it. We took a step back, evaluated where we are at right now, and made what we feel is the best decision given all of the data we possess.

This is not the first time I have had a program idea fall through, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But it is a reminder to myself that planning is essential, and that even the best made plans sometimes fall through. I’m glad we listened to our gut about our concerns and pulled the plug and re-evaluated before we had an epic public failure (though yes, I’ve had those as well). We planned and we couldn’t make our original plan work, but that’s okay because we’re working on making a plan that works better for us. That means we’re good at our jobs.

So You’re a Librarian (or Library), What Do You Do Now? Librarianing in the Time of Political Turmoil

Sometimes inspiration comes in the strangest moments. Yesterday on Twitter I was thinking about what it means to me now to be a librarian. So I started tweeting and ended up with a long string of tweets highlighting the things that I think we – and that we includes me – can do now in light of current events. These thoughts are inspired in part by my mentor who asked me the other day, “okay, so now what do we do?” This question was asked in part because, if we’re being honest, a lot of not normal things are happening at this moment and people are concerned about privacy, about civil liberties, about the quality of and access to information. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that. So here are some of my thoughts. You probably has some great ones as well, so please add them in the comments.

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschool



  1. So my fellow librarians, here we are. What can we do:
    1) Print off or create an evaluating media sources page & put it everywhere


  2. 2) Buy diverse books. A lot of them. Put them everywhere. Flood your library with them.
    3) Host diverse or dystopian book discussion groups


  3. 4) Make a super easy bookmark for your local community. Put contact info for reps/senators on it. Websites. Understanding how govt works.


  4. @TLT16 4.) Use a canary for government requests about borrower records.
    5.) Delete all borrower records when the material is returned.


  5. 5) Go right now & make sure your collection is balanced left/right, progressive/conservative Christian, etc. Order accordingly asap.


  6. I mention #5 because as a progressive Christian I can almost guarantee you your collection skews overly conservative.


  7. 6) Don't pretend kids/teens don't know/care about what is happening. Put up a so you want to understand govt. page/display/booklist


  8. 7) Make sure all staff knows phone #/web addresses for things like ACLU, be ready to answer reference questions for help & referrals


  9. 8) Train staff ASAP - again - about freedom of information, censorship, collection development, patron privacy, what to do if records


  10. are requested or books are challenged.
    9) Don't keep patron records. It's a privacy issue.


  11. 10) Don't have a collection development policy or materials challenge policy? Get on that ASAP.


  12. @TLT16 6.) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Kids need to understand data collection and surveillance.


  13. 11) Remind staff AND public the value, duty and role of the public library. Stress Democracy, education, freedom of information.


  14. 12) Make sure staff knows who to refer public/media questions to, what they can/can not say. Write out a script. Bad info hard to retract.


  15. 13) Keep business cards of PR person and/or director well stocked at every public desk. Tell staff to refer all questions/concerns there.


  16. Our goals:
    Patron access to info
    Patron privacy
    Patron safety
    Library, patron, information advocacy




  17. Remember, education of local communities doesn't mean protecting people from info, it means providing it. How democracy thrives.


  18. @TLT16 Don't forget historical fiction!! We protest today because we know what happened when people didn't in the past.


  19. @TLT16 Community discussion focusing on historical works and why history and historical memory are important. Create oral history projects