Do You Have a Plan? Discussing Selection Policy with Your Building Administrator
Intellectual freedom, student access to information, and diverse perspectives have moved to the center of debate over the last year. Countless instances of book removal, school board controversy, and censorship have taken place across the country. As school librarians, how do we take some measure of control over the conversations regarding equitable access to information and resources in our own buildings?
Creating a broader awareness of school board selection policy is key in order to provide equitable access to information and resources for all PK-12 students. This starts with building level conversations. School librarians can open these discussions and provide insight into school board policy. Strong school libraries and librarians impact the entire school community by safeguarding and providing access to information and resources for PK-12 students (Lance & Kachel, 2018). District school board selection policy provides the framework for student access.
Study results have indicated that in general, respondents felt able to support equitable access to information and resources based on the district selection policy in place (Stogdill, 2022). This corresponds to previous research indicating that a selection policy often resulted in retention of materials (Rickman, 2010; Hopkins, 1991). However, data did suggest areas of concern for school library leaders including uniform application of district policy and authority to overrule building decisions regarding age restrictions and access to resources (Stogdill, 2022).
This inconsistency raises concern regarding the effectiveness of district selection policy when those who are knowledgeable about selection and reconsideration do not have the authority to direct the process or address variance in the policy from building to building (Stogdill, 2022). This echoes research by Dawkins which found that awareness of a selection policy did not result in its use (2017).
With no policy guidance, arbitrary decisions regarding the removal of resources and selection ofmaterials are made without transparency for all stakeholders (Stogdill, 2022). Developing a broad awareness of selection policy use with teachers, students, and parents establishes a dialogue of understanding when concerns arise (Stogdill, 2022). It is here, where school librarians can move into a position of advocacy and begin conversations regarding equitable access to information and resources.
Administrators are tasked with many responsibilities and expected to manage all facets of the learning environment. Audrey Church’s AASL presidential initiative addressed the collaborative relationship between school librarians and administrators and brought attention to the many ways school librarians can provide leadership and support. (AASL, 2022). Conversations with administrators regarding intellectual freedom and specifically how school board policy guides selection and reconsideration of resources provides insight and understanding to an emotionally charged topic. In addition, a proactive conversation lays the foundation for future conversations with parents and stakeholders regarding concerns over content.
Outline of Conversation
Plan of Action:
Opening a conversation about intellectual freedom can feel intimidating at any time, however, today it seems even more daunting. Regardless, school librarians are tasked with providing equitable access to information, resources, and diverse perspectives for all students. It is the time to engage the those in the learning community in understanding how selection of resources is guided by a knowledgeable and trained professional.
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.