When I started working in my school library over 3 years ago, I was tickled. I could now organize these books in a way that made sense to the students, I could allow students to check out more than one book at a time, I got to help the library be staffed for more than a few hours a day, I could give suggestions to students and get suggestions too! Daily, I came to work and with the help of an amazing paraprofessional, we got the library in much better shape and welcomed the students each and every day. Our circulation went up, the book requests came in and we loved what we were doing.
The end of that first year came and we decided to do inventory. We found many books were missing and had never been removed from our system. We also started really taking a look at what we had on our shelves. We did research as to what other libraries had in their collection and what books were being checked out most in these libraries. We found that our books lacked variety and diversity. We are in a small, rural community and thought we were doing ok until now.
We got to work and weeded those books that we found most misrepresented certain groups. We chose to keep some of them that were suggested weeds and discussed how we would use these as conversation starters with our students. We talked about what groups were represented in our school. We also talked about what groups might be represented in our school, but students might not be willing to make them public knowledge yet. We talked about families in our school and how we could represent them in our collection. We talked about different holidays and celebrations from around the world and made a list of those we had little to no information about. We looked to see what window and mirror books we did have and what areas we wanted to add to.
We then went to work finding books for the areas that were at the top of our list. Slowly over the last few years, we have been able to add more and more books to our collection in these areas. We talked to the guidance counselor and let her know we had added some of these books to our collection so she could share with students that might come to her.
The next part of this process included library displays and the library classes that are taught to the preschool through 6th grade students. We work to include these new books in our displays and talk about them to students every chance we get. When a student reads one of these books we encourage them to talk to others about them too. During library classes,we read these books aloud or just a chapter or two depending on the student's ages. Classes learn about different traditions and holidays from around the world and work to understand a bit more about those that are not exactly like ourselves.
Through this whole process, we have grown as individuals and in our own awareness and acceptance of others. Given the events in the United States over the last year, we have seen that we still have a long way to go in our collection and our own understanding of diversity. We are proud of the work that we have done to be part of the push that helps our students become better people. We are glad that this process has started and have some great resources to keep referencing as we continue to learn and grow. Many times have we questioned if we should weed a book or should add a book. We try really hard to keep the world in mind and not just our little slice of it and just continue to do what we think is best!
Submitted by Andrea Ripp
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.