ALA Guide To Grooming Young Readers
The American Library Association has some advice for small-town librarians about how to subvert community standards. Excerpts:
Do you work for a library in a small, rural, conservative community? Are you a frontline staff member there, with no managerial or administrative authority? Do you wish you could do more to make your library more inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, but meet with resistance?
I hope it’s not just me! I’ve been working as a frontline staff member at a small town library for nearly a decade. I have struggled with trying to affect positive change at my library in the area of inclusivity. It can be disheartening to feel you’re not supported by your library, and by extension the community that library serves. You feel like you should just give up on advocacy. But you shouldn’t.
There all small things you can do to welcome LGBT folks into your library, small steps you can take to move your library and community progressively forward. Here are a few things I’ve done, that will hopefully inspire those in similar positions and locales to keep fighting the good fight.
Sneakily fit stuff into current programs. So you’re not doing Drag Queen Storytime (yet), but you’re probably doing Regular Old Storytime, right? Try to “sneak” inclusive messages into your current programs. For instance, if you’re reading a book about a Mama bear and a Papa bear, maybe when you read it you just change it to be about 2 Papa bears! Or if you’re reading a book about a rabbit who likes to get dirty and play sports, maybe when you read it you pointedly say it’s a girl rabbit. If there are characters in a book where the gender is unidentified or irrelevant, feel free to play and change it up! Chances are kids and families won’t even notice, but for that same-sex family or gender-nonconforming child who does, it will really mean a lot to them to know their librarian has their back.
Don’t give up. This is the most important lesson I can impart upon you. For instance, when you ask “Can I do a GLBT Book Month display in June?” And your supervisor says “No.” Or “Think of the children.” Or “Customers will complain.” Or “Why? There are no gay people here our town.” You could very easily be discouraged. (And angry.) (And confused. Don’t they know every Thursday is gay night at the town pub?) But don’t stop asking. Ask next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. One year they might say yes. And the year after that they might say “Sure you can do that again.” And it might become a tradition, and every year you can put up more rainbow flags than the year before. The only way you’ll find out is if you continue to be persistent. And if you’re thinking a display is a trivial example, it’s not really: A warm and friendly display can be welcoming to the LGBT folks in your community, who probably currently feel unwelcome, and it’s a simple thing to start with. Sure, you want to eventually get to Drag Queen Storytime, but you should start with something simple!
This was a few years ago. When people started to complain, the ALA removed the byline of librarian Tess Goldwasser from the piece.
Like I said, this isn't brand new, but it's still up on the ALA site, on its diversity blog, where you can find all manner of ultra-wokeness. There is, of course, no reason to believe this kind of activism has gone away. In fact, as has been well documented, now public schools have taken up the practice of secretly encouraging kids to embrace their supposed queerness.
It's really something to think about what a violation of the public trust all this is. These are public employees, meant to staff and administer public institutions. Yet they openly want to subvert the values of that same public, when it comes to sexuality. Do they not fear alienating the people who pay their salaries? I guess not. Nobody has ever made them pay a price for their lying for the sake of colonizing the minds of children.
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Why should anybody trust these people anymore? If this were a secret plan to put Christian content into the kids' stacks at the public library, people would be angry. But when it's the religion of the ruling class, crickets.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
As a former librarian, it’s truly sad what’s happened in the profession. Once upon a time, the professional expectation most librarians would have had of themselves is to present both sides of an issue, especially one causing the amount of discussion and social upheaval this one is. So, maybe you do buy some books that are pro-trans ideology if they’re likely to be read in your community, but you balance that with Abigail Schrier and Helen Joyce and display them together so people could read both if they choose and make their own minds up. But then, the ALA, for all its talk about book banning and freedom to read, said nothing about the campaign to make Irreversible Damage disappear. Truly disappointing abdication of responsibility and a faster slide into cultural irrelevance.
On the issue of school libraries and explicit materials, school libraries are (were once?) understood to be a different institution than the more open public library. It’s an extension of instruction and subject to the mission of the school, so while that mission might differ from school to school, it’s hard for me to envision a school where an explicitly illustrated, first-person, marginal-quality graphic novel about the coming out experience of the writer would serve the educational mission of a school. There are plenty of books that explain sexuality in age-appropriate terms without illustrated sex acts, but once again I would ask if I were developing that collection whether sexuality is even a topic I really needed to focus on at all, and a piece of popular fiction likely isn’t how I’d do it.
In short, a school library has a different mission than a public library, so I don’t buy the excuse that “we needed to have it in case a student wanted to read it.” A librarian can exercise their judgment based on quality, school mission, and age appropriateness of the books they buy.
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