Storytime Underground held its first ever guerilla preconference earlier today at the Harold Washington Library. The theme for the morning? Children’s librarianship is social justice work. And it can save the world. Don’t believe me? It’s true.
Soraya Silverman-Montano—one of Storytime Underground’s Joint Chiefs—began by sharing her experience growing without a frame of reference for her Malaysian heritage or her mother’s Muslim religion. Even though she read a lot, Silverman-Montano didn’t see herself or her mother reflected in the books she read as a kid. Now Silverman-Montano leads “social justice storytimes” to make sure children won’t have that same experience.
These storytimes—planned around themes like kindness, empathy, respect, and sharing—highlight books by diverse authors and/or about diverse characters. I particularly connected with this storytime model because, in my own storytimes, I’ve been struggling to match diverse books with themes. As Silverman-Montano shared some her plans with us, I scrambled to put as many titles on hold as I could. If you, like me, now want to try a “social justice storytime,” start with the Storytime for Social Justice Kit.
After the keynote, attendees split into three breakout groups. My group tackled the question of how to build resources to support LGBTQIA+ communities at our libraries. (Fun fact: I couldn’t get enough of this topic so I stayed in the group for the second breakout session later in the day.) Each of our libraries had varying degrees of administrative support toward LGBTQIA+resources and programs but I think the conversation can be summed up by the idea that inclusivity carries more weight when patron (and not-yet-patron) voices are actually involved in the conversation. Whether by collecting comment cards, encouraging patrons to speak directly to administration, or keeping a running log of offhand suggestions at the desk, we can find ways to elevate the voices of those in our communities—whether LGBTQIA+ or any minority—who aren’t being heard. When creating catchy program names, we can also remember that the language we use matters. And, whenever possible, we can tie programming to the mission statement—that’s our key to administrative support.
There was so much more to the preconference—delicious pizza, Storytime Underground’s signature Guerilla Storytime, a tour of the newly renovated Thomas Hughes Children’s Library—but I can’t possibly cover it all here. Want to know more? Search #storytimesaves and see all the amazing tweets from other attendees.