It is summer, and my libraries have been slinging lunches along with fun. We’ve been doing it for years, and it’s been hard for me to describe exactly why serving lunch in the library feels so right; until I read Mack Freedman’s post on Libraries and Summer Food Programs at ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom blog this May.
It had never occurred to me to look at food service through an Intellectual Freedom lens, but he points out accurately that these programs “enable a level of access to the library’s services that would otherwise be unavailable due to the effects that hunger can have on learning and involvement.”
So I was glad to see ALA Council adopt Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Interpretations to the Library Bill of Rights at Annual conference. It provides a framework for exploring why we provide the services we do in the way we do, how we might change them to better achieve equity, diversity, and inclusion for our communities, and why this is at the end of the day an Intellectual Freedom issue. Some children have more of an opportunity than others to learn, to engage, to imagine. It is as simple and cruel as that.
What approaches can we customize for children who are marginalized from the opportunity structures in our communities? Free lunch is just one approach, but squarely within our role in upholding the intellectual freedom of our communities. So are video storytime visitations for children whose parents are incarcerated. Yet these kinds of programs remain “non-traditional,” and aren’t always recognized as core library services, central to our principles.
What would it look like to center our work in constantly examining structures of exclusion, including those we inhabit and hold up ourselves? I think it looks like what we should have been doing all along; I’m glad for the EDI interpretations to give us that lens.