”Kids need books, not cages!” “Summer camps, not prison camps!” “”Libraries are sanctuaries!”
I stood in the heat and the rain on Pennsylvania Avenue, surrounded by librarians from a range of disciplines. It was my first ALA and also my first chance to visit DC and see some of its landmarks, including the White House. A group of kids in yellow shirts and their teachers gathered nearby. Small groups of tourists with cameras walked past and took selfies. Several security officers in sunglasses watched lazily from a distance. This was my taste of local color. I was seeing the city and not just the conference.
A colleague of mine from the area told me that every day there is at least one group protesting one thing or another in front of the White House. It’s just what you do. Indeed, alongside our group and the others nearby, there was one man collecting money for hungry children in Haiti. Another man brought a speaker and performed some dance moves. Another man with a bright orange beard brought a sign and occasionally shouted his thoughts to whoever would listen.
Members of REFORMA organized this peaceful gathering in front of the White House, Monday evening (before the Printz Awards Ceremony), and made signs for other conference attendees present. (I learned of the event from Twitter; others learned via word of mouth at workshops). I saw some landmarks yes, but also, in my country’s capital city, I cannot think of a more timely gathering of librarians, coming together as individuals and protesting in solidarity of a single cause—the wellbeing and the very lives of the children being held at the border. Six have died in custody so far.
This is my last blog for ALA Annual 2019. Other bloggers from this year left the day before I did. Many folks are already getting back into their regular weekly routine (or diving right into summer reading). But for conference attendees and members following along virtually, I wanted to close with this post to remind us that while this conference may be over, our work is never over.
Every child deserves access to a safe, loving and nurturing home with clean clothes, food and books. As children’s librarians, we are strong advocates for children and families in our communities who don’t have these things. So go out. Be awesome. Connect your communities with early literacy development, summer meals, play programs, reading clubs and all the other awesome things you do. Go you.