Blogger Mary R. Voors

#alsc20 Children’s Librarianship in Communities Experiencing Trauma

Traumatic events can occur at any time in any community, and libraries work to step up. This year, with the pandemic and other major issues facing our country, our communities have been impacted even more.  In this session, presenters Beth Patin, Anita Montoya, and Oralia Garza de Cortes spoke to their experiences serving their communities through a variety of traumatic events and how traumas in their communities have impacted how they serve their customers.

Oralia Graza de Cortes shared information about the importance and value of the  REFORMA Children In Crisis Project and then brought it home for all librarians who are working with kids going through different types of trauma: “The value of sharing books with kids and how much joy a book can bring someone … when there is all of this stuff happening around them.  They don’t get to make decisions.  You know, in terms of hurricanes and even with protest, adults are making all of these decisions.  They have so little authority.  They have so little ability to escape and even the ability to process what is happening.  So providing them some of the entertainment and just ability to escape, even if it is just for a little while is so important.

A variety of questions were also raised which led to a very impactful discussion of concrete ways  we can more effectively help our customers in these traumatic times including:

  • A question about police in the library led to a discussion about the value of empathy driven enforcement and how we can work to build and foster relationships as well as what restorative justice looks like.
  • A question about working with vulnerable communities in our libraries led to a discussion (again) of relationship building and trust. The discussion also raised important issues about differences between communities. Beth addressed this, giving as an example that “in some communities, respect is given.  In some communities, respect is earned.  If we are from a community where respect is given and we expect everyone to walk into our libraries and respect us, but for them, we need to earn it we have a mismatch of values.  It is important to examine those things we are interacting with communities.

Other issues raised and discussed were:

  • How to balance the stress of work with our home life in these turbulent times
  • The importance of being willing to amplify and speaking up for people who may not have the privilege and power to do it
  • Bias and neutrality in libraries
  • Questions and conversation about how we can take a step back and receive feedback/criticism when we don’t do something right and how we can humble ourselves and take that information to strengthen ourselves rather than getting defensive

It was a POWERFUL and impactful session.

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