I am very fortunate. I have been able to work with the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee for the past two years, where bringing an equity, diversity and inclusion focus is now at the forefront of all our work. As we find current, relevant literacy research to share with the ALSC community, we are very intentional about integrating and including EDI perspectives.
I am also fortunate that I get to work in a thoughtful, ever-learning, library system. The Arapahoe Libraries in the suburban Denver area is working proactively to make diverse, equitable, and inclusive practices a cornerstone element and at the heart of decisions we make as a library district, as well. We are committed to a 5-year road map outlining clear goals, strategies, objectives and tactics for creating a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and equity. The plan is guiding our work in active ways that aim to dig deep and ‘walk the talk.’ A few of the district-wide tactics and projects currently in process include hiring a Manager of Inclusivity and two social workers, training all staff in microaggressions and implicit bias, monthly Leadership Council training conversations in partnership with The Equity Project, active recruiting for diversity in hiring, and a staff competencies and behaviors initiative. Like EDI work in ALSC, much of this work is being operationalized and will be woven into the fabric of who we are as we move forward.
I supervise the 0-5 early literacy team for the Arapahoe Libraries. While the district-wide EDI work is well underway and substantial progress is becoming evident, we wanted to forge ahead in our smaller department, as well. During the turbulent, COVID-19 months of 2020, we wondered what we might do to support the 5-year plan and begin advancing the culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within our early literacy roles and the scope of our work. While we had already embraced making quality, diverse books a mainstay of our storytimes, programs, and advisory services for a while, we wondered how we might begin to increase our competence as a team, elevating our own EDI learning and development. We knew we were aiming for a positive, more culturally sensitive environment for all children and young families, but we wondered where to begin!
Fortunately, we found Project Ready: Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth. Project Ready is a free, online tool designed for youth services librarians, administrators, and others interested in taking part in excellent racial equity training. Among other things, the curriculum explores the history of racism, building cultural competence, understanding the differences between equality, equity, diversity and inclusion, and how to address problems in meaningful ways. Project READY was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and is a thorough, self-paced curriculum that provides a research-based framework to help guide learning.
As an early literacy team, we committed to forming our own Project Ready cohort group during the Pandemic and dove in! With 27 in-depth learning modules to explore, we know we are in it for the long haul. We are reading, writing, discussing, and applying… slowly and carefully. We appreciate that there is no short cut, no quick fix, and we’re finding ways to take our time to develop foundational understandings.
We are halfway through the curriculum now, meeting about once a month, and are starting to have rich conversations about ways to apply what we’re learning. We just started an online dialogue with the team, and we’re asking a question each week. For example, last week we asked, “What is something you would like to consider trying, changing, or doing more of to honor diverse cultures and promote inclusivity and equity through our collections?” The responses have been enthusiastic and have centered around creating more and better displays that feature underrepresented or minoritized identities, spotlighting varied languages and cultural elements.
Future conversation starters include:
- What are some staff observable behaviors we could incorporate as we plan, present, and assess inclusive and equitable programs and storytimes?
- How can we incorporate more intentional inclusivity language in our work with patrons on the floor?
- What are some historically marginalized groups for whom we might provide a specific service or program or remove a barrier to participation?
- What is the most impactful thing you’ve learned from Project Ready?
Project Ready work is thoughtful, inspiring and supports and intersects with ALSC’s strategic plan and EDI statement. The current Early and Family Literacy Committee EDI goal statement is also aligned.
I know our libraries, our Early and Family Literacy Committee, and the entire ALSC community wants every child and every family to feel welcome, included, honored, and thrive. Project Ready can help stakeholders to acquire more knowledge, self-awareness, and ultimately move the needle for our patrons. I would highly recommend forming a Project Ready study group if you are able!
Today’s blog post was written by Lori Romero, Early Literacy Supervisor for the Arapahoe Libraries in Centennial, Colorado, on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Early and Family Literacy Committee can be reached at email@example.com.
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.