Hats. I wear many of them. Literal hats of winter because in New York it gets cold. But other hats too. Teen librarian, school librarian, media literacy skills teacher, colleague, friend, relative, potential problem predictor, in-house worrier, tech-trouble-shooter, mask/face covering supplier, hand sanitizer distributor, and so many more hats.
My colleagues and I recently reviewed our materials challenge policy to bring it into the twenty-first century. I thought our policies were solid and clear, but with so many challenges all around the country, we decided it was a good time to reexamine what we had and how we could improve it for both families and school staff.
I have never had a formal challenge at my school, but have had some questions about books in the collection. I believe that kids are pretty good self-censors and don’t read books that they’re not ready for. But I understand that parents may feel like their child has chosen a book that THEY are not ready to talk about with their kids. I get it and I know that can be a scary thought. What I want to avoid as a professional is that one parent’s fears about what their kids are reading may affect another parent’s child. What may not be good for your child may be JUST THE THING for someone else’s. I am glad we looked at our process and appreciate librarians across the country who shared their policies.
On this issue I think all librarians, public, school, private libraries, adult librarians, children’s librarians, those who serve teens – ALL of us – must work together. One of the tenets of our profession is access to information. Sometimes that information comes in the form of a novel about a teen questioning their gender identity. Sometimes it is a book in prose about how police violence has affected a community. Sometimes it is a picture book about how families can be made from love rather than shared DNA.
I’m lucky to be part of a group of library professionals who support each other and try to take care of one another both personally and professionally. If you don’t have a group like this I encourage you to find or create one. Reach out to your local county organization or your state professional association. Join a committee to meet other people. Reach out to colleagues who live or work near you. Send an email to colleagues in the town next to yours. Join a group on Facebook you can turn to for advice. Having a group you can turn to BEFORE you need their help is important. Especially now when we are all wearing so many hats. Once you have your group you may be called to wear the cheerleader hat, or an idea-bouncer-off-of hat. Or a friend-who-will-just-listen hat. But in this “unprecedented time” (hear that eyeroll?), it is our fellow professionals who can help us stay the course.
Teka McCabe is the library media specialist at Briarcliff High School and Briarcliff Middle School in Westchester County, NY. When not at school you can find her reading, quilting or on a golf course. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.