Libraries are for everyone! All are welcome at the library! If you work in any type of library, especially
public libraries, you most likely have heard or seen this message. As a member of the ALSC Program Coordinating Committee, I find it incredibly meaningful to play a role in selecting sessions that are presented at the annual library conference and to have the opportunity to review conference proposals with an equity lens. Every year librarians and educators from all over the country earnestly attend the ALA conference to hear about how they can positively grow and impact their communities and I sincerely believe that attendees will appreciate the diverse and inclusive ALSC sessions that will be presented in Chicago this upcoming June.
Among those sessions will be, “Transforming Everyday Spaces: Deepening Equity in Early Childhood
Learning” presented by Elizabeth McChesney. As the liaison for this program, I would like to encourage
conference participants to attend this session as it will provide insight and tips on how to contribute to
creating a library for all.
One of the wonderful superpowers that we have as librarians is research. It is a gift that we can utilize
while looking for ways to provide resources and creating equitable spaces for everyone at the library. As
a youth services librarian, I always start with researching the demographics, statistics as well as different
types of programs and services that are offered at the local public schools. For example:
- Is there a special education program?
- Would they like to see a sensory storytime or sensory film night at the library? Is there a population of English Second Language parents that aren’t familiar with library services? Do they know that library services and programs are free?
- Is there a need to offer resources or a collection in different languages to increase accessibility? How are the literacy scores at the schools? If 80% of the students meet a medium to high literacy level, how can libraries further support them? More importantly, how can libraries support the 20% that are not meeting the medium and high literacy standard?
- Are there grant opportunities that will financially support developing and sustaining library resources for those specific needs so that librarians can contribute to building a library that truly is for everyone?
As a librarian, I will always be dedicated to creating a library for all. Although I grew up in a
predominantly affluent community, my family and I were anything but. We heavily relied on the free
services and access to the collection at our local library. When I was four years old, I would regularly
attend storytimes since my parents could not afford to send me to preschool. My father, a native of
Tonga and an English Second Language speaker would take me so that I could listen to picture books
read in English and to sing along to storytime favorites like “Wheels on the Bus” or “If You’re Happy and
You Know It” since those traditional songs were foreign to him and he desperately wanted me to learn.
In my tween and teen years, I would regularly go to the library to have access to the internet for
research and to print essays for my homework assignments since those were costly resources that my
family could not afford. Therefore, as a youth services librarian who creates programs and promotes
library services throughout the community, whenever I am reminded of the message that libraries are
for everyone, I always keep in mind that everyone is not the majority but everyone is every one in the
community and I hope for those reading this blog post that you will remember that too.
Raina Tuakoi is the Children’s Supervising Librarian at Cupertino Library with the Santa Clara County Library District. She is a 2012 ALA Spectrum Scholar and 2018 ALA Emerging Leader. Currently she serves on the ALSC Programming Committee and as the California Library Association Begun Scholarship Chair. Raina is committed to creating diverse programming, inclusive spaces, and accessible collections that support children and their families in public libraries.