ALA Annual Conference 2023

Transforming Everyday Spaces at #alaac23 and Beyond

I had the distinct pleasure of attending a thoughtful panel on transforming everyday spaces to support children’s literacy development. Titled Transforming Everyday Spaces: Deepening Equity in Early Childhood Learning, this panel was full of insight and inspiration. I’m not sure my summary will do it justice, but I’ll certainly try.

Opening Thoughts

Liz McChesney did an admirable job moderating this panel and facilitating discussion, while adding some beautiful insights. As library professionals, we know a lot about who needs services and why those needs exist. Today’s conversation focused on how we can realistically make a difference in our communities. My favorite thought shared: “YOU are the most important part of learning and community. Never forget your worth, regardless of the outside noise.”

Too Small to Fail

To begin the panel, Patti Miller provided context and background about this initiative and their work. It focuses on helping parents and caregivers talk, read, and sing with their children beginning from birth. The three main strategies are:

  1. Identifying the people caregivers to go to for information and resources
  2. Identifying the places where families are every day, and
  3. Identifying the specific resources needed

Examples of their projects include playground transformations, multiple space transformations in the same community, WIC offices, and LaundryCares.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Then, Meryle Leonard spoke about the library’s outreach efforts. Outreach is all about bringing library resources to those who can’t take advantage of our services and programs, whether physical or virtual. Bringing those services to the community, where they are, builds trust. First, we show up when we said and do what we said we would. Then, we build trust with the community. You are letting the community know they matter and you care about them. These relationships also make it more likely that your audience will receive the information you share.

Barbershop Books

In addition, Alvin Irby spoke about the work of Barbershop Books. This organization works to inspire Black boys and other vulnerable children to read for fun. How are the books curated? By recommendations from Black boys, which ensures children have access to content they actually want to read. In addition, participating barbershops receive early literacy barber training to support positive reading interactions. The goal is to provide Black boys with Black male reading role models. Additionally, barbershops are culturally meaningful spaces, and the program leverages these relationships.

Lakeshore Learning

Following that, Sue Gaon spoke about how Lakeshore Learning partners with libraries and other organizations to design intentional spaces to support early literacy. To summarize: Every child should walk into a space and feel a sense of joy and abundance. They deserve to feel welcomed and be represented. Lakeshore Learning was an important partner in projects like LaundryCares and the redesign of the waiting area at the Cook County Jail.

Putting it All Together

Finally, Dr. Susan Neuman closed the presentation by summarizing some of the key points discussed. A love of books can occur very early in life. To ensure this happens, we need to reach families where they are. Children interact with literacy elements on their own, showing their motivation to read. Adding a trusted messenger like a librarian helps give them the ability to read. To sum everything up in one equation: book access + trusted messenger = children’s literacy engagement.

What are ways is your library transforming spaces in your community?

Today’s guest contributor is Jaime Eastman (she/her/hers). Jaime is a senior Public Services Librarian and Family Place Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. This will be her second Annual Conference. She is looking forward to many things, including finalizing the strategic plan with the rest of the Board, seeing great educational sessions sponsored by ALSC, and connecting with members both in person and through the blog. Jaime is currently working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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