Guest Blogger

Soledad O’Brien loves libraries! #PLA2020

The award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien loves libraries and librarians! Some inspirational takeaways for me: She feels a strong sense of kinship with our industry—“we both woke up one day and realized ‘omg! we are in the social justice business!’ “ She shared many statistics showing the number of people who trust public libraries has actually gone up at a time when trust in other institutions is declining. When nobody in America seems to agree on anything, 90%! of people describe the library as a welcoming place. Libraries invest in knowledge, in serving all people where they are, which gives those people power—power that can never be taken away. Who defines representing people, all people, better than libraries? Nobody, she concludes. And finally, she feels that libraries are great unifiers in a divided world. The Big Ideas talks have been educational, inspiring, and a great way to start each conference day. As a…

Call to Action

Tackling racism in children’s books #PLA2020

How did Nashville Public Library tackle racism in classic children’s literature? What they didn’t do… They did not take books like The Story of Little Black Sambo, Little House on the Prairie, Five Chinese Brothers and The Thanksgiving Story off the shelves and throw them in the trash, which was Lindsey Patrick’s (Regional Manager) first impulse. Acknowledging the issues that her lens as a white woman would bring to the work, she invited Klem-Mari Cajigas (the Family Literacy Coordinator and a Puerto Rican woman) to help her take some steps. They didn’t want to censor these and other problematic books, essentially shoving our racist and sexist history under the rug. And they knew that the crucial starting point was to listen to and respect the opinions of people from marginalized communities. They created a Racist Children’s Book Task Force with a diverse group of people from different library departments. There was…

Call to Action

Don’t reimagine education, start over! #PLA2020

Dr. Bettina Love rocked the PLA audience this morning! So many takeaways as she traced the evolution of racism in education—from pulling indigenous children away from their families and insisting on assimilation to requiring English-only programs, to charter schools and “corporate reforms.” Meritocracy hurts all of our kids, but black and brown kids disproportionately. Dr. Love compared the “educational survival complex” with the prison complex. Her conclusion is that “education can’t save us, we have to save education.” She called in white people to move from being allies to becoming co-conspirators. The education system is too broken to reimagine; we need to spend our unearned white privilege and stand up like the abolitionists once did, boldly helping black and brown leaders start over with a system whose goal is wellness for staff and students. If we link anti-racism, wellness, joy and creativity, we can “freedom dream” a blueprint for education…


Civil Rights #PLA2020

I visited the somber and stunning Civil Rights space at Nashville PL, a tribute to the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960. 60 years ago this month, lunch counter sit-ins began in Greensboro, NC, here in Nashville, TN, and in other cities which still practiced legally sanctioned, overt segregation. The participants were mostly Black university students. Photos, arrest warrants and newspaper clippings line the walls, and a series of videos plays in a corner of the room. The central lunch counter installation has the nonviolent principles of conduct etched into the glass panels including “Do not strike back or curse if abused.“ After visiting the room, my colleague/friend and I walked over to the nearby restored Woolworths restaurant for lunch. We gratefully accepted a fact sheet about the site and its history in the sit-ins as we were seated at a table, a white-presenting woman and Asian-presenting woman. As we looked around at…

Children's Librarians are Experts

Fear of being left behind (foblb) #PLA2020

The good news is I’m here, which is more than I can say for last PLA. Snow was predicted (again!) for Chicago, so I hopped on a flight a day early on Monday night in hopes of actually getting here. Being early for a big (8,000 library peeps!) conference is a great idea. Saw the Nashville Public Library while it was still quiet-ish! an amazing storytime by…wait for it, 3! people who were not librarians but “performance artists.”There were lights, recordings, puppets, juggling, witty repartee and more. Lots of fun, and they’re doing it again tomorrow morning, 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30. Brian Hull, or the “Professor” manages Wishing Chair Productions and told a few of us librarians about the deep, strong tradition of puppets here in Nashville. He’s super excited about the String City shows coming up which are an extra you can order on the PLA app.


The State of the Union, er, Youth Services Department

Do you get caught up in the goal-oriented, stats-oriented, what-can-we-accomplish-next part of your job? I certainly do, so this past December, I took the Youth Services staff meeting (ahem, party) to the next level, adding in a look back over all the major accomplishments of the past year. We always have plenty of fun at our December meetings, included a white-elephant gift auction, pot-luck lunch and a Secret Santa-type gift exchange. In 2013, we did a food theme for the gift exchange, but most of us (except for those lucky few, grr!) are watching their weight, so my colleague came up with the idea of socks for 2014. It was awesome—I got peacock feather socks and socks with books on them! This year was the first of what I hope will be many “let’s celebrate what we have accomplished” themed meetings. I created an “Annual Report” type document replete with…

Live Blogging

Creating Competencies for Staff #pla2014

If a small stand-alone library with a very modest budget can create competencies and find/create training opportunities so their staff can all succeed, then we can too, right? Not convinced? OK, how about if the director of the library freely offers every single piece of work they did? Now we’re talking. You need a few things in place, according to Penny Albert from the Ephrata Public Library in Pennsylvania. You need buy-in from all of your stakeholders, clear policies and procedures, and a realistic timeline, but mostly what you need is the will to do it. And as to that, Penny says, “We are educational institutions but we don’t educate our employees.” That seems like a crazy way to do business. So, we can all go to Guerrilla Librarian and get to work.

Live Blogging

Evanced Celebration #pla2014

There was a lot going on at the Evanced party at the lovely Indianapolis ArtsGarden. Author/illustrator Kathryn Otoshi spoke beautifully about bullying and read her picture book “One.” The Young Actors Theater did a readers theater production of her book “Zero” and also performed their own piece. Demos of the Evanced beta product “Wandoo Planet” proved interesting. Kids build a virtual tree by identifying their main interests and then receive content suggestions. Evanced announced that they gave $5,000 to the Young Actors Theater. Yay!