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All Students Are Welcome: Culturally Responsive Libraries

In August 2019, the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) system in Albuquerque, New Mexico gave every K-8 classroom a collection of culturally responsive books for their classroom libraries. These books reflected the interests and the diversity of students and represented diverse authors and points of view. The underlying goal was to encourage the APS student population to feel seen, valued, and welcomed in schools, and to help students value the races and cultures of others. This was no small feat since the process involved tons of books—literally. APS is located in the largest city in New Mexico with a population of 560,000, spread across 1,200 square miles, including 144 schools with approximately 80,000 students. This makes APS amongst the fifty largest school districts in the United States. The two APS employees behind this massive undertaking were Rachel Altobelli (Director of Library Services and Instructional Materials) and Jessica Villalobos (Senior Director of…

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Getting it Right: the Importance of Names

In their recent book Your Name is a Song, author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrator Luis Uribe tell the story of a young girl who is saddened by her teacher’s (and classmates’) inability to pronounce her name correctly. Eventually, the girl’s mother helps her to see the musicality in her and others’ names, empowering the girl to speak up and stand up for the beauty of her own name, but one does hope the teacher in the book will do things differently going forward to create a more inclusive classroom community. As adults working with children, we should not put the young people we work with in such uncomfortable situations. As a whole, the librarian and teacher professions are overwhelmingly white. And while we all agree that the children in our classrooms and programs deserve to be seen, heard and respected, we may spend more time worrying about curriculum, or finger…

Programming Ideas

Virtual “Field Trips” to the Library

I like to start a school class visit to the public library where I work by walking up the stairs to the front door and stopping before entering to say, “When you go inside, be sure to look up!” The branch has very high ceilings, and there are two murals painted to mimic a cloudy blue sky, with seagulls flying around the light fixtures. Even the teachers and chaperoning parents get excited when they see the murals! My hope with this is that it sets the stage for the library to become something memorable, and a welcoming place they know they can turn to. With our system being closed to the public for almost a year, we have shifted to virtual class visits to connect with students and teachers. During these visits, I try to impart that same welcoming feeling, but have had to come up with some new pitches. …

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How to Avoid Being #ALALeftBehind

In the past, if you were one of those poor, unfortunate souls watching on social media as friends enjoyed an ALA conference in some exotic locale (not counting the times Midwinter was in Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia), you may have lamented being #ALALeftBehind. As someone who suffers greatly from FOMO, I have felt the sting myself. How many books did I miss out on getting signed in the exhibits? How many conversations while waiting in an obscenely long line for coffee? How many amazing sessions? It can be pretty discouraging! Luckily, the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation is working to “create an online networking and resource space for the three Youth Divisions to engage around EDI-related topics” (quote taken from committee charge). So while we can’t send you signed books, and you will have to provide your own caffeinated beverage of choice, we will soon have an online…

Blogger AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee

The Ups and Downs of Transformation

I have always had the tendency to apply idioms and proverbial phrasing to the “bumps in the road” encountered while human-ing (I also make verbs out of lots of things).  It is one of the ways I’m able to persist in difficult times and have had to rely heavily on this during a year where words like “challenging,” “chaotic,” and “concerning” are all surface level descriptors of 2020, a truly transformative year.  Yes, I mean transformative.

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I Miss My Public Library Partner

I miss my public library counterpart. I don’t work with her every day, and I don’t see her very often, but in these Strange COVID Times, we need each other more than ever. I miss her because she offers me an additional library perspective on my students and their needs. I need her because she can do things in the public library that I just can’t do here. She needs me because this is where the kids are. With many public libraries offering only curbside pick-up and limited services and hours, school is where her patrons are. Library Zoom programs can only go so far. She and I typically offer our middle school families an evening Parent-Child book club. We run this program a few times a year and participation is a tradition for some families. We have great discussions and share pizza and snacks. We talk about the book…

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Working Together When Nothing’s Working

My elementary school-aged daughters are in the midst of virtual learning, and as the stay-at-home parent, so am I! The other day I was sitting by my 3rd grader during her Library class. I heard the excellent school librarian (shout out to Mrs. Robin!) instructing the 6- to 9-year old students on the use of an e-book database; as she showed them how to navigate the interface, Mrs. Robin asked students if they had ever browsed the public library’s e-book collection. My daughter beamed at me as we recalled the many times we have enjoyed my library’s e-audiobooks on family trips, on our way to the store, or as a pre-bedtime listen. It was a small thing and Mrs. Robin quickly moved on with her lesson, but this in-class mention of the public library was a good example of something we all do in our work with children: make connections…

Blogger AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): The Scene from San Francisco

FADE IN INT. NETWORKING UNCOMMONS – MOSCONE CONVENTION CENTER – MORNING JENNA and a group of seven school and public librarians are gathered around a flip chart in the corner of a crowded co-working space at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference. JENNA steps forward to start an informal, high-energy information exchange between library professionals. JENNA (smiling and beyond excited) Hi, everyone! My name is Jenna Nemec-Loise, Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us this morning to talk about ways we can work together to improve outcomes for the youth and families we collectively serve! We’ll be starting from a very basic but very important premise: We all want to work together. School librarians want to collaborate with public librarians, and vice-versa. But even though our spirits are willing, we know there can be barriers to the effective collaborations we want to…