By: Gili Warsett
The HVLA Winter Meeting brought together about forty librarians to think deeply about Diversity and Inclusion in School Libraries. We gathered in Public School 363 – The Neighborhood School’s library hosted by HVLA Vice President Cheryl Wolf.
Cheryl welcomed HVLA into the space. She spoke about the demographics of both The Neighborhood School and PS 63 – STAR Academy, which share a building. HVLA President Karen Grenke and veteran members noted that this was the first time HVLA had held a meeting in a public school, not including the HVLA and NYCSLA meet-up, also hosted by Cheryl Wolf at The Neighborhood School.
HVLA members settled in for three presentations beginning with Andrea Swenson (East Side Community School) and B Mann (Léman Manhattan), who spoke about LGBTQIA+ Collection Development. Andrea shared information about participating in Cooperative Collection Development and the LGBTQIA+ collection, which she hosts in her library. “Our kids need to know that people are thinking about them,” Andrea said, referring to representation in school library collections. B and Andrea recommended Book Riot lists, the Barnes & Noble blog, Queer Books for Teens, amongst other resources to find reviews and suggestions for LGBTQIA+ collection development. B suggested creating a resource list in the catalog and emailing the school’s GSA when new queer books come in to the library. Andrea also puts a small yellow dot on the spines of books with queer content, so that students can be discreet when browsing.
Andrea cautioned that “a lot of our queer content doesn’t age very well,” and that “representation is not uniformly positive.” She also noted that there are still gaps in LGBTQIA+ collections where there is not enough representation, particularly around race, ethnicity, socioeconomic topics, and physical abilities/differences.
School librarians, Anna Murphy (Berkeley Carroll), Sarah Kresberg (Allen-Stevenson), and Cheryl Wolf (Neighborhood) spoke about their experiences conducting diversity audits. The three librarians have completed the Library Journal course, Equity in Action. Soon after Anna began her diversity audit, she became overwhelmed. She wondered,
“How can I go through ever single book?” She decided to narrow her focus to three aspects of the main character and the author’s identity: race, gender and sexuality. After some work on her audit, she realized that examining her collection helped her become more aware of her biases. She said she is now more intentional about what she buys for her collection. Anna also spoke about how diversity audits need to be followed with attention to circulation.
Sarah enlisted members of the Allen-Stevenson community to help with the audit. She plans to approach the audit like she schedules weeding, wherein the library will focus on different parts of the collection each year. Sarah worked with fifth grade students and their teacher to conduct a diversity audit in their classroom. “I love the idea of having students do this kind of work,” she said. Before they began to look through their classroom collection, Sarah shared Grace Lin’s TEDx Talk with the fifth grade students, which she recommends as an introduction to diversity audits involving students.
Cheryl is also including her school community in her diversity audit. She has created a Google Form in which a handful of parent-volunteers can input data about the main characters and authors/illustrators in the library’s picture book collection.
Kyle Lukoff (Corlears) presented on Youth Media Awards, #ownvoices, and elementary school students. He has launched a unit with his first and second graders where his students study the Schneider Family Book Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Stonewall Book Awards, and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Kyle feels that focusing on these four awards is a “great way of reading vastly diverse books.” Wonderful inquiries and conversations in Kyle’s school library have centered around authorship, where, in the case of both the Schneider and the Stonewall, the author doesn’t have to identify with the subject of the book in order to be considered for the award.
On the subject of #ownvoices, during the open discussion that followed the presentations, Celia Dillon (Brearly) shared the idea to show students a photograph of the author/illustrator when introducing a book during library instruction.
HVLA looks forward to seeing everyone at Horace Mann on Monday, April 29 for the HVLA Spring Meeting.