As I sit down to refine a post which was written in honor of the life’s work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. my brain is burning with the image of Omaha elder’s Nathan Phillips’ face as he played his ceremonial drum while a group of primarily white teenagers mocked the sacred song he was singing to honor community members during the first annual Indigenous Peoples March. This event took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The teenagers were surrounded by adult chaperones who did nothing to stop the teenagers’ cultural violence. Phillips’ simultaneously peaceful and defiant weariness breaks my heart. I hope that as teacher-librarians we will take this occasion to open up a conversation in our school communities about the intersections of race and religion in American politics especially as it relates to both the work of the Indigenous Peoples Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to facilitating a school-wide discussion that includes staff and senior administrators, it is critical to initiate and/or continue an ongoing, intentional, and thorough analysis of our school library collections, programs, and services. One of best resources I know of with which to do this has been created and maintained by scholar Dr. Debbie Reese. Her website, American Indians in Children’s Literature, includes articles, presentations, and general guidance. Her July 2018 article for NCTE: Critical Indigenous Literacies gives an overview for the urgency of this type of work. Another recent article that is very useful is Sonja Cole’s Classroom Connections: Authentically Representing American Indians, published in Booklist (January 2019). Along with refining our collections, programs, and services, it is necessary to keep current and contribute to living conversations related to creating space for a wide range of experiences and voices. We can use the hashtags to search, follow, and participate in critical dialogues on Instagram, GoodReads, and Twitter: #NativeKidLit, #diversebooks, #diversekidlit, #ReadYourWorld, #WNDB, #kidlitwomen, and #ownvoices. Our active participation will allow us to make the collective connections and do the work that will prevent Saturday’s event from happening in the future. In Selma, Alabama, on March 8, 1965, Dr. King said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice.” This moment on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial provides a chance for all of us to “stand up for what is right” and it is in our power as teacher-librarians to view it as an opportunity for difficult but necessary change.
This is my first AISL blog post. I am excited to write for a new audience especially during a week (in the United States) predicated on gratitude and connection. This is my second career, I came to librarianship after a stint in academia as both a scholar and an administrator, and every day I am thankful for my new profession. I am not exaggerating. I love the opportunity and the privilege to excite students about reading and research. I love helping students to find new stories and information that open up spaces, emotional and intellectual, spaces in which they can experiment, imagine, and grow. I am grateful for all of the librarians, at conferences, on Twitter and Instagram, and in my regional circle, who teach me new ways to think about our profession and re-invigorate foundational practices such as storytelling, reader’s advisory, the reference interview and collection development. I am grateful for the generous spirit that runs through librarianship which I first encountered during my first American Library Association annual conference in New Orleans in 2011. In the past conferences were difficult experiences filled with endless moments of pretension, arrogance, and what seemed to border upon ridicule. From the moment I walked onto the ALA conference shuttle and was invited to sit down, I knew I was in a different kind of community. This was a community where people built each other up rather than cut each other down. This was a community where people were excited to share what they knew and learn from others. This was a community of hope, dialogue, and connection. In my second year of library school I interviewed for my first teacher-librarian job. Initially I thought of it as an informational conversation. After several weeks, multiple conversations, and an on-site visit, I received a job offer. I have worked at St. Thomas School in Medina, Washington for the past seven academic years. St. Thomas School is a place, like independent schools in general, that believes in the power of librarians and libraries to change the world. Working there has been one of the greatest gifts I have received in my adult life. Thanks to each of you for being devoted librarians, generous colleagues, and inspired citizens. It is a great privilege to work among you.