What I’m Reading

I’m currently reading the backs of my eyelids* and cross-stitch patterns for snowflakes**. But in professional news I am staying current on the American Library Association’s bimonthly publication American Libraries. Here are some highlights from the Sept/Oct issue:

Empower Student Voices: using hip-hop lyrics in library lessons to engage youth in activism

An article written by Randallstown High School (Maryland) media specialist Joquetta Johnson describes her experience in her majority-African American school immediately following the death of Freddie Gray while in the hands of Baltimore police.

“Many of my students experienced fear, anger, sadness, and frustration as they watched the Freddie Gray protests on TV….I wanted my students to understand that if they see something in their community they do not like, they can do something about it. I wanted to show them that their voices matter.”

– Joquetta Johnson, school media specialist

In direct response to her belief and her students’ pain, Ms. Johnson created Lyrics as Literature, a “series of four lessons designed to support the district curriculum, amplify student voices, and bring awareness to social justice issues.”

She taught the students history of social justice movements, the power of social media and hashtag campaigns, and about organizing town hall meetings. “Students met with the principal and other community members to address school and district concerns related to four essential areas: academics, safety and security, communication, and organizational effectiveness.”

This article stood out to me for its boldness in the title: empower student voices. And as Ms. Johnson writes in her article, “I wanted to show them that their voices matter.” This librarian, woman, activist clearly understands that adults cannot do all the work. Real change comes from educating young people on the facts and supporting and empowering them as they take the reins of activism.

Check out Ms. Johnson’s website for more information and resources.

Inclusive by Design: reevaluating physical and virtual spaces to address inequity

Wanda Kay Brown, American Library Association president and director of library services at C.G. O’Kelly Library at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina wrote this article for American Libraries that had me nodding and “yes!” the whole time.

In a nutshell: public libraries aren’t as welcoming as they can be, thanks to outdated web design that lacks accessibility for those with disabilities, poor/no visual signage, and buildings without accommodations for people with physical disabilities.

Things I’ve noticed in my recent years in public libraries that annoy my senses:
1- Library users are flocking to their library’s websites to download eBooks and other electronic materials. But if those websites don’t have accessibility features such keyboard-friendly navigation or transcripts in lieu of videos.
2 – Signs are displayed only in English words and phrases. Children, visitors to the country, and others who cannot read, these signs mean they have to continually ask for help. Signs in English and with illustrations are infinitely more helpful.
3 – Posters, flyers, and clutter are everywhere. Take away the noise and people can focus better.

Ms. Brown touched on a critical component of patron comfort: staff that reflects the community. She wrote, “When patrons see people like themselves reflected in the library staff…the apprehension about using the library can disappear.”

“Patrons feel like maybe this is a place for me, and they can connect with someone who may have a similar experience.”

Wanda Kay Brown, ALA President 2019-2020

What are you reading?

What’s on your nightstand, coffee table, of phone? What article, blog, or book has captivated you recently – professionally or personally?

*I’m 27 weeks pregnant. I nap every day and am not ashamed.
**I’m making my 3 year old daughter a Christmas stocking.


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