Show Up

I’m really excited to share that I’ve been selected to participate in the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship’s (IRDL) seventh cohort. This year long program will provide me with two-weeks of social science research training followed by a year of peer and formal mentor support. This now online program is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and allows librarians to develop a project based in empirical research. Mine? I finally, finally get to learn how to do the real work to examine the racialized presence of anthropomorphized simians in children’s picture books.

Recent numbers from the ALA indicate that the current rate of book bans is reaching the same levels that we experienced in the early 1980s; the Reagan era. Then, the Supreme Court squashed the challenge to a set of 11 books by finding that “The Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, held that as centers for voluntary inquiry and the dissemination of information and ideas, school libraries enjoy a special affinity with the rights of free speech and press. Therefore, the Board could not restrict the availability of books in its libraries simply because its members disagreed with their idea content.” The Supreme Court then ruled that under the First Amendment, “Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”

Will today’s Supreme Court uphold the First Amendment in the same way?

Should small groups of outspoken citizens re-shape our democracy?

Are you willing to speak up, to do something, anything at all to protect our basic rights?

Or, will you just give them up?

I’ve blogged before about actions we can take in our everyday lives to protect not just books and authors that extend what it means to be an American but our rights as citizens. Like Kelly Jensen says on IG, “Book bans aren’t going to end on good thoughts. They’re going to end when everyone who cares shows up and when everyone who doesn’t care understands what is truly at stake here”. She’s worked to gather all kinds of resources to inform you about censorship from background information to lists of banned books and organizations that are doing the work. Buying books isn’t an answer, but writing a letter to your school principal or library director about the significance of a book that might be or has been challenge, about how the work of a particular librarian has supported your literacy needs will go a long way. Got money to spend? Include a donation with your kind words.

While purchasing alone doesn’t really resist challenges, it does if you

  • read the book, talk about it and recommend it on all your socials.
  • buy it and donate it to a friend, free little library, classroom, or local youth organization.

BrainLair Books makes donations simple and easy. If you purchase a copy of Riley Weaver Needs a Date to the Gaybutante Ball or I Have Something to Tell You and choose ‘local pickup’ when you finalize your purchase, Kathy will ship the book directly to a chosen LGBTQ+ center or a teacher/librarians serving youth in safe spaces. I’ve contacted my local pride center to see if they’d like to be added to the list to accept donations. What about yours?

K.C. Boyd, school librarian extraordinaire is, was, and will always be a proponent of the freadom to read. Check her out as LibVoices begins their fifth season promoting BIPOC librarians.

Kaye Johnson also provides an excellent example of how to resist the suppression of thoughts, ideas, and of ways of being. Ms Johnson, the mother of author George Johnson recently showed up for her child at the local library board meeting. There, she read from a letter from George that directly addressed the ways the book was misinterpreted.

The final lie is that my book is introducing hard topics to teenagers and exposing them to them. Any parent trying to ban my book has likely never talked to their teen about what actually goes on in their daily lives. I was a 13-year-old nearly 25 years ago. Do you all remember what the hottest topic was that year? It involved a president and a woman named Monica Lewinsky. Every child, preteen, teenager, and adult in the country was introduced to sex at that moment. That’s the hard truth. Our books are not introducing teens to hard topics; they are simply the resource needed so that they can understand the hard topics that they are living out day-to-day.

Really, that’s what we need to do: to show up for each other. I know my 65 year-old self needs to keep learning this lesson. And, I’m ready for it!

Be well and do good.

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