The article “Check It Out” shows that libraries and librarians can be important resources for students and educators working for inclusion and social justice. Many students might not even be aware of the variety of supports and services their local and school libraries offer. This toolkit gives you a chance to help your students make the most of their libraries. At the same time, it offers students of all ages an opportunity to think about ways their school library might be more inclusive and justice-oriented. Students will have an opportunity to talk to and share ideas with their school librarian.
- What characteristics and policies make libraries more or less inclusive and fair?
- What resources are available at our school or community library?
- What actions can we take to make our library inclusive and fair?
- Ask your students what they think of when they hear the word library. Have them each talk to a partner about these questions:
- What characteristics or policies of a library make you feel more or less welcome?
- How might a person different from you feel at the same library? Why?
- How can a library help promote justice and fairness?
- Either have your students read the article “Check It Out,” or summarize the article for them. Libraries in schools and communities across the country are taking part in activist work and making an effort to become more effective windows and mirrors for all readers. Librarians are often deeply attuned to cultural responsiveness, civil liberties and social justice. Ask your students to consider these ideas in relation to your school or local library.
- Take a trip to the library. You might go to your school library or take your students to a public library in your community. Ask your students to investigate the library with an eye toward justice and inclusion. Each of them can work with a partner to make notes on how inclusive the book displays are, what identity groups are reflected in the library’s collection, who is welcome in the library and when, and what the library is doing to ensure that patrons’ privacy and other civil rights are protected. (You may want to consider providing, ahead of time, examples of how a public facility like a library might infringe upon someone’s rights.) Reconvene to discuss what they have found.
- Arrange for your class to interview your school librarian. If students have concerns about the library, be sure they understand this is not an opportunity to publicly criticize the librarian, but rather to talk together about how the library might become more inclusive. Your students might also discover that their school library has resources they didn’t even know about. Prior to the interview, have your class prepare three to five questions, compliments and suggestions for improving the library.
- Once your students have learned more about what your school library has to offer, have them make posters advertising what they have learned and encouraging the rest of your school community to visit the library.