Storytime Underground is not neutral

libraries-are-not-neutral

Libraries are not neutral. This is so important, especially now.

Storytime Underground is not neutral.

 

We have never been neutral. We exist to challenge you and provide a space to learn. We stand for social justice.

 

Sadly, there has been a rise of racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic and Islamophobic discussion and comments on the Storytime Underground Facebook page. Let’s start with the basics: This is NOT ok. Much of this comes out of discussions as to whether or not Christmas or other holidays should be celebrated in libraries. We at Storytime Underground firmly believe that the public library is NOT a place for holiday celebrations, and have written publicly about that.

 

In the past, we have allowed librarians to debate the topic in the Storytime Underground Facebook page for this main reason:

 

We have new members every day, and even veteran librarians and SU members may not have seen this discussion before.  Many have never considered the idea of not celebrating holidays in the library. By being exposed to this discussion and learning about the deep core ethical reasons for NOT celebrating, they have changed their personal ideas in this topic. THIS is why we do the work we do- so that librarians who might not otherwise be exposed to other ideas have a place to learn.

 

We keep an eye on these discussions, and try to step in when things get ugly, as they have more often in recent days. We publicly post our stance, we shut down the comments, and we have deleted posts that do not adhere to our guidelines.

 

But this is getting harder.

 

We are only a few people, working full time jobs with families, and we don’t always catch these threads in time. A number of other wonderful librarians have helped contribute to these discussions, making valid points that we agree with. We firmly believe that it IS NOT and SHOULD NOT be the job of marginalized people to fight this battle- this is a battle against privilege, and librarians with privilege need to step up and fight the fight. This means us.

 

We will not permit any discussion or comments that are racist, anti-semitic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, or in any other way hateful or a violation of our professional ethics.

 

Period.  We will delete any post that we deem inappropriate, and stick up for those being bullied.

 

But, we need to ask for your help as Storytime Guerrillas, especially from non-marginalized people to help keep the space safe for marginalized voices. If you are being bullied or having hate speech directed at you, please tell us. If you see this happening, please tell us. If you see it and we don’t, or if you see it before we do,  please please please, report a post and tell us about it. There are seven of us Joint Chiefs (Cory Eckert, Kendra Jones, Julie Crabb, Brytani Fraser, Mary Kuehner, Soraya Silverman-Montano, and Holly Storck-Post) and we can only catch so much of what’s being posted.  However, there are 8,000 of you and with our powers combined we can hopefully stop hateful comments and posts as soon as they emerge.  We will listen. We are committed. And we need your help. 

 

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Motivational Monday: November Shout-Outs

Here at SU, we think that it’s up to every member of a team to encourage and lift up your peers. It’s why we started things like Guerrilla Storytimes and our Local Chapters. We want YOU to have the power to learn from each other, connect, and grow.

 

Today, we’re introducing a new feature that we hope will become a staple in our blogging content. For the first time, we put all of YOU in charge of publicly recognizing the teammates and peers in your lives who are doing great work. We want to regularly reward the workers who are making a difference every day and we want you all to feel seen and appreciated.

 

So, here goes! Our first round of shout-outs is small but mighty.

 

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First shout-out comes from our friend, Rebecca McCorkindale aka Hafuboti. She’s lifting up her whole team today!

 

I want to give a HUGE Shout-Out to my Children’s Library team. Jennifer, Natasia, and Ashlynn have created such a positive atmosphere for both each other and the public. When I was gone for almost half of a month recently, I was able to have two wonderful vacations knowing that these three ladies were keeping things going.
Jennifer, our Children’s Librarian, oversaw everything along with my Director (who would also deserve a GINMOURMOUS shout-out on her own for her support and encouragement). Super-fabulous early literacy and just straight-up fun events were prepped and executed. She resolved issues, and if she felt I needed to know something, she left me clear notes. She did a lot more, but I don’t want to bog-down my Shout-Out with a list.
Natasia, our Technical Services Librarian and my “Marketing Minion” made sure that November’s theme and decor would be ready to go when I came back on November 1. Although she’s headed up planning and execution of our monthly themes, this was this first time that I gave her a theme and then basically left. Her creativity, artistic skills, and teamwork attitude add to my joy when I come to work every day and not just when I come back from vacay.
Ashlynn, our Technical Services Librarian with diverse interests and a generous heart, helped out in any and every area that she could. She created November’s scavenger hunt, and stayed vigilant to others’ needs. She also came up with one of my all-time favorite passive programs: leaf piles on our lawn. She took a problem that we’ve had since opening the Children’s Library (fallen leaves getting everywhere) and solved it in a creative and memory-making way.
Upon my November 1 return, I had the easiest reentry into work-world that I can remember. Things felt great, I knew what had been going on, and things were in a great place for me to take up my tasks and duties again. It was more like returning to my family than coworkers. And for all this and more, I want to shout to world at how awesome these ladies are.
Next, we have Kaitlin Frick calling out a co-worker, Grace Zell, for going above and beyond.
I’d like to give a shout-out to my work twin, Grace Zell. She’s all-around an incredible children’s librarian who seems to know every name, has a kind and warm personality, but steps up to handle tough situations when necessary. This past couple of weeks in particular, she’s been working her butt off to put in a grant proposal for a project we want to put together here at our library. We didn’t receive word until very last-minute that we needed to make changes to the proposal, and she took time outside of work to make those changes happen and (hopefully) get the funding to create some incredible children’s programming. Basically, she’s amazing and I aspire to be more like her in so many ways.
That’s all for now, but we hope that you will continue to send us your shout-outs and dazzle us with the dedication and passion that you admire in your teammates.
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A Response

Hi, I’m Miss Julie and I do Storytimes.

 

Most people believe that I simply read books to children. Yes, that is one of the fantastic parts of my job, but I like to think that I am so much more. I see myself as an educator, an early literacy professional, a mentor, a friend, an entertainer, an activist, and part of a child’s inner circle.

 

I do what I do so that early literacy is brought into the home. I do what I do so that children can feel welcomed, safe, and understood. I do what I do so that children can become better acquainted with themselves and the world around them. I spread love. I bring down the house. I express and applaud individuality.

 

Now, more than ever, it is clear that our nation is divided. A rough estimate would tell me that over half of my Storytime families voted differently than I. I know that there are Storytime Ninjas out there who have different beliefs than I. Out in the world, this social division is ruled by hatred and disbelief. In Storytime, and in all parts of the library, we come together and accept our differences. As youth service providers, we can’t idly sit back and watch the world go by. Not now, not ever.

 

Yesterday, someone asked on Facebook “Can we keep Storytime Underground just about Storytime?” I understood the desire. We have definitely been bombarded with this election. The request was likely in response to a political article that we quickly deleted from our site. However, the answer to this request is no. We have never, and will never, be just about Storytime. At least not in the sense that you are asking.

 

Yes, Storytime Underground is shaker eggs, felt, and how to get caregivers to stop texting. These conversations are what brought me here two years ago looking for the basics. I wanted to be a Storytime librarian and didn’t really know where to start. Now, activism drives those basics. Storytime is social justice.

 

Right now, I am pleading with our community to pull yourselves up and make some changes. These small responses will help you feel more empowered and, more importantly, the children around you will notice.

 

  1. Make the majority of your face out shelving and displays feature minorities.
  2. Remove all ‘Books for Boys’ and ‘Books for Girls’ lists. Books are for people dammit.
  3. Offer boys books about princesses, bunnies, and ballet. Offer girls books about excavators, crime fighting, and dinosaurs.
  4. Add some positive affirmations to your Storytime routine. This idea came from Cynthia Dawn on the Facebook page. In her first ever Storytime, she had the kiddos shout out phrases like ‘I am smart!’ and ‘I am loved!’. (Cynthia, we see great things in your Storytime future.)
  5. Model descriptive affirmation language to caregivers. Instead of saying a baby is cute, say that they are strong, intelligent, or hilarious. Better yet, talk about what they are doing-‘Terry is such a strong climber today’ or ‘Lilah, I enjoy your laughter so much!’.
  6. Katie Salo suggested that you learn the name, and correct pronunciation, of your Storytime friends. Names are important and should be valued.
  7. Watch your gendered language! Make the speckled frog a female once or twice, use grown-ups instead of mommies, be proud of saying they instead of selecting a pronoun.
  8. Notice if the ‘extra’ parts of your library are inclusive. Angie Manfredi’s library had a stuffed library friend lose an arm. Instead of sewing it back on or discarding it, she proudly let it stand that way. Because, not everyone has the same body parts. Do your flyers, Facebook images, signage, and toys show a diverse world?
  9. Take some time to learn phrases in the languages of your community.
  10.  Add some, or a ton, of diverse books to your end of the year carts.

 

Social justice isn’t easy, but these are easy things you can do.

 

So, wake up.

We believe in you.

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