Category Archives: Advocacy

A Family Guide to Black History Month

Yoopies UK the childcare platform that earlier this year put together a guide to the Black Lives Matter movement from a British perspective has just released a Family Guide to Black History Month.

Both guides can be downloaded here:

https://yoopies.co.uk/c/press-releases/blacklivesmatter

Teenagers at Risk

I had no idea what to call this post but eventually settled on what it is now, the first in what wil be an irregular series of posts.

I have been thinking about how dangerous it is to be a teenager today, well since teenagers have been teenagers – too old to be kids but also too young to be considered adults and often driven to dangerous and often foolhardy acts to prove themselves.

These thoughts were brought to the top of my mind by two stories involving teenagers that have been in the news lately. the first being the body-shaming of Billie Eilish:

Billie Eilish Shares Video On ‘Real Bodies’ After Body-Shaming Tweets

and

The ongoing saga of Claudia Conway the daughter of former counselor to Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway and George Conway, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, who has been thrust into the national spotlight as a real-life version of Katniss Everdean who will have a hand in bringing down the President using social media:

15-year-old Claudia Conway broke the news of her mother’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Here’s how the teenager took over social media, from bashing Trump in TikToks to trolling her parents on Twitter.

Body-shaming is nothing new, there have been books written and movies made featuring this trope and with the ubiquity of social media and instantaneous video & text communication this has become more pernicious than ever, leading to consequences varying from leaving school to suicide. Billie Eilish has spent most of her career wearing loose, baggy clothes to prevent people from commentating on her body and the moment a paparazzi pic of her goes online she faces a barrage of body-shaming from people (adults) who should know better.

The story of Claudia Conway veers into yet more dangerous territory, when adults place the burden of saving the nation (or the world) onto the shoulders of children, thanks in no small part to the large number of dystopian young adult novels that show adults abdicating their responsibilities and leaving their children to take up arms to bring down corporations and governments.

The two teens I mentioned are high-profile individuals, the first thanks to a relatively short (so far) but phenomenally successful career as musician and singer/song-writer and the second due to having a very public falling out with her parents who are near the epicenter of power in US politics.

What freaks me out is that this is becoming normalized, with people saying things like “They should have known the risks” or explaining away the attacks as being part and parcel of life in the public eye. It has not escaped my notice that these two examples are both young women, thanks to the inherent sexism of the world in which we live women usually bear the brunt of attacks. That is not to say that men are immune, teenage boys are facing increased risks of body shaming and internalized body dysmorphia.

What can we do to combat this? Watch what we say and challenge friends and colleagues who place the burden for saving the world onto the next generation, it is not up to them to fix our errors and problems, we have to start doing that if we have not already. It is up to us as adults and responsible human beings to prevent children from becoming child soldiers; while it may be exciting to read about teens taking up arms to defend a world that has failed them, these works often gloss over the toll fighting and killing can take on a person’s psyche and afterwards, the dangers living with PTSD can bring.

That is not to say that we need to stop stocking such books, but we must remember that fiction is just that – fiction, and while it is exciting, we must not use such materials as guides for the future, but rather warnings of what could happen if we let it.

Open Letter of Support & Solidarity with Trans & Non-Binary People from Library Workers

We the undersigned Library workers want to add our voices to those from the UK & Irish publishing community [https://www.thesecondshelf.com/digest/a-message-from-members-of-the-uk-and-irish-publishing-community] and the US publishing community in standing in solidarity with our Trans & Non-Binary colleagues, patrons and fellow humans, and reaffirm our unconditional support of Trans and Non-Binary people and their rights.

We believe that:

Trans & Non-binary rights are human rights

Trans Women are Women

Trans Men are Men

Non Binary Lives are valid

We see you, we hear you and we believe you!

Signed:

  • Matt Imrie Librarian & Editor: Teen Librarian
  • Caroline Fielding School Librarian & UK Editor: Teen Librarian
  • Lesley Martin
  • Zoey Dixon
  • Colette Townend, Librarian
  • Lucinda Murray, Children’s Librarian
  • Cheryl Walton (South Australia)
  • Anjali Pathiyath, High School Librarian, London
  • Jérémie Fernandes , Academic Librarian (Scotland)
  • Deborah Varenna
  • Josh Neff, Information Specialist, Kansas, USA
  • Dan Katz, School Librarian
  • Emerson Milford Dickson, School Librarian
  • Binni Brynolf, Systems Librarian
  • Cathy Harle, Academic Library Assistant, Cardiff
  • Dawn Finch, Author & Librarian
  • Emily Wheeler, Academic Librarian
  • Maura Farrelly, School Librarian
  • Hayley Lockerbie, Librarian
  • Barbara Band, Independent library consultant and advisor
  • Claire Warren, School Librarian
  • Robert Sell, Academic Library IT Officer, Cardiff
  • Ash Green
  • Jenny Foster
  • Ian Clark
  • David Hughes, Librarian
  • Mobeena Khan
  • Alex Mees, school librarian, London
  • Bethan Ruddock
  • Samantha Lockett, SLS Librarian
  • Rachel Playforth, NHS Librarian
  • Jamie R. Librarian, UK
  • Lauren Smith
  • Stuart Lawson, Academic Librarian
  • Michael-Israel Jarvis, School Library Assistant
  • John Trevor-Allen, Librarian
  • Jennifer Dion, Teen Librarian, Pointe-Claire, Canada
  • Emma Sweeney, Library Worker
  • Hannah Beckitt, NHS Librarian

Please add your name in the comments below & your name will be added to the main body of this post

One of the signatories has made a significant point that I agree with fully and feel compelled to add to this post:

our support has to go beyond the signing of an open letter. We need to work in all areas of library services to ensure trans and non-binary people do not face discrimination and are supported by their libraries.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being a Library Worker

Things that are said (& celebrated) about Libraries, Librarians and Library Workers: 

  • Librarians are freedom fighters,  
  • Librarians are revolutionary,  
  • Librarians are rebels, 

Things that are not usually said or celebrated about libraries (but are still true): 

  • Libraries and Library Workers are (or have been) complicit in: 
    • In book banning 
    • In book burning 
    • In segregation 
    • In upholding white supremacy 

Many, mostly white (it has to be said) library folk have drunk the library kool-aid and believe uncritically everything (positive & affirming) that has been said about libraries. Heck for years I was one of them, I uncritically celebrated libraries without considering the history of library services in the countries I have lived and worked in until I took a look at myself, where I came from (South Africa) and what I stand for; then started poking around in the history of my career in my home country and further afield. 

Nowadays I am still a library-stan, I have seen and can see how libraries can affect the lives of those who use them in a positive way.  Of course people have to be able to  access the services that libraries provide to have their lives changed by them. I still fully support all that is good in public libraries but I also acknowledge the darker side that has largely been airbrushed out of the public library narrative. What follows are but a few examples of what overwhelming whiteness in libraries has been responsible for. 

In South Africa, Public Libraries were segregated under the apartheid regime and non-white South Africans were denied library services altogether or had a substandard service. 

Read Library philosophy vs. Apartheid legislation: Cape Town City Libraries: 1952-1972 by Kathleen Laishley 

Not content with segregation, the apartheid regime doubled down with book banning as well as burning books that they disagreed with. Librarians were complicit in this. 

Librarians at institutions across South Africa were tasked with removing banned books and the works of banned people from the shelves, and monitoring their usage. They received a weekly update in the Government Gazette and were expected to enforce the banning of books with immediate effect.

In the end, book burning was about power – the abuse of  power by the agents of  censorship, and the reluctance to confront power by those who aided and abetted censorship 

There has been segregation in many US libraries over the years, When Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of a new public library in Atlanta in 1902, scholar and activist W. E. B. DuBois, then a professor at Atlanta University and a strong proponent of African American education, spoke out publicly against the injustice of a public facility that refused service to a full third of Atlanta’s population. (https://dp.la/exhibitions/history-us-public-libraries/segregated-libraries

 In 2016 when accepting a National Book Award Representative Elijah Cummings recounted  how he was denied a library card in Alabama in 1956: 

“Some of you know I grew up in rural Alabama, very poor, very few books in our home, I remember in 1956, when I was 16 years old, going to the public library to get library cards, and we were told the library was for whites only and not for coloureds. And to come here and receive this honor, it’s too much.” 

The Dewey Decimal Classification System still carries many of the biases of it’s creator Melvil Dewey. It took until 2019 for his name to be removed from the ALA’s top honor. In the 1930s librarian Dorothy Porter started to decolonize the DDC by unpicking the racist way in which he treated Black authors. 

This brilliant article on BookRiot shows how libraries have and in some cases still are complicit in upholding white supremacy (and how it can be dismantled).  

Homophobia was also prevalent in early editions of the DDC and although it is being weeded out, many traces still remain. The religion section still skews heavily in favor of Christianity, with non-Christian faiths only making an appearance in the 290s. 

In 2017 a lack of diversity in the library profession lead to accusations of bias and worse being made against the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the oldest book award for books for children & young people in the UK. This controversy has lead to institutional changes in the way that the awards are run and has also lead to the formation of groups to help work towards increasing the diversity of the profession in the UK, so never let it be said that protests change nothing.

Today libraries are still largely staffed by white folk, most of them women many of who fall under the middle-class label, for a career that is majority female, it is weird that male library staff are very over-represented in library management positions – patriarchy it is not a bug, it is a feature (if you are a man that is). 

As the profession slowly (oh so slowly) diversifies, existing staff come face to face with our biases, both conscious and unconscious.  This is uncomfortable, for those of us who feel we are anti-racist, anti-imperialist and can lead to hurt feelings and lashing out when we are confronted with our failures in being good allies, and for our colleagues of colour who experience almost daily microaggressions from their colleagues and upon whom many white library workers place their needs for education on being better at becoming antiracist and working in a diverse workplace. 

It behooves all of us working in public libraries no matte where we are in the world to educate ourselves on how to be better allies in life and in libraries to our colleagues of colour, our LGBTQ+ colleagues an dour patrons. Libraries are no place for the false white saviour narrative, we are not rockstars (I hate that term – but that is a rant for another day), we must all work towards being open, inclusive in our lives as in our careers and make our profession a place that mirrors the world as it is and as it should be – diverse and vibrant, not a monochrome example of how things used to be. 

Further Reading & Resources 

A Parent’s Guide to Black Lives Matter

Yoopies UK the childcare platform, has put together a family-friendly resource guide for parents about the Black Lives Matter movement from a British perspective; with contributions from both white and BAME writers.

This guide shares resources (films, podcasts, books etc), advice, and tips to ensure that children are aware of racial inequality, racial hierarchies, and white privilege present in modern-day society, as well as share some knowledge to help combat racism today.

The guide can be downloaded here:

https://yoopies.co.uk/c/press-releases/blacklivesmatter

The Police and Public Libraries

I have seen police officers in libraries for as long as I have been a library worker, they come in as patrons, they have been called in if people started endangering the lives of patrons and staff, occasionally an officer will come in and do a walk-through the library, more recently I have witnessed official library events featuring police officers including Youth Services organized “Story-time with a Police Officer” which is a local PO will come in uniform and read some stories at a library story-time event and a Civic Engagement series called “Coffee with a Cop” which is basically just that – a Police Officer sitting drinking coffee and chatting to local library patrons.

I am aware that seeing the police as being helpful and there to help is very much a White viewpoint; other population groups, Black, Asian and others have differing viewpoints and opinions about them.

I have been concerned about story-times being lead by police officers for ages now but the coronavirus closures put those thoughts on the back burner, they are now forefront in my mind now in the wake of the violence against protesters that has been occurring on a daily basis since people began standing up in reaction to the murder of George Floyd. This ongoing violence has been an eye-opener to many people that live in denial of the violence police often perpetrate against minority groups.

Can libraries afford to keep hosting police-centered events and at the same time claim to be welcoming to everyone?

It is often vulnerable groups and individuals that have the most need of the services that libraries provide and they are the most at risk of being traumatized by coming face to face with uniformed police officers at library sanctioned events. These encounters will in all likelihood re-traumatize them again and they are already at the receiving end of police violence; this will, in all likelihood keep them from returning for fear of encountering the police again.

The fig leaf argument that libraries are neutral spaces gets more threadbare every day. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor

Neutrality does not mean having no opinion, it means being open to other opinions. I am of the opinion that it is past time for libraries to look at who we partner with and discuss how we can move forward with offering a truly inclusive and welcoming service.

Before we allow the police in for photo-opportunity events, we must demand real and substantive change in the way they behave towards all groups in the communities they ostensibly serve.

In demanding that of them we must, at the same time interrogate our own biases and how we behave towards others as well as challenging ourselves and those around us to actively fight racist thought and activities that pervade our daily lives.

Anti-Racism Resources for all ages

A Project by the Augusta Baker Chair | Dr. Nicole A. Cooke | The University of South Carolina | 

https://padlet.com/nicolethelibrarian/nbasekqoazt336co

The National Shelf Service

CILIP started the National Shelf Service on Monday 6th April, a daily recommendation of a book available to borrow electronically through local libraries, live at 11am. Hopefully you’ve been watching these great videos from YLG colleagues, but if you haven’t seen any yet then why not start with mine! I’m the only one (so far) that has talked about a book that isn’t aimed at teenagers or young adults, not really living up to the TeenLibrarian name, but as I say: this book can be read and loved by anyone of any age…

The illustrations on the banners are by Fiona Lumbers, from the book Luna Loves Library Day written by Joseph Coelho

Dear Simon Cowell finding books to read and enjoy with your children is easier than you think!

Dear Simon

Finding books to read and enjoy with your children is easier than you think!

I can still remember four years ago when you complained that children’s books were too boring for you and your then two-year old son and that you were going to give writing a children’s book as you thought you could do better.

At the time I am pretty sure I rolled my eyes as I hear many people declaring that they were going to write a book for children (usually followed by a “how hard could it be”). I then moved on with my life and did not give it another thought, until the news broke about your seven book deal with Hachette (congratulations by the way –  know how hard it can be for many new writers to get a foot in the door)

Your son is now six and I hope that in the past four years you both have discovered books that were not boring and instead sparked a love for reading in you both.

I know how difficult it can be to find something to enjoy – particularly if you have had a bad (or boring) experience with a book or books it can dent the enthusiasm that a reader may have for trying a new book. Now I know that you are thinking that I am going to throw a load of titles I think you should try, and I could but honestly how likely is it that you will be able to take time out of your busy schedule to try and find them, or even send a go-fer or lackey to do this task.

Rather I will recommend that you go to your local public library, I know you split your time between the Kensington in the UK and Beverley Hills in the US. Both locations have brilliant public libraries. Take your son with you, he is now six (or almost there if I have done my basic maths correctly), the best way for a library worker to match a reader with books they may enjoy is to take the time to speak to them. Heck I am happy to chat to you both about what you enjoy doing and then making some suggestions on what may appeal – I have over 20 years of experience as a Librarian for Children and Young People (and their families) under my belt – and many colleagues have even more.

Details and how to find the Beverley Hills Public library can be found here and the Central Library of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea can be found here.

Joining the library is free and you usually only need your ID with proof of address (the requirements of your local library may differ a bit so it is bet to check before going). Be sure to take your son too I am sure he would love a trip to the library with his dad – I know my daughter does!

Who knows they may even offer to host your book launch or even book you for a book talk or storytime.

I look forward to hearing back from you – but even if you do not respond I hope you do give your local library a try – I am sure they would love to help you both!

All the best

Matt Imrie

Chris Riddell: a Guardian of Magic

For as long as anyone can remember, children have looked up at billowing clouds in the sky and made a wish on a cloud horse. But no one has seen one.
Until now.

Macmillan Children’s
The Cloud Horse Chronicles

It is always a good day when a new Chris Riddell is published, and an even better day when it is the beginning of a new series! The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic introduces us to three unsuspecting heroes as they receive magical gifts. The illustrations are perfectly placed and really bring the characters to life, but I particularly love the cross sections of where the children are living when we first meet them. PR for the book says it is reminiscent of Tolkein’s and Pullman’s worlds, but it mainly makes me want to re-read the Edge Chronicles (written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell)! Readers will spot lots of nods to classic fairytales, tweaked in very pleasing ways.

I called this post “Guardian of Magic” because Chris Riddell really is one. Obviously, I am entirely biased in writing a Chris Riddell review, because we Librarians love him. He’s won the Kate Greenaway medal an unprecedented 3 times (not just because he’s Chris Riddell, honestly, he’s also not won it with lots of his books…) and he has long been an ardent supporter of libraries, often illustrating quotes (often from Neil Gaiman) about their importance. He’s been involved in talks with government in the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group and as Children’s Laureate 2015-2017 he wrote an open letter to the then head of the Department for Education, Justine Greening, to make a plea on behalf of school libraries to ring-fence funding and set out standards for library provision that schools must follow. He’s been particularly vocal about their importance in schools and has been the President of the SLA (School Libraries Association) 2017-2020.

I could quite easily just copy and paste lots of his illustrations in this blog post, but I urge you to simply do an image search for “Chris Riddell library” to see the dozens of amazing and inspiring cartoons. This summer he tweeted a series of Owls he has created for the SLA and I couldn’t resist just sharing one here:

The Guardians of Magic is published on the 19th September 2019| Hardback, £12.99| Macmillan Children’s Books|ISBN 9781447277972

Huge thanks to Macmillan for sending a review copy!