Change is all around us! From discussions within ALA on “doing things differently” to important work in ALSC that ensures we create welcoming, inclusive spaces for all our members, change is happening. I am super excited and honored to serve as your 2018-19 ALSC President during this time of change, and look forward to building on the important work of Past President Nina Lindsay.
What we do as a professional association makes a difference in the daily experiences of children and their caregivers. This is mirrored by our vision statement: “Members of the Association for Library Service to Children engage communities to build healthy, successful, futures for all children.” Recently, the ALSC Board of Directors examined the progress of our Strategic Plan’s three strategic areas: Diversity & Inclusion, Advocacy, and Learning & Development. The discussion involved what we’ve accomplished and what areas need additional work and resources to advance. We are in the second year of our strategic plan and looking ahead at new developments and changes that will help us focus our energies on meeting our goals. Currently, ALSC has several working groups and taskforces examining areas of potential growth and change within our association. These member-driven groups will provide information that will help the board with knowledge-based decision making related to specific areas of our strategic plan and guide us as we evaluate the work of our association.
As an association and profession, we want to transition from simply talking about diversity to advocating for and creating solutions that confront social injustices and build solidarity. Each generation of children’s librarians needs to rethink and reconsider what diversity means to current society and culture and discern the most effective strategies for reaching out to the diverse populations in their communities. These strategies include understanding our cultural biases and examining ways to foster cultural competence among ourselves and the patrons we serve. As librarians, we want to provide opportunities for children to see representations of their cultures on library shelves. But not just any representation – authentic, accurate depictions of everyday lives and experiences. It is important that we provide safe havens for all children and their families from all cultural backgrounds. It can be challenging for children’s librarians to know exactly what they can and should do to help their patrons. Strategies that work in one community may not be effective in another. Anti-other sentiment can foster incivility and hostile environments that threaten the values and principles of librarianship as well as the lives of people within our communities.
Children’s librarians need information on how to be advocates for all families as well as social justice activists within the community. Information on how to confront intolerance and nurture cultural competence is critical now more than ever, and as an association, we are working hard to provide guidance. The ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries offers a solid foundation for helping librarians in their quest to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion for all patrons served in the children’s department; and the Library Services to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Toolkit gives considerable information and resources for serving specific populations. ALSC has also provided the Unity. Kindness. Peace. booklist and the Working Together for Justice booklist as well as the Supporting Libraries in the Post-Election Environment resource to assist librarians serving patrons in times of unrest. ALSC’s Día initiative is also a great resource for ideas on how to connect with diverse populations, promote cultural literacy and bookjoy, and promote STEAM learning throughout the calendar year. Día activities lay a strong foundation for advocacy, providing the framework to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion into collections, programs, and services. Back in January 2015, ALSC hosted the Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming to begin the conversation on how to increase diversity in children’s literature and make that diverse literature available in libraries. Much of the day’s content is archived on the Día website and is still relevant today, providing recommendations, thought pieces, and much more to help librarians turn dialog into action.
Additional training resources to further learning and development will be forthcoming throughout the next year as the ALSC Emerging Leader Team as well as several ALSC committees unveil their projects. Stay tuned and check out ALSCs numerous professional resources and publications (digital and print) to keep you connected.
Many of you are already active in ALSC via our extensive network of process and award committees that steadily move the work of the association forward. Others work hard to support the profession as mentors to new librarians as part of the ALSC Mentoring Program. If you are not involved in ALSC but would like to offer your time and talents, I highly encourage you to complete a volunteer form so we can get you plugged into the ALSC goodness.
ALSC is continuing to look for new ways to create an environment in our association that is inclusive and welcoming of all individuals. We still have considerable work to do to ensure that our association becomes a place where all really means all. I look forward to engaging with you in this important work over the next year!
Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Ph.D.
2018-19 ALSC President