Submitted by Walt Chapman
This fall I completed the class, Invigorate your School Library with the AASL National Standards, taught by Deborah Rinio of University of Alaska Fairbanks. There are 6 shared foundations embedded in the standards with “Include” being #2. The key commitment of Include is to demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community. As a librarian, I have been working on making the library space a safe haven for students. I would like to share an anecdote about one particular student:
Nicole, from our before and after school program, asked me if Joe would be able to check books out of school hours. “He has a much better day, if he has something to read." Joe has a difficult time interacting with peers in the less structured settings of recess and lunch. Now, Joe routinely walks in first thing in the morning, usually showing up about 7:45, to return a graphic novel. Then he looks for another graphic novel to check out. He smiles and enjoys telling me about the book he just finished. In the mornings, he has a bright adhesive eye patch on his left eye. This patch mysteriously disappears sometime during the day. Other students have started to notice his actions and sometimes he has a friend from breakfast come in with him to check out books. Joe usually goes through a book a day. I have not been able to move him out of the graphic genre yet. I have to assume he has read and reread some of the titles before. When I am not around Joe always seems surprised. “I looked for you, and couldn’t find you,” he will say later or the next day. It is nice to be missed when you’re not around. Joe now uses the library as his sanctuary when things get tough during free choice times.
The following article from the Reuters News Agency looked at a library as a sanctuary in a much bigger, more complex way with greater implications. When I read the article I realized I had driven past the library numerous times when I lived in Burlington, Vermont and would cross the border heading to Montreal, Quebec. I appreciated the original intent of the library’s founders to create a safe place that could be shared by friends and neighbors regardless of which side of the border they resided on. I also have to wonder if, in these turbulent times, they will be allowed to maintain that same spirit.