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CE Blog 2019_ 6: Pride and prejudice in 2019…?


CE Blog 2019_ 6: Pride and prejudice in 2019…?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a school must be in want of a school librarian… or so we would wish! And that is the case in many schools that I talk to and visit, and it is heartening to hear. There’s also many, many stories of new libraries and refurbishments which I hear about – schools, primary and secondary, are investing in their school libraries which is fantastic, but sometimes this enthusiasm isn’t combined with the knowledge needed to ensure these school libraries go on to contribute everything they can to the education of the young people who use them. Some schools put all the effort and thinking into the launch of the new library, and have no staffing or library development plan – what happens after the launch? Is there money for stock on an ongoing basis? Is there any funding for staff? Unfortunately, many schools don’t seem to know about the School Library Association, and how we can help the library help the whole school, and this is also an issue for school libraries themselves. I heard of one example of a school library consultant who went back to a school 5 years after spending a few days working on it to find exactly the same display she’d put up all those years ago still adorning the walls… This type of story can sometimes led to a downwards mood within the sector – but it’s important we’re not prejudiced about schools or teachers. We can’t assign motive to the decisions that teachers are having without talking to them, and we can’t expect them to know all the things about school libraries that we do – we need to inform them; and the Association will seek to lead on this.

A few months ago we were discussing how we could increase awareness of all the benefits that having a staffed school library can bring, and it rapidly became obvious the best way of doing this was tying it into the ‘School Librarian of the Year’ Award. The announcement for this happens on 27th June this year, and this also ties in nicely with a keynote by our headline sponsors: Softlink; Lexplore and OUP at the ‘Building Identities, Building Readers’ Weekend Course, which is all about looking to the future. As a sector, sometimes we can be slightly reticent in talking about what we do and as always, it is so much easier to focus on the negatives, and so often this overrides many of the positives and can leave the sector feeling somewhat downbeat. However, there are exciting things going on, and we have to give people a chance to share what makes them continue to love their job; the things that make them proud to be school library staff. So, last week we launched #schllibstaffpride – a month of photos, comments and contributions to show all the things that we do, and all the things we’re proud of; a conversation to uplift the community and engage everyone in education in the discussion.

However, over the weekend concern was raised regarding the timing of using ‘pride’ in a hashtag, and it coinciding with Pride month. I’m pleased the person came to us with their concerns – sad it was too late to do anything about the hashtag and/or the timing, but already today I have seen some great dual pride tweets (the first challenge was display you’re proudest of, and there’ve been a few LGBTQ displays), and I hope this continues – there are some opportunities for highlighting LGBTQ titles later in the month, but obviously they are also welcome as part of any of the challenges! We will rethink this hashtag, and maybe the timing, for next year.

And it’s also raised an important point – we missed this connection. For me I think it’s a combination of being so focused on the needs of our community – needing to have a positive conversation within the sector – and because June Is always slightly more intense in schools I always used to use LGBTQ history month for the displays (it also attempted to balance out a lot of the hetro-normative ‘romance’ that’s about at that time of the year). But it’s also raised that we need to continue to work to ensure that our work is inclusive and that we are open and listening to concerns. We absolutely are, and are working hard to make our board more inclusive as well – and in a week where abhorrent comments regarding gay people have been given so much attention, and where transgender people are increasingly under attack we need to be clear whether the SLA is an association for everyone, or for a select few. We’re here to support all involved with school libraries; literacy, reading and research. We’ll continue to work on embedding that in all our processes and everything we do, and we’re happy to be contacted if we don’t get it quite right. This month our focus is on celebrating and increasing understanding about school libraries and celebrating LGBTQ people authors and books. We hope you'll join in.   


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