Highlighting Diverse Authors
Highlighting Diverse Authors

Year of Learning

The December Year of Learning challenge was “Suicide Prevention.” The training provided during the holidays was on your own and on demand. I hope you had time to review the excellent training provided by American Fork Librarian, Wendy Annas. The monthly challenge was to create a display in your library to promote mental health and support struggling community members.

During the month of January, library equity partners, the Utah Library Association and Utah State Library will focus on Highlighting Diverse Authors. Please to take advantage of the monthly opportunities to learn, interact, and take action, leading up to the ULA 2022 Annual Conference. Explore the Year of Learning Hub to familiarize yourself with the year long “United in Diversity | Unida en la Diversidad” curriculum.

Rita Christensen (She/Her/Hers) ULA President, 2021-2022

January 2022: Highlighting Diverse Authors

LEARN Webinar: Let’s Talk Race Literacy Kits – Salt Lake City Public Library – On Demand. Talking openly about race with kids can dramatically improve their racial literacy—but grown-ups often don't know where to start! You'll receive a list of favorite race education resources, and a step-by-step plan for developing kits on your own. Featured speakers: Charlene Dy, Diana Castro, Nancy Funes, and Lindsey Watts. [View Now]

DISCUSS Zoom Meetup: Highlighting Diverse Authors – Thursday, January 27, 2022 @ 12:00 p.m. Before January 27th, take some time to watch Let's Talk Race Literacy Kits from ULA's Fall 2021 workshop. Then on January 27 at noon, we'll meet for a discussion to talk about what we've learned and what questions we have. We'll discuss what ideas you have for highlighting diverse authors and brainstorm ideas on how to fill any gaps in library services. What have you done at your library to boost diverse voices? What ideas do you have? We can also chat about any issues you've encountered or details you've learned or anything you'd like to share about shining a light on diverse authors. [Register Now]

ULA School Libraries Statement
ULA School Libraries Statement

Statement from the Utah Library Association in Support of School Libraries and Librarians

The Utah Library Association, founded in 1912 and representing thousands of librarians and library workers across the state, stands with parents, teachers, and school librarians in advocating for the health, well-being, and safety of all students. 

We strongly support local school boards in the creation and following of policies that ensure that school libraries have materials that support the Utah Core Standards for education. The Utah Core Standards identify a number of roles for School Libraries, including helping students: 1) read to pursue intellectual, personal, and emotional growth for life, and 2) make personal connections while respecting the right to read, seek information, and speak freely. 

The Core Standards for Grades 6-12 specify that “Libraries support independent readers by providing a variety of materials for informational and leisure reading,” and that “Reading extensively strengthens stamina and broadens students’ global perspective. The goal is to recognize individual students’ interests and needs and provide materials in a variety of formats, genres, and languages, at varied reading levels.” 

The Standards further state that “Students need the lifelong skills of selecting information from a wide variety of sources . . . preparing them for learning, doing, and problem solving in college, career and throughout life.” 

To ensure that school libraries support the “inquiry-based learning” that statewide standards call for, it is imperative that school library collections continue to provide access to materials that reflect a variety of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. The targeted elimination of materials that reflect the authorship or experiences of anyone based on their race, gender, or sexual orientation is not only illegal, it puts Utah students at a disadvantage academically and in the job market by failing to provide an education that prepares them for success in an increasingly diverse and global economy.

We support policies that provide reasonable opportunities for parents to speak with teachers and librarians about what is appropriate for their child. And we champion prudent procedures that allow for “requests for reconsideration” when there is concern that a book may not be age-appropriate. Most libraries have had these time-tested policies in place for a century, and librarians have strong records of listening and working with parents in taking appropriate actions in a respectful and responsive manner. 

Following the rules when library books are questioned–rules which are passed by a Board in an open, public, transparent, and consultative manner–protects the constitutional freedoms of all parents and students, and also safeguards due process, ensuring that no one parent, group of parents, or administrator can substitute their personal preferences, biases, or political agenda for the legitimate policies that exist to support official statewide school standards and the success of all students. 

School librarians are literary arbiters that curate their collections based on such legitimate policies, professional reviews, and award lists. This includes literature that reflects painful parts of human experience, including violence, abuse, and discrimination. To be clear, pornographic material is not reviewed for selection as these items only appeal to the “prurient interest” of readers, and lack serious literary, scientific, or artistic value. Labeling literature that addresses issues of race, abuse, gender, or sexual orientation as “pornographic” or “obscene” fails to meet any state or federal standards, and harms our students, limiting their ability to understand and navigate the world. 

And helping students prepare for success in the world is what school librarians do. There is a great deal of research that shows that students thrive academically in the presence of a well-staffed, professionally run school library and that the effect is strongest for vulnerable and at-risk students. School librarians help students develop a love of reading and inquiry, and as well as develop 21st century literacy skills such as critical thinking, which enables them to identify, find, evaluate, and use information and ideas effectively and ethically, now and in the future. 

The Utah Library Association supports the Supreme Court’s recognition that libraries are places for voluntary inquiry and should contain a world of ideas and experiences, even if some of those ideas and experiences might be uncomfortable for some. We urge parents, teachers, school librarians, and administrators to engage in community conversations and follow established collection development and reconsideration policies, as well as state and federal laws, to ensure the health, well-being, safety, and success of all students in Utah.