There is an article on the SLJ blog that speaks to the service needs of conservative teens, Serving Conservative Teens. When I saw the title it made me think about the zeitgeist that’s pushing toward ever more inclusivity as evidenced by the #weneeddiversebooks campaign. The movement brings to mind books for kids of color, books for those who are not white, straight, middle class and able-bodied. In my mind and at a glance it’s about getting away from Anne of Green Gables as much as possible. But that’s not really inclusive is it? We’ve just swung the pendulum from right to left instead of snatching the beam down entirely and putting everyone on the same playing field.

Here’s a bit from the article:


In the end, “conservative” seems accurate to describe my subject here: teens who prefers not to read about certain kinds of things—sex, drug use, and teens who are perceived as being bad influences—in their recreational reading. Other types of conservative voices might get themselves into trouble with libraries by demanding that books be removed from these public spaces due to religiously motivated concerns. My patrons, however, may not be asking you to remove anything. Rather, they might simply request that you include more titles from different perspectives.

I had to take a look at the books I like to read and the books that I choose for my library and my book talks. I’ve steered away from purchasing Christian fiction, which to some may seem odd because I am a Christian, but I felt that the library was a place to explore the world without limits on appropriate behavior. This may be wrong. What I should be doing is making sure that I include fiction from that perspective and from that of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and other faiths. I’d erroneously taken the position that a democratic space is a completely secular space, but that’s wrong. An equal space is that in which everyone is served and are free to make their own choices.

So as a librarian I have an obligation to my teens to provide access to books that push their buttons and make them look at the world with uncovered eyes like Push by Sapphire. But I must also make sure that once they’ve made a choice to fill their minds with stories that reflect a more traditional view of life like Stephanie Perry Moore’s  A Love Like No Other, I have that also. The commitment is to the student, to trust that they can choose for themselves what life they would like to read. They CAN make that choice and we have to let them make it without fear that the choice that they make is the wrong one.

Thoughts?

5 Comments

  1. Cynthia Leitich Smith

    Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing! In case it's a comfort… I can't speak for everyone at the WNDB team, but my take is that diversity of faith/religion is absolutely within the goals of the larger movement. And, as an author speaker and children's-YA writing teacher, I've expressly included that element in my talks about Writing Within and Across Identity Markers for some time.

    • shannamiles

      I think there has to be an effort on all or our parts to apply equal weight to all identity markers because one or another isn't always dominant. I think that depending on a number of factors race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation can be dominant.

  2. Allan Moorer

    It was refreshing to read your post which to me reflected a dedication to the proper function of a librarian. But, it made me wonder if this was a personal mission statement, or one that must be followed by all librarians. If its personal I commend you for such and enlightened perspective, but I wonder about the perspective of other librarian's. If it's a mission of all librarians than I am simply quite relieved. In the end it still seems to comes down to the librarian's choice and I suspect that the individual paradigm of each librarian would still drive the selections. I realized from your post how little I know about your field and its been a year since I have been in a library, thanks for the enlightening information.

    • shannamiles

      Ideallly all librarians take a democratic approach to their collections and seek to meet the needs of their individual student populations while also providing materials for them to explore other perspectives. This kind of autonomy can be a double edged sword where on one hand you have the opportunity to cultivate a collection full of titles that students may never be able to read in any other place but the school library (for example, books by Fred Hampton and Assata Shakur). Then on the other hand you also have the responsibility not to exclude voices (some may find Shakur and Hampton to be subversives and undeserving of shelf space). I always encourage my fellow librarians to collect voices from the margins as well as the majority.

  3. Charles

    I applaud your approach to make the library an equal space where all genres of literature are welcome.

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