In the stark, honest and unexpected, for me at least, keynote address by Wayne Weigand, the audience heard fragments about the history of public school libraries that are not necessarily representative of the values of the library. He spoke of observations made from his research for his book Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library. In one instance, he told a story of a school librarian who worked in a community that challenged books with LGBTQ content. In this scenario, the librarian discreetly provided literature to those seeking this content. While this is a situation that goes against the Library Bill of Rights, the librarian served their community while serving a community of the disenfranchised. This is noble, this is just.
It is also in this session, that Ross Todd, associate professor of library and information science at Rutger’s University said,
“I have read the school library being the heart…brains of the school….I cringe when I hear these terms…I think it is a really timely challenge for us all to think about the language and labels that we ascribe to what we value” (Weigand, 2021).
When he said this, it struck me because for the past three years, I have been espousing this idea that the library should be the heart, and hub and brain, and piazza and skeleton of the school. However, it is not until Ross explains why this metaphor is problematic that I understand the gravity of the metaphor. Ross suggests that using this type of metaphor when referring to the library “puts us in competition…[and] isolates us rather than integrates us” (Weigand, 2021). This makes so much sense to me and while I still need time to reflect on these comments, I agree with Ross’s statement. Aren’t we lessening the vitalness of the music class, the ELA class, the science class when we assume that we are the most important place in the school? Perhaps then, we as librarians should start to view each class as its own person, as its own body with a heart, brain, etc. I don’t have an apt metaphor for the library in this new view that I have, but I’ll be working on that.
Weigand, W. (2021, July 12-16). Conference opening ceremony and keynote address by Wayne Weigand and panel. [Conference session]. IASL 2021 Annual Conference, Denton, TX, United States. https://iasl-online.org/event-3667867