Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 9 January 2024

The following post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by a team of OCLC contributors.

National Day of Racial Healing

Text in painted text in script reading "The time is always right to do what is right MLK"
Photo by Darold Pinnock on Unsplash

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been officially commemorated since 1986 as a federal holiday in the United States on the third Monday in January (in 2024, 15 January).  Since 2017, the Tuesday following MLK Day has been designated as the National Day of Racial Healing, “a time to contemplate our shared values and create the blueprint together for #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism,” according to the host, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.   For the 16 January 2024, observation of NDORH, WebJunction has created a useful page on the “2024 National Day of Racial Healing”, full of resources, suggestions, and ideas for libraries and their communities. 

With some powerful people and organizations doing their best to suppress the teaching of fact-based history, to promote misleading and false narratives of both past and present, and to deny the very need for societal healing, it is more vital than ever to actively work for truthfulness and equity.  Contributed by Jay Weitz.

Inclusive collections for Supercharged Storytimes 

Storytimes can be transformative for children, offering them the chance to imagine possible futures for themselves. This opportunity begins with librarians, and the stories they select for their storytimes. Look around your community and consider which books in your collection reflect the experiences of the families you serve. Do the children who come to your storytime see themselves in the books you select? How might you include stories that enable children to learn about experiences other than their own? Explore a new set of selection tools and resources, Inclusive Collections for Supercharged Storytimes, to inform your curation of diverse, inclusive collections for your storytime programs and help ensure that the children who participate experience a sense of belonging and can broaden their worldviews.  

Last fall the WebJunction team spent focused time updating and improving one of our most popular courses. Whether you’re one of the more than 1,200 learners who’ve completed the course or are brand new to it, we encourage you to explore the Supercharged Storytimes course for a wealth of resources about children’s early literacy. The course includes more than 30 videos on topics like phonological awareness, vocabulary, involving parents and caregivers in storytimes, and building equitable communities. Contributed by Jennifer Peterson. 

Federal judge blocks enforcement of Iowa law banning school library books, gender identity instruction 

On 29 December 2023, a federal judge ruled that an Iowa law requiring schools to remove books depicting sex acts and prohibiting instruction about gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through sixth grades cannot be enforced while a legal challenge continues, according to the Des Moines Register. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher wrote Iowa Senate File 496’s requirement that schools remove any books with a description or visual depiction of a “sex act” is “incredibly broad” and “unlikely to satisfy the First Amendment under any standard of scrutiny.” He noted that schools have removed history books, Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, and books about sexual assault survivors because of the restriction. Additionally, Senate File 496 bars any program, promotion, or instruction about “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” in kindergarten through sixth grade. Locher argued that “on its face, the law prohibits any programs, promotion, or instruction recognizing that anyone is male or female or in a relationship of any sort (gay or straight). The statute is therefore content neutral but so wildly overbroad that every school district and elementary school teacher in the state has likely been violating it since the day the school year started.” The ruling came in separate injunction requests, one brought by the GLBT Youth in Iowa Task Force and the other by Penguin Random House Books and the Iowa State Education Association, just days before penalties for violating the law had been scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2024. The two lawsuits, which argue the law is not constitutional, will continue to advance through the courts until a final ruling is reached. 

We have seen an exponential increase in the number of state and local bill proposals to ban books in school and public libraries, most often because the books express alternate viewpoints from minority communities. We must continue to promote diversity in our library collections (as well as in our classrooms) to protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans. Contributed by Morris Levy