2.3 Respect for Diversity
Candidates demonstrate the ability to develop a collection of reading and information materials in print and digital formats that support developmental, cultural, social, and linguistic needs of P-12 students and their communities.
“It’s not all about you.” I have learned that as a school librarian, these words must become my collection development mantra. After three courses with professor Kay Craig, this minute but essential message of school library wisdom is nestled firmly in amongst the broader topics of learning: completing a materials order, selecting quality hi-lo fiction, etc. Kay taught me that a school library must not fall prey to selecting materials based on her own personal interests. Rather, a school librarian must truly consider her clientele and provide them with diverse reading and informational resources to support the school community’s developmental, cultural, social, and linguistic needs. My materials order, with accompanying curriculum chart based on the course sequence at Century High School in Carroll County, exemplifies my planning and respect for diverse needs in the school library.
The high school materials order form is subdivided into print and nonprint media, with nonprint including digital format items. Within these formats, personal information/enjoyment needs are addressed, as well as specific core and elective curricular needs. Developmentally speaking, the items included in my materials order range from hi-lo books such as Home is Beyond the Mountains, Cirque du Freak, and Storm in the Barn to more advanced texts such as Early British Poetry: Words that Burn. Included materials range from books thematically appropriate for students as young as sixth grade to books marketed more heavily toward adult audiences, such as David Small’s Stitches. Materials support the core curricular offerings from The Thoreau You Don’t Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, which aligns with the H Survey of American Literature course to the Social Explorer databases, which provides demographic information perfect for use in relevant AP Statistics lessons. The materials are varied enough to meet the students on their individual developmental levels.
It became clear, after I completed a community and school analysis for Century, that our collection grossly underserved prominent topics in elective courses, such as Technical Theater, which indicate some of our students’ personal interest needs and potential career and college specialties. Perhaps more importantly, these subject areas need attention because our librarian noted that the instance of elective classes using the library for research has sharply increased over the past few years. These classes often come to the library more frequently than the academic classes because of the inherent testing pressure in core classes. While this is a disappointing trend in terms of the decline of core classes using the library, it is important to keep the elective classes coming back by providing rich and timely resources to meet their needs. I therefore focused heavily on developing the breadth of elective course offerings reflected in our collection: Agriculture in History (Ag/Sci courses), The Blue Movement: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music (AP Music Theory), Ceramics for Beginners: Surfaces, Glazes, and Firing (Ceramics), and In Fashion: From Runway to Retail, Everything You Need to Know to Break into the Fashion Industry (FACS Clothing). I also suggested the purchase of a new digital database, Dramatic Learning, to serve the Drama department and related organizations.
A number of the materials order items serve double-duty, corresponding not only with course curricula but also with the specific cultural needs of the school. The selections cover subjects of African American culture (our largest minority group), such as jazz music, tap dancing, the Civil Rights Movement, and redefining the African American identity. Other topics , such as Chinese culture, multicultural historical fiction, multicultural farming history, and homosexuality address smaller minority populations and were selected based on the need for more expansive materials aligning with the education that is multicultural subset of our school improvement plan. Given our suburban, vastly Caucasian population, these resources are essential for preparing our students for life in a diverse global climate. I have also included books dealing with the often ignored multicultural topics of physical, mental, and emotional differences. Examples are the book A Blue So Dark by Schindler, which explores the difficulties of caring for a parent with mental illness, and Marcelo in the Real World, a fictional exploration into the world of a teen with autism.
The materials order also meets the diverse social needs of the school community. I have included items dealing with a number of teen social issues: romantic relationships, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, mental illness, loss of loved ones, parent/child relationships, divorce, obesity, eating disorders. Many of our students struggle with these issues in their everyday lives and can relate to the protagonists in fictional texts. In this vein of teen social issues, I also included a DVD called The Dangers of Sexting: What Teens Need to Know which could be used by the guidance department for parent inservice and student advisory lessons. This has become an increasingly common educational and legal issue with very serious permanent ramifications for students. Other materials emphasize a global social awareness. For example, the Social Explorer digital database features articles on current sociological topics and issues in American society. Similarly, the book The Road of Lost Innocence provides information concerning child enslavement in Cambodian brothels.
The materials order displays linguistically varied materials ranging, as mentioned above, from those suitable for low readers to complex literary criticism, all the way up to a text intended for use primarily with the very popular AP English Language and Composition course, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of Proper English from Shakespeare to South Park. The Lexicographer’s Dilemma provides an analytical and rhetorical perspective on the English language which is needed for the advanced linguistic studies of the advanced placement course. In my graphic format selections, I also included versions of the classics Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray to provided tiered text options for students who are challenging themselves with a course like H British Literature but may be struggling with the higher level linguistic demands of their reading.
Reflecting now a year later on my selections, I would like to build on my existing order to incorporate additional materials reflecting more diverse linguistic needs, beyond the English language. This would be particularly important for our ESOL population (predominantly Latino and Vietnamese) and our foreign language courses (especially our swiftly growing French program.) I would be interested in finding core-curriculum related texts in the students’ native languages that they could use as supplements to help improve their academic performance. Our French classes contain a unit where the students design French children’s books after reading several published works. Most of our library holdings in this area are quite outdated, and I would want to weed the area and select new titles for students in these courses to use.
School librarians have often entered the field at least in part because of their passion for books, but it is important when serving the school community in this role to rein in excitement over materials pertaining to your own personal interests. As wonderful as it might be to have a budget of thousands of dollars just for your own personal reading and edification, the reality is that these funds are allocated to develop a robust collection of print and digital resources that support the developmental, cultural, social, and linguistic needs of the students and the larger school community. Through vigilant maintenance of records pertaining to curricular alignment and school/community demographics, a school librarian can maintain her bearings in regards to the types of materials from which her constituents will truly benefit.