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Susan O'Rourke | October 11, 2021

Librarians and technology facilitators have long been opening doors to other worlds for children and teens. From introducing students to real and imaginary places to guiding them through digital spaces, these specialists play an important role in building students’ information literacy and sparking creativity. Through their work, librarians and technology facilitators further help students discover more about the world and envision multiple futures for themselves.

Cognizant of the power of the page and digital media, these specialists have been leading the push to make libraries and media centers more equitable, inclusive, and globally-focused. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) recently reported on the benefits brought by specialists making cultural competency and inclusivity core values of their libraries and media centers. They explain that:

Research shows that cultural competency leads to responsive practice, improved services, and an increase in library use. More importantly, it leads to improved academic achievement, resiliency, expanded educational opportunities, and equitable life outcomes for youth of color, youth who identify as LGBT, youth experiencing homelessness, and youth who are incarcerated (Hanley & Noblit, 2009; GLSEN, 2014).

These sentiments are echoed by University of Washington Professor Emeritus Geneva Gay who recognizes the power that educators can have in breaking down institutional barriers for students.  She emphasizes:

Part of the argument of culturally responsive teaching is that there has been an incompatibility between the cultural filters that have been used to send instructional messages to students… culturally responsive teaching then says is that rather than always insisting that the students adapt to the culture of the school, the school needs to adapt and modify some of its sending messages—its sending mechanism.

Librarians and technology facilitators have worked to create culturally responsive services both through their own training through by advocating for more diversity on the bookshelves. YALSA’s Cultural Competence Taskforce, for example, has curated resources for specialists to learn about cultural competence, identify how to put it into practice, and strategize how to “help teens build cultural competence skills,” too. They advocate bringing in a rich catalog of books (not simply one or two) in which children and teens see themselves. Instead, librarians emphasize that children and teens need to see books that reflect the nuances of their cultural identities, showcase the variety of their experiences, and celebrate the individual dreams and aspirations they have.

UNC World View is excited to further support librarians and technology facilitators in this mission during our upcoming program, Strategies and Resources for a Global Media Center. We hope you’ll join us on November 18th for a generative discussion of the power of equitable and inclusive libraries and media centers in advancing global education in North Carolina’s schools. In the meantime, take a look through the following resources for librarians, technology specialists, and educators:

Contextual Information:

Resources for Diversifying the Bookshelf