Friday, July 19, 2013

The Underdocumented and Multiculturalism
Anne Frank stands as a symbol for
respect for human differences.

"My teenage years were a crossroad. They were the point where I learned the contradictions between what I had been told and what was....I didn't know it, but I was learning about life through these novels---a different depiction of life than what the media was selling me..." [Getting Diverse Books Into the Hands of Teen Readers: How do We Do It?]
"Of the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank." - John F. Kennedy, 1960

Both archival materials and books have the power to help people see the world in a different way. The materials written and created by humankind can speak to diversity and tolerance. Archives and literature can work hand-in-hand to shed light on our differences as well as showing our sameness. The idea that we are not alone and that diverse peoples share remarkably similar feelings -- can exhibit strength AND insecurities -- is important to both express and share.

I often talk about how archivists and librarians should work together, but I am extending my thinking even further. I am realizing just how seamlessly we can work together to reach diverse audiences. This summer I am taking a Children's and YA Literature class to gain my certification as a school information specialist. This week we are talking about "multiculturalism" in children's literature.

Multiculturalism Defined

1. of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures  [Merriam Webster]

2. Celebrating human diversity by willingly promoting legal, political, and social recognition of cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences. [Business]

3. a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

In the world of archives, we can use the idea of multiculturalism with our practice of creating diverse collections, including our goals as archivists to document the under-documented. Connect cultural institutions to the classroom and use multiple types of resources to make connections to the real world.
  • Bring primary documents (diaries, letters and the like) into the classroom alongside literary works to better explain realistic fiction. Ideas come from somewhere. Making the connections would be beneficial for education on many levels. Much has been written on how students (and adults) need to make connections between classes and "the real world". This is another reason why and how.

    In fact, Anne Frank's diary was edited to remove some of the more sexual content that was deemed unseemly in 1947. [I am wondering how sexual content can be more unseemly than a girl hiding in an attic in fear of her life, but that relates to censorship. That is actually my other class topic for the week, but I will save that for another post.] However, this is what students need to read, so they can see that their typical thoughts and feelings ARE typical. So that they see that people "different" from them are only human too. Anne Frank is the best known example of archival material that does this, but every small community has its own cultural items that can also make connections between people.
  • Bring literature into the archives to show connections between first person events and the stories that we concoct to explain our reality or getting us thinking. We can bring the literature in by connecting to it in our access tools. Our finding aids can include a bibliographic section that reads: "For more information on this subject, or for a look at how these types of materials have influenced the literary world, see..." We can also use books in our archival exhibits and programming.
Librarians and archivists need to get talking about shared collection development. How can we work together to promote diversity and knowledge? How can our collections play off each other? We should not be operating in separate spheres when our materials have similar things to say. We have shared purposes and different terminology.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I Am A Student Again When I Think All I May Want to Be is a Beach Bum

I just got home from the beach...


Now I need to study.
Today was the start of my first formal graduate level class in twenty years. As an un-certified school media specialist, I need to get certified. So here I am, taking Advanced Children's and Young Adult Literature. 


I am a student again. I wonder, is it possible that I am too old for this? That can't be. I pride myself on being a lifelong learner, yet this feels so different. This feels a little scary.

Not only do I need to get certified as part of my new school journey, (It still hasn't quite sunk in that I work as an information specialist / librarian in a high school. Since summer arrived for me a week ago, my past school year seems almost like a dream.) I need to prove something to myself, or somebody, or many somebodies.

Do I?

The course is fully online. I've never done that before. How DO we do "discussions" there? I have to post to a forum if I have a question rather than getting in touch with the teacher? We're reading YA books and picture books. Picture books? I've enjoyed them with my kid, but am I out of my league here?

I am an expert. But not here. I feel like a freshman. (poor freshmen!)

But then I look at a gift my daughter recently gave me that sits upon my desk. As part of a special writing group with which she is involved, she was required to write about her Mommy and to create a portrait of me to go with it.

She wrote:

The humming of the projector is barely heard as my Mom's confident voice practices her book talk for me. The book picture shines brightly on the light colored wall. My mother is magnificent. Not only is she a high school librarian, but she works in archives. Whenever she needs to practice a presentation, I watch her. It makes her happy and me too! Although my Mom is busy, she still makes sure we get lots of mother/daughter time. I learn so much from my Mother and if you ever met her, you would too!




I have big shoes to fill and they are my own. At least in a little girl's eyes. 

Students need to see their teachers as lifelong learners and my daughter needs to see me do this.

And I can.

I just can't guarantee that all my summer blog posts will be smashing. Something may have to give here.

I head back to my high school tomorrow to figure out how I'm going to remove shelving to make room for book and archives processing. I need to rearrange the reference collection and weed it to make room for a new textbook collection. I need to find great signs and take in the new books I ordered a little too late in May...

I need to work on my Voice Library project for ArchivesInfo.

I need to read "The One and Only Ivan" for my class. I can start there on this new trip. Ivan looks pretty cute. Is he the elephant or the gorilla on this book that sits near my elbow?

Maybe it's a good beach read...