One of the things that most impressed me about professional librarianship is the strong ethical stance we take for the protection of privacy, equity, freedom of information, intellectual freedom and serving a diverse public. Right now in our country the Trump administration is advancing new executive orders at a rapid clip, and some Republican lawmakers are advancing bills, aimed squarely at curtailing rights, slashing equity, opposing freedoms and infringing on privacy. Right after the election, we feared that bullying and racism might become more prevalent, so in support of civility and in an effort to create an atmosphere of love and not hate, I created signs that we hung in the library and in the office promoting LOVE (AMA) and asking kids to stand up for one another.
The recent executive orders related to controlling immigration, both inside our borders (carried out with ICE raids) and for people entering our nation (travel bans and walls) have made things even worse, a direct blow on the diverse immigrant population I serve at my school. From imposing a ‘Muslim Ban’ to preparing to build a wall between the US and Mexico, to shutting our door to refugees, to doubling the ICE force and implementing new raids to arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants) our local children with brown skin and different religions and their families are living in fear and are feeling uncertain of their future. I have heard from my teacher colleagues that our kids are worried, and they reflect this in their writing and share their insecurities about this new era with their teachers and teacher aids. I heard that new families are not registering little ones for TK or next year, fearing any kind of official documentation that might put their family at risk.
As a school librarian who strives to uphold an ethical code to serve my learning community, I have an obligation to support my students-no matter who they are or how they came here. The American Library Association Policy Manual’s section on Diversity states that “Libraries can and should play a crucial role in empowering diverse populations for full participation in a democratic society.” (Section B.3) The policy further states that the library needs to combat racism and discrimination and “Support anti-racism work within the broader society by monitoring, evaluating and advocating for human rights and equity legislation, regulations, policy and practice.” (Section B.3.3) To that end, I am looking for ways to help immigrant families in our school to understand the recent changes, understand their rights, and also know that our school library is a safe place for them to come and get information without fear of deportation or discrimination.
Teaching Tolerance Magazine has been a helpful resource to me for years, but the latest issue’s article Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff is a practical toolkit that I really need now as I seek make a difference for kids in my school who are fearful right now. The article provides practical information so I might effectively collaborate with teachers and civil rights and immigrant leaders in the region to provide relevant, accurate and very much needed information to families at my school. I don’t have the expert advice myself, but I know that the library at my school site and at other schools in the district are a good places to host information workshops on civil rights of immigrants and refugees. I’m hoping to host evening workshops at our secondary school libraries that provide information and consultation on immigrant rights and what steps families should take in case of emergency.
Why a school library? The Teaching Tolerance article explains that a policy memorandum for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency from 2011 prohibits ICE agents from enforcement at “sensitive locations” including schools, churches, hospitals, public rallies and funerals, weddings and religious ceremonies. However, we must be alert and notice if this changes, since this policy could be altered by the administration at any time. Regarding student privacy rights, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) states that schools may not share any information about a student’s immigration status with federal agents with out a parent’s consent. With those protections in place, the school is positioned to be a safe environment to gather people and let them know about laws, rights and community resources that might help them. What many local districts have done (but not my own district yet) has made a public statement of solidarity and safety to immigrant families. Many have been standing up at the School Board meetings, but no statement for a Safe Haven District has been made, even though the Petaluma City Council has declared itself a
The guide provides a checklist of 15 actions that school staff can do to help this population of students, including creating safe havens, provide counseling, distributing literature about rights and resources, issue public statements in support of the immigrant community, maintain strong relationships with local agencies and non profits that support immigrant communities, and partner with a pro bono attorney. This list is compiled mostly from information gathered by the American Federation of Teachers and an non profit for immigrant youth justice called United We Dream.
Apparently this is not the first time Libraries have faced this issue. The American Library Association made a formal resolution back in 2006-2007 at the Midwinter Meeting in support of immigrant rights (see box below). This ALA webpage offers a strong collection of books, resources and articles to support the work of libraries who serve immigrant populations. New links and resources have been added since January to this growing collection in response to President Trump’s executive actions.
WHEREAS, America’s immigrants are strong and valuable part of the social fabric of this nation; and
WHEREAS, The ALA Library Bill of Rights states that a person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views; and
WHEREAS, The library community opposes all attempts at the local, state and federal level to restrict access to information by immigrants; and
WHEREAS, Restriction of access is a direct violation of the ALA Library Bill of Rights and Policy #60, Diversity, which states that “The American Library Association (ALA) promotes equal access to information for all persons and recognizes the ongoing need to increase awareness of and responsiveness to the diversity of the communities we serve”; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That ALA strongly supports the protection of each person’s civil liberties, regardless of that individual’s nationality, residency, or status; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That ALA opposes any legislation that infringes on the rights of anyone in the USA or its territories, citizens or otherwise, to use library resources, programs, and services on national, state, and local levels.”
I know I have a busy schedule, and a full plate of projects and responsibilities from work to family to graduate school, but this work is too important to brush aside. I’m pledging to be a leader on my campus and work with colleagues to support the families of our students at a time when they are fearing their safety and uncertain about their future. I’m pledging to be an advocate for those people in my community that cannot speak out because they fear deportation. I’m going to do my best to go through this checklist of 15 actions listed in the Teaching Tolerance article, and I’m pledging to collaborate with others in my network to support these families.
ALA Policy Manual: B.3. Diversity. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Library Association website: http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual/updatedpolicymanual/section2/diversity
Libraries Respond: Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers. (n.d.). Retrieved
March 9, 2017, from American Library Association website:
Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff. (2017, Spring). Teaching Tolerance, (55). Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-55-spring-2017/feature/immigrant-and-refugee-children-guide-educators-and-school-su