We Must Protect School Librarians at All Costs

Aug 15, 2023 5:05:17 PM


As book bans continue to be a significant issue in our country, it’s only right that I take a page from President Obama’s playbook and honor the librarians across the nation who are on the frontlines, fighting to maintain our access to books that honor the intersectional identities of all children. In 2023 alone, there have been reports of librarian layoffs and/or proposed school library closings in Texas, Oregon, Virginia, and many other states. We’ve also heard reports of librarians in states like Colorado, New Jersey, and Kansas getting fired and/or facing criminal charges for opposing the book bans in their respective states. According to a report by the School Librarian Investigation - Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) Project:

Approximately 1,800 full-time school librarians have lost their jobs over the course of the pandemic, and that number continues to grow as I write.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the honor of learning about the brilliance of school librarians and media specialists from phenomenal librarians such as Julia Torres, K.C. Boyd, Sandra Albino, Forrest Evans, Billy Allen, and so many more. These people are more than librarians. They are scholars, activists, keynote speakers, and—most importantly—educators! For far too long, their work has been undervalued and disregarded by too many folx. At a time when children’s books are under attack, we need them more than ever.  

In elementary and middle school, it was a privilege to visit the school library and search through multiple bookshelves to find my favorite books.  The school library was a sanctuary for bookworms and introverts like myself who just wanted to hide from the physical world and find a quiet space to lose ourselves in a book. It was in the school library where I first learned how to be a critical information researcher and developed the essential tools that I would ultimately apply to write multiple thesis papers and essays throughout my college years. The school library wasn’t just a storage room for hundreds of books; it was a classroom like no other!

With social media, AI, and other advanced technologies, too many children lose out on what it’s like to be fully immersed in the unique world of a school library.

With the surge of book banning this country is experiencing (along with ongoing anti-CRT and anti-LGBTQIA legislation) we have a rare opportunity to reverse this trend. 

Learn more about the current state of school librarians and how you can join the fight to defend our children’s right to read books that serve as their mirrors and windows. Here are some resources:

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You" and his latest, "From Inaction to 'In Action': Creating a New Normal for Urban Educators". Throughout his 14-year career as a middle school math educator, author, and entrepreneur, Kwame has been on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and around the world. As a staunch ambassador and advocate for teacher empowerment, Kwame has spoken at numerous national education conferences and worked diligently to support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in the education system. In January 2019, he was one of 35 Massachusetts teachers of color chosen by Commissioner Jeff Riley to be in the inaugural cohort of the InSPIRED (In-Service Professionals Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity) Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for veteran teachers of color to recruit students of color at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to teach in targeted districts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an InSPIRED Teaching Fellow, Kwame facilitated professional development workshops for aspiring teachers at universities such as Boston College, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University and has served as a guest speaker for non-profit teacher pipeline programs such as Generation Teach and Worcester Public Schools’ Future Teachers Academy. A proud graduate of Temple University, Kwame holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in education. He was honored as the 2019 National Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. for his unwavering commitment to the advancement of the teacher profession.

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