I’ve attended an ALA Annual and Midwinter before, but it’s been a while, so I was excited to have the opportunity to attend ALA Virtual this year. The nice thing about this online format is that many of the panels were recorded and available to watch outside of their scheduled time.
I watched a panel called Healing Reading Trauma: Rebuilding a Love of Reading Through Libraries for Liberation and it was great. This panel talked about how things like standardized tests, lack of meaningful representation, shaming of book choices, and more can be traumatic for kids and what libraries can do to help rekindle a love of reading. One of the biggest takeaways for me was when one of the presenters said “I would much rather lose a book than a reader” and I will definitely be keeping that in mind. Another point that I found helpful was that often times trauma-centered narratives are chosen as the diverse option, but we should also have diverse representation in joyful stories.
Another panel I found helpful, particularly in our current times, was Are the Kids Okay? How Librarians Can Use Literature to Help Kids Navigate Socioemotional Stress. One of the authors on the panel talked about wanting to write a book about mental illness without a suicide attempt and with a pathway to joy, partly so youth would be able to see that you should be able to ask for help for depression and anxiety even if you don’t feel suicidal. Another thing I took away from this panel was making resources on mental illness available in a more grab and go fashion, so teens would be able to find resources without having to disclose anything they’re not comfortable discussing, as that can be a barrier to seeking help. They also talked about how now that we’ve had to pivot to more online interactions, that’s a great opportunity to provide resources on mental illness with anonymity.
I also watched Suggesting Own Voices to All Readers: EDI and RA Service. The presenters talked about how books written by diverse authors are for everyone, all the time and how different perspectives can breathe new life into old tropes and stories. Part of recommending own voices stories is having the books in your collection. The presenters suggested starting small and not trying to diversify everything all at once, but by starting with your most popular collections. They identified a classic pitfall of adding diverse books to the collection as only seeing the books when they don’t circulate well, but not keeping them in mind for displays and book lists outside of cultural affinity months.