Here is my story:
A long time ago, when I was a Primary School Librarian, a parent came up to me in the Library and asked me to take off all the fairy tale stories from our primary collection. She remarked that the fairy tales were full of violence and were inappropriate for children. Many fairy tales have evil parents who send their children away, ugly beasts that kidnap children and mistreat them. She said, “These stories place parents in poor light, especially the story of Cinderella, where the stepmother is evil.” She questioned me, “do you think all stepmothers are evil? Is the goal of Cinderella to only marry the Prince and live happily ever after?”
In Hansel and Gretel, the father asks the children to leave their home? The children are stranded in the forest with an evil witch who wants to boil the children? What about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? It belittles the role of parents. These are just a few examples from 100s of examples that we encounter.
What do Librarians do for building a collection?
A dynamic librarian will provide a variety of books that include fairytales, becoming of age stories like Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, Talking Of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar, Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar, Daddy Come Lately by Rupa Gulab, Asmara’s Summer by Andaleeb Wajid are just a few examples. Check out other additional titles.
As librarians, we include picture books with unconventional stories like The Tree Boy by Srividhya Venkat, Nayantara Surendranath, Puu by CG Salamander, Samidha Gunjal, Sadiq Wants to Stitch by Mamta Nainy, Niloufer Wadia Ritu weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar and more titles.
Discussing sensitive topics that deal with gender and the caste system is very complex. However, we must find ways to address them with an open mind without sharing our strong opinions by providing a platform for discussion, where there is respect, kindness, and acceptance of different views and voices. Stories like these will give healthy discussions while igniting empathy. Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in Our Times, Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability, and here is another list of nonfiction for older students in secondary school.
Evolving School and Growing Libraries
If schools need to transform, the library collection must evolve and create a collection of print and digital resources that provide different perspectives that include historical and current ideas.
Students are curious. Children want to read books that reflect different communities, lifestyles, and perspectives. The library collection provides opportunities to learn new things. As librarians, we want to bring in a unique collection of books stories that provide perspectives and courage to change and evolve.
Evolving Society and Libraries
As our society evolves, we as librarians want to rise above hypocrisy and double standards. Librarians want to grow and provide a progressive collection of resources to meet the students’ changing needs. What can librarians do to ensure they are progressive and meet the needs of the students while supporting the school and parent community.
Our modern children want to learn about present-day problems, ways of life about gay rights, same-sex marriages, gender equality, and the treatment of privileged versus the unprivileged classes. Schools and libraries want to introduce new literature. However, some parents who find these topics uncomfortable and challenging resist these stories.
What can Librarians do?
Some of the considerations to evolve as a progressive librarian, we must
- Learn and read the school’s school vision, mission, and culture.
- Understand the national textbooks. Use the Preamble of the constitution embedded in the textbook to develop your school’s collection to build an inclusive collection.
- Identify the curriculum of your school.
- Create a selection policy that says that the collection development meets the school policy’s needs and the progressive expectations of a global community.
- Create a reconsideration policy for individuals who want to restrict books in the Library
A reconsideration policy is created to ensure that there is transparency in the process of banning or stopping the circulation of books to a particular class or for circulation.
Librarians are often confronted by community members, either parents or teachers, to ban or withdraw books from their class or the school library. Creating a reconsideration policy for removing books from the collection will allow an open discussion to hear the community member’s voices and allow a democratic process of including books or withdrawing the books from the Library.
The librarian and the curriculum coordinator can draft a document called the reconsideration policy procedure to allow members of the community to voice their opinion of individuals who desire to withdraw or ban particular titles from the collection or stop the circulation of books.
Taking the reconsideration in a very optimistic view, the librarian must keep the larger picture in mind because India is a secular democratic country. Most education system promotes open-mindedness, critical thinking, and cultural competency. It is imperative to create a tolerant mindset if views and opinions do not match your own. Each individual is entitled to their perspective.
Here are details in Creating a challenge/reconsideration of resources for withdrawal.