Staff Highlight: Christina Taylor, TSLAC’s Youth Services Consultant

As part of our effort to make sure you know who the staff here at the Texas State Library are, we would like to periodically highlight staff members that you may at some point come in contact with! For our next staff highlight of 2021, I interviewed Christina Taylor, Library Development and Networking (LDN)’s new Youth Services Consultant on the Continuing Education and Consulting (CEC) team)!

Portrait of Christina Taylor, Woman smiling
Christina Taylor, Youth Services Consultant

What are your job responsibilities at TSLAC?
As the Youth Services Consultant, I will work towards ensuring Texas libraries are knowledgeable about and have the resources to implement youth services that meet the needs of their communities. To that end, I will lead projects for internal, statewide, and national initiatives relating to youth services.

What projects are you excited to get started with?
As a fervent advocate for comics and graphic novels, I am extremely excited to help Texas libraries enhance the robustness of those collections and leverage their impact on empowerment, learning, and lifelong joy as they serve their communities. Furthermore, I am eager to amplify libraries’ community engagement, advocacy, and outreach efforts via social media.

What was the last book you read/movie you watched/podcast or song you listened to that you enjoyed?
This past year I’ve read so many books that were balm for my soul in the face of recent social unrest. My newest love is The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. This graphic novel is an intensely gentle story of a mother and son who must navigate the shifting landscape of their relationship as they struggle with language barriers and a lack context for fully understanding each other. Outside of the luscious visuals and the backmatter expounding upon the writer’s craft, what I love most about this story is that it is rooted in a very personal tale of unconditional love that refuses to be unseated by anything. The mother’s love is and will always be a safe haven for her son even when she doesn’t have the words to express it or the ability to fully understand who he is. Every person deserves to be loved like that.

Some other gems that I’ve discovered are Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and its copious spin-offs, Shanna Swendson’s Rebel series, and H.E. Edgmon’s The Witch King series. I’m finding that speculative fiction is a wonderful means of helping me contextualize topical concerns while providing just enough abstraction to mitigate being overwhelmed by them.

What is something about you that people don’t know?
My passion for vintage glamour is a critical part of what defines me. It is rooted in beloved childhood memories of my grandmother, echoed in the person of my mother, and exhibited by so many fierce women that I’ve had the honor of knowing personally or admiring from afar. It is—without a doubt—a physical manifestation of my better self and who I continually strive to be!

What drew you to this position?
I was drawn to this position because of the opportunities it affords me to promote learning and library work throughout the state and beyond. As a lifelong educator, I am thrilled that I can build upon my prior work and use it as a foundation for enhancing the service capacity of libraries and the library community.

New TSLAC Program: REFORMA Scholarship Opportunity!

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is pleased to announce a new opportunity for bilingual library staff at public libraries to virtually attend the REFORMA National Conference scheduled for November 4-7, 2021. The scholarship will fund REFORMA National conference registration and include participation in the REFORMA pre-conference Leadership Institute. TSLAC’s REFORMA Scholarship will fund 15 time-sensitive scholarships of up to $400 to bilingual library staff at public libraries providing services to Spanish-speaking communities to attend the 2021 REFORMA National Conference. Applications open on Friday, July 9, 2021, and will close on Sunday, August 1, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

REFORMA National Conference VII. 50th Anniversary Celebration, November 4-7, 2021 - Virtual.
Visit the REFORMA National Conference VII webpage to learn more about the conference.

REFORMA is the premier national association dedicated to library service to Spanish Speakers. Spanish is the second-most common language in Texas and is only estimated to continue to grow. As a result, TSLAC has developed the REFORMA Scholarship program to provide more effective library services that meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the communities we serve. This scholarship is for Texas bilingual library workers who speak English and Spanish. Scholarship recipients should be committed to providing library services for their Spanish-speaking community. Applicants will be asked to self-identify their Spanish proficiency level in writing, reading, and speaking as either beginner, intermediate, or advanced. The program is also designed to better support Texas’ Spanish Speaking library workers and community members.

Expectations: If chosen to participate, the applicant will virtually attend the REFORMA National Conference with the option to participate in the pre-conference Leadership Institute. Following the virtual conference, scholarship recipients will be expected to participate in a post-conference meetup to discuss their conference experience and will be required to submit a 1-2 page conference summary within 6 weeks of attendance.

The Notice of Funding Opportunity can be found in full here:
REFORMA 2021 Conference Scholarship Notice of Funding Opportunity

Contact Information: For more information, including requirements and eligibility, please refer to the REFORMA Scholarships webpage. Office Hours for the REFORMA Scholarship will be held at the following times:

  • Tuesday, July 13 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 22 at 10:00 a.m.

To request a Zoom link, email Laura Tadena at ltadena@tsl.texas.gov.

If you need assistance with the application process or have further questions, please contact Laura Tadena, Equity and Inclusion Consultant, Program Coordinator at ltadena@tsl.texas.gov, or the Grants Administrator at grants@tsl.texas.gov. This project is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to TSLAC under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

Library Highlights from Pride Month

In honor of Pride Month, we would like to highlight some of the amazing library programming and services happening in our Texas libraries that are designed to support, recognize, and celebrate our LGBTQIA community. The LGBTQIA community is essential to our libraries, and we are excited to showcase programs and services that celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion in our Texas libraries.

Programming and events

San Antonio Public Libraries kicked off Pride Month with a virtual short film event using Discord. SAPL hosted Rainbow Films: Shorts Night (for Teens), where attendees could virtually attended the screening of various films with LGBTQ+ characters and/or directors. The films were hand-selected by a Teen Pride workgroup at SAPL. (May 25, 2021).

Austin Public Library hosted Paint with Pride, a partnership with Dougherty Arts Center and Austin Public Library, where attendees can participate in a larger than life “paint by numbers” mural celebrating Pride and community. Attendees could sign up for a painting time using a virtual link and then show up to paint a mural section. Events were held every Saturday throughout the month of June 2021).

North Branch Library, Denton Public Library hosted a craft event to celebrate Pride. North Branch Library with DPL welcomed attendees to celebrate Pride by creating DIY bracelets and keychain crafts.

Pride celebration banner image from North Branch Library with Denton Public Library
Pride Celebration event hosted by North Branch Library with Denton Public Library

Dallas Public Library celebrated Pride Month by hosting many fun programs to celebrate, honor, and highlight LGBTW history and achievement, including Queer Reads Book ClubDrag King Werkshop, and PRIDE Jeopardy. These are just a few of the programs hosted by DPL. For a complete list of the pride programming offered by DPL throughout the month of June, visit their PRIDE 2021 webpage.  

McKinney Public Library celebrated Pride with a virtual book discussion featuring three authors about LGBTQ+ representation and inspiration in the literary world. Authors Dahlia Adler (Cool for the Summer), Jonny Garza Villa (Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun), and Julia Lynn Rubin (Trouble Girls) participated in a virtual roundtable event.

Pride Month Celebration banner from McKinney Public Library
Virtual Book Talks: Pride Month Celebration hosted by McKinney Public Library

Round Rock Public Library hosted a Beyond Coming Out art showcase throughout June. Participants could choose to express themselves in verse or art. Submissions were compiled into a slideshow to be displayed at the library. Additionally, Round Rock Public Library also hosted a Poetry in Motion event, with the theme centering around Freedom. The event recognized and celebrated both Pride and Juneteenth. 

Harris County Public Library hosted Anime Jam: Pride on Friday, June 25 where attendees could tune into a live discussion around popular LGBTQ+ anime series and mangas to celebrate Pride Month. The discussion was held live on Facebook and Instagram with Janell and Marrissa.

Image to advertise Anime Jam event from Harris County Library
Anime Jam: Pride event with Janell and Marrisa, which was held on Facebook and Instagram

UTSA Libraries showcased the Queer Zines Guide. A collection of more than 250 zines, most of which originate from San Antonio and Texas. Many of the zine creators represented are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and their zines highlight #queer perspectives on mental health, prison reform, religion, and more. Check out the Zine Collection and the UTSA Libraries Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Research Guide.

University of Houston Libraries showcased their Pride Exhibit that features selections from the Charles Botts/Jimmy Carper Memorial Research Collection and the Edward Lukasek Gay Studies Book Collection, all part of the LGBT History Research Collection in UH Special Collections. Support for the exhibit is provided by The Hollyfield Foundation.

Photo of University of Houston Libraries Pride month exhibit
University of Houston Libraries Pride Month exhibit featuring materials for the UH Special Collections

Mental Health Resources

Here are a few more additional resources to support the mental health of our LGBTQIA Community: 

Thank you to all Texas library workers who continue to promote and support our Texas communities by creating inclusive library environments. We are excited to see libraries embrace our core values of librarianship, which include representation and inclusion. Inclusion does not happen by accident. It takes intentional commitment and intentional work to ensuring all voices and stories are heard within our collections, programming, services, and spaces, including LGBTQIA+ voices. Happy Pride!

If you have programming you would like to share with our staff, please email ld@tsl.texas.gov. We look forward to continuing to learn more about the work that you are doing! 

National Day of Racial Healing

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the American Library Association invites libraries to participate in the fifth annual National Day of Racial Healing on January 19, 2021.

The National Day of Racial Healing is a time to:

-Reinforce and honor our common humanity while celebrating the district differences that make our communities vibrant.
-Acknowledge the deep racial divisions that exist in America and must be overcome and healed.
-Commit to engaging people from all racial and ethnic groups in genuine efforts to increase understanding, communication, caring and respect for one another.

From Libraries Transform, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA).
National Day of Racial Healing 2021 promotional video (December 2020).

We encourage libraries to share their activities with their communities and take part in this critical time for reflection. The National Day of Racial Healing is means to increase understanding of racism and recognize the wounds it creates both within and around us. The day aims to bring people together to consider, reset, and journey towards a path of racial healing. Libraries are uniquely positioned to help heal, inspire, and transform their communities.

Recommended Resources

Download ALA’s Action Guide for Libraries, ALA’s Conversation Guide, and ALA’s Educator Action Kit.

View WebJunction 2021 National Day of Racial healing.

Find a local virtual racial healing event.

Connecting on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NationalDayofRacialHealing/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedaytoheal

Engaging on social medial using hashtags:
#TRHT
#NDORH
#HowWeHeal
#racialhealing
#librariesrespond
#librariestransform

Recommended books:
The Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese A Singh
Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience by Sheila Wise Rowe
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts by Resmaa Menakem

Archived webinars and trainings:
YouTube – Rx Racial Healing | Dr. Gail Christopher | TEDxCharlottesville
YouTube – W.K. KELLOGG FOUNDATION NATIONAL DAY OF RACIAL HEALING 2020 – 2020 Livestream
Archived Webinar – Organic Efforts Towards Health Equity-Driven Policy and Practice, The Praxis Project
Archived Webinar: Racial healing: How to become a mindful ally

Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Summit – Closing Video, W.K. Kellogg Foundation (January 2017).

For more information, visit the Libraries Respond: National Day of Racial Healing webpage or read the ALA’s proclamation on the National Day of Racial Healing. If you are a Texas library worker or library and information science (LIS) educator who identifies as Black, Indigenous, or as a Person of Color (BIPOC) and want to connect with a BIPOC community, please email Laura Tadena, Equity and Inclusion Consultant at ltadena@tsl.texas.gov.

Cheers to a thriving 2021!

Students Invited to Participate in 2020-2021 Letters About Literature Texas Competition

The Texas Center for the Book has launched the 2020-2021 Letters About Literature Texas contest, a program that invites students to respond to authors of books or poetry who have touched their lives. The contest is open to Texas students in grades 4 through 12.

Participants select a book, book series, essay, play poem, short story of speech that has made a lasting impact on their lives. They then write a personal letter to the author that reflects how they have been changed, inspired or motivated by the work they selected. State winners receive $100 and will be honored at 2021 Virtual Texas Library Association Conference.

Image of girl reading a book. Includes text that reads: Letters about Literature Texas: Entries accepted November 4 - December 17, 2020.
Letters About Literature is a reading and writing contest for 4th-12th graders under the direction of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

All submissions for the 2020 contest must be submitted on the new online submission platform by Dec. 17, 2020, 5:00 p.m. (CST). A permission form is required for all students who will be younger than 13 on Nov. 4, 2020.

To learn more about the contest, how to submit and to view winning entries from previous years, visit www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature. The website also features an Educator Resources page including printable bookmarks and student handouts, participation certificates, key dates, permission forms, and a step-by-step teaching guide featuring writing prompts. The site also includes a Frequently Asked Questions page, student and teacher submission guidelines, letters from past winner, videos from authors, and the official contest rules.

2020 Texas Book Festival: October 31 – November 15

We are passing this information on for our friends at the 2020 Texas Book Festival. Please direct questions to bookfest@texasbookfestival.org.

The Texas Teen Book Festival (TTBF) kicked off the 2020 Virtual Texas Book Festival on October 31 and November 1, 2020. The Texas Book Festival is a nonprofit organization that connects authors and readers through year-round, statewide programs that celebrate the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination. This year’s virtual event will feature two keynote speakers, Elizabeth Acevedo and Nic Stone, along with numerous panels, a Barrio Writers workshop, the Fifth Annual Costume Contest, and more.

2020 Texas Book Festival Schedule

  • Texas Teen Book Festival – Saturday, October 31 to Sunday, November 1
  • Children’s Programming – Monday, November 2 to Friday, November 6
  • Adult Programming Week – Friday, November 6 to Sunday, November 15
  • Lit Crawl Brunch – Sunday, November 8 and November 15
  • Lit Crawl – Saturday, November 7, Friday, November 13, and Saturday, November 14

Here is a direct link to the 2020 Texas Book Festival schedule: https://www.texasbookfestival.org/2020-festival-schedule/

Children’s Virtual Pass

The 2020 Texas Book Festival have created a free Virtual Pass with fun activities and storytimes. The pass is available in English and Spanish, and children are encouraged to complete the Virtual Pass to receive a fun prize. To participate, download and print the Virtual Pass. Complete the Virtual Pass, take a picture, and ask an adult to email it to read@texasbookfestival.org for a fun prize! The deadline to submit the Virtual Pass is November 7, 2020. Here is a direct link to the pass: https://www.texasbookfestival.org/virtual-pass/

Say up to date

The best way for you to stay up to date with every part of our virtual programming is to follow the TBF’s social media accounts as well as their two Crowdcast channels, Texas Book Festival and Texas Book Festival 2. Updates to the schedule and lineup can be found on the Updates Page.

It is important to note that the teen and children’s sessions are pre-recorded and will be free and available anytime during the month of November. Please share this information with your colleagues, friends, and family! What session or sessions are you most excited to attend? Please post in the comments section!

TeenTober Interview with Bastrop Public Library’s Young Adult Librarian

YALSA TeenTober graphic logo. What will you discover at the library? Visit www.ala.org/yalsa/teentober.
YALSA’s TeenTober is an initiative that aims to celebrate teens and promote year-round teen services.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)has recently created #TeenTober, a teen initiative that aims to celebrate teens and promote year-round teen services. We would like to celebrate #TeenTober by highlighting Bastrop Public Library’s Young Adult Librarian, Bethany Dietrich.

Photo of Bethany Dietrich, the Young Adult Librarian at Bastrop Public Library in Bastrop, Texas.

Meet Bethany Dietrich!
Bethany Dietrich is the Young Adult Librarian at Bastrop Public Library in Bastrop, Texas, where she wears many hats: adult and YA collections, teen programming, social media manager, and more. She contributes on NoveList and is a new blogger for Teens Services Underground. She loves spreadsheets and spends too much time reading according to others and the perfect amount according to herself.

How did you become a young adult librarian? Did you always know you wanted to be a young adult librarian?

I wanted to be a librarian when I was a fourth-grader, which was right before Y2K. I remember my dad saying, “No, don’t be a librarian. Technology and the internet are going to make libraries obsolete.” I was like, “Okay, you’re a smart guy. You know what you’re talking about.” So, I kind of abandoned that idea, and I went into teaching because I knew there would always be a need for teachers. I taught 10th grade English for three years, and then I went out to Washington state, and I ran a church camp for a year and a half. That’s where I honed my programming skills, which required me to think outside of the box, and design for what people want while working within parameters like safety, financial issues, and time constraints. When I lived at the camp, I didn’t have the internet at my house, so I would go into town and use the internet at the library. That experience gave me the opportunity to see what libraries in the 21st century look like and how they had changed and adapted. During that time, I saw a career therapist who helped me figure out what I needed to be fulfilled in a job. We narrowed down all the options with her help, and I decided I would go to graduate school to become a librarian. I went to the University of North Texas got my masters, and after that, I got a job in Bastrop as the Young Adult librarian.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you develop your young adult programming? Were you responding to any community needs?

Pre-COVID, my program met weekly, and we still meet weekly during COVID. I’m a really big believer in giving people what they want, and not being shy about asking them what they want. I tried developing a teen advisory board, and that was a big bust. The teens who were semi-interested in being involved with the teen advisory board were typically volunteers and were not the teens coming to my weekly program. I’ve been cultivating and coaching regular teens on how to provide helpful programming recommendations to me. My teens generally walk over from the high school after school on Thursdays, and that would give us a little bit of an awkward time because some people are here, some people aren’t here yet, some people are here ready to get going.

Photo of teens at the Bastrop Public Library creating Mug Meals.
In February, teens at the Bastrop Public Library created “Mug Meals” and learned how to feed themselves using just a few ingredients.

I had to figure out what to do to fill this awkward time. Often, we would watch YouTube videos, which helped inform me of what they’re watching on YouTube. I found that what they’re watching on YouTube is not what I’m watching on YouTube. I’m like, “Yay Vlogbrothers,” and they’re like, “yeah, check out this Minecraft dude.” After a while, they started to show me things like The Try Guys from BuzzFeed, and they would show me videos where they would ask each other trivia questions, and if they got it wrong, they would smash a disgusting balloon full of disgusting stuff. They started to ask if they could do similar activities in the library. I was like, “Well, I really liked this idea, but no, we can’t fill balloons with hot sauce, because that’s dangerous, but we could fill it with ketchup.” I started to coach my teens and helped them identify things that we could do safely, that was within our budget, and within our time constraints. In the beginning, they would show me YouTube videos, and then I would talk it through with them, and now I’ve coached them to email me the YouTube videos and their recommendations on how to adjust to fit our needs. Now during COVID, they have been sending me TikTok videos.

COVID has shifted how many of us work today, how has the pandemic impacted your work? What has been the most challenging thing that you have faced?

We switched over to Discord pretty early and have been meeting virtually since early April. It was slow going at first because my kids are not on social media. When I asked how they heard about our Discord server, they would say, “I heard from someone’s mom” or “I saw it on Facebook,” and then eventually, kids were texting their friends. That was how we were able to spread the word about Discord. We still don’t have a ton of people; I probably average four to six kids every week. Since school started and they’re allowed to go in-person, my participation numbers have continued to drop. In fact, I’ve had zero the past three weeks. They don’t want to hang online because they can (finally!) hang out with each other in-person, even if they can’t do it at the library in a library program. That said, there is still some asynchronous participation in the text channels. I’ll keep showing up at our regular time, and I’ll be ready for them when they’re ready to come back. We mostly play games and talk.

Photo of teen creating a hokey stick using recycled cardboard.
In January during Teen Thursdays at the Bastrop Public Library, teens created the hockey sticks using recycled cardboard to play Balloon Hockey.

Challenges are seeing my kids feeling the pinch to their mental health. I want to support mental health wellness, but I’m not a trained person in that regard. I have the Mental Health First Aid certification, but I’m by no means an expert. I’ve seen several therapists and feel more comfortable than many other people talking about it, but I don’t want to tell the kid the wrong thing. The legality of mental health work does make me cautious. I’ve been participating in a School Library Journal and University of Maryland iSchool co-design study, which is based on how teen librarians and libraries, in general, can help support public services and helping their communities. I’ve been toying around with how I can implement more of that into my virtual programming. However, because of the pull on my time from doing curbside, and all these other circulation duties that I don’t usually have, it’s been tough to find the time and the energy that I would like to spend on doing that.

Photo of teens playing balloon hockey.
Teens playing Balloon Hockey at the Bastrop Public Library using balloons as a hockey pucks and teen made recycled cardboard hockey sticks.

Were you using Discord before the pandemic and was there a steep learning curve?

Somebody posted about Discord in one of the Facebook groups that I’m on, and I knew my brother had been using Discord for years. I worked with him and let him know about all the security and privacy things that I needed, and he helped me set it up. It was because of that first person who posted it in one of my Facebook groups that helped me think that I could do it. I’m very careful about who I allow to join our server. I do post the invite links on our teen Instagram, but as I said, not many of our teens are on our Instagram. It’s mostly other teen librarians who follow us. I don’t put any hashtags and don’t use geotags. To get into the server, you have to be following us to see that post. I also posted it on Facebook a couple of times, but again, our community is small. I ask some screening questions and privately chat with the person if I haven’t directly invited them or talked to them about joining it. My first Teen Services Underground (TSU) article was how to set-up up a Discord server.

With so much uncertainty about the fall, how do you plan to approach your programming, and do you have any upcoming programs you would like to highlight?

I am just swamped with all my other responsibilities. We are a small library, and I wear many hats other than just teen programming and teen collection development. I do all the adult collection development and social media managing, as well as a few other things. I don’t have the capacity to really put together any sort of programming other than Jackbox games. I have trivia in my back pocket that I pull out when Jackbox goes down, which happened once. Since we did Jackbox games all summer, they’ve gotten pretty tired of it. Three weeks ago, one of my teens suggested the popular app Among Us, so we’ll play that the next time enough participants attend unless something else has caught their eye by then.

I would like to do more along the lines of what I’m learning in the School Library Journal and the University of Maryland iSchool study. I read an article that talked about some ways to support teens’ mental health and talked about using a gratitude wall. I did add a new text channel in our Discord and put a challenge out to everybody to tell one thing that they’re happy about, or that made them happy that day or grateful for, and then to continue posting something every day. Hopefully, even if it’s just that little bit of positivity, that will have a larger effect on them. My teens also asked for an Art Stuff channel, where they post what they’ve drawn/created. It is way more popular than the Happy Stuff channel, but we do get several posts a week in Happy Stuff. Whether they’re posting in Happy Stuff, Art Stuff, or the general chat channel, I love seeing them being supportive of one another.

Logo from YALSA's TeenTober. What will you discover at the library?
To learn more about TeenTober, visit YALSA’s TeenTober’s webpage at www.ala.org/yalsa/teentober.

Thank you, Bethany, for sharing your story and your work with us. Although this year might look a little different, libraries across Texas and the US are celebrating #TeenTober by highlighting their teen collection and programming. To learn more, visit YALSA’s TeenTober’s webpage at www.ala.org/yalsa/teentober. How is your library celebrating #TeenTober? Share in the comment sections.

Library Development and Networking staff highlight their favorite banned books!

Celebrate the freedom to read! Banned Books week takes place September 27 – October 3, 2020. The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has announced this year’s Banned Books Week theme  – Censorship is a Dead End. Find Your Freedom to Read. ALA suggests ways for libraries to participate in #BannedBooksWeek through literary actions, and it offers links to images and resources. Librarians have asked that we take a moment to highlight a few of Library Development and Networking staff members’ personal favorite reads that have been challenged.

The Hate U Give by Angie Tomas

Selected by Mark Smith, State Librarian, and Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development and Networking

The book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Mark Smith’s favorite banned book, The Hate U Give.

Mark Smith, State Librarian: One of my favorite books that has been recently challenged is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book is such an insightful and authentic exploration of the complexity of race in our society. For me this book provided perspectives that I have not seen in any other book. The main character is a Black teenager who lives in a lower income Black neighborhood but goes to school at an affluent, predominantly white school and so is torn between the values and conflicts of these two worlds. It strikes me as so misguided that at a time when we need to build compassion and understanding between people, there are those who would seek to keep this book from young readers.

Jennifer Peters holds The Hate U Give.
Jennifer Peters shares her favorite banned book, The Hate U Give.

Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development and Networking: I have many favorite banned books, but the one that seems most relevant to me right now is Angie Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, which shines a spotlight on a police-involved shooting and its impact on a family and community. Starr Carter, an African American teenager who code-switches between her largely white prep school by day and her close-knit family and working-class neighborhood by night, is the only civilian witness in the death of a childhood friend. In the aftermath, Starr is pulled in many directions as she processes a traumatic experience that leads to local protests. I believe the book is more nuanced than its “anti-cop” detractors would have you believe. I was particularly touched by Starr’s discussions with her family as she processes her experience. As with any sixteen-year-old, she hasn’t got it all figured out just yet, and the book reflects her uncertainty and evolving feelings as events around her take on a life of their own.

Valicia Greenwood reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Valicia Greenwood shares her favorite banned book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling

Valicia Greenwood, Library Data Coordinator: When I was a librarian in a K-8 school, I used to keep a print-out of the Top 100 Banned Books, in small print like the one attached, on one of the shelf ends.  I have spent many long and wonderful hours reading books on that list and wanted to share!  Okay, it was maybe not the best idea:  I had many requests to purchase books that were not entirely age-appropriate! 

The Harry Potter series was first sold in the US the summer my oldest son turned 11. My children loved the fact that, as a librarian, I could order and receive four copies whenever the next book came out in the summer. The oldest and his three siblings would shut their doors and escape to that magical world, and I would get some peace for a few days!  I read the volumes as well, wishing I was not such a muggle, but could learn the magic arts, too.  We even threw a Harry Potter birthday party for my third child, complete with a sorting hat, potions class and a game of Quidditch! Attendees wore cloaks and hats and had a great time entering into the fun!  I am proud and pleased to see that Harry Potter topped the list of banned books between 2000-2009. Collectively, I believe these books challenge our ideas and help us expand our mind beyond its normal boundaries, and they are some of my favorite reads, no question.

Ann Griffith takes a photo of herself and the book, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.
Ann Griffith shares her favorite banned book. Did you know The Story of Ferdinand was a banned book?

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Ann Griffith, Electronic Resources Coordinator: My selection is the classic children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf with illustrations by Robert Lawson. Like many, I like that the main character is calm and kind and remains true to his unique nature. I also admire Lawson’s witty etchings. Leaf published his book in 1936, a time of increasing global unrest. Ferdinand the pacifist bull was viewed by some as a subversive political metaphor.  Adolf Hitler called the book “degenerate democratic propaganda,” then banned and burned it in Nazi Germany.  Ferdinand was banned in Spain from the 1930s until after the death of the country’s dictator, General Franco, in 1974. Munro Leaf, surprised by the international controversy over a book he “thought was for children,” called it “propaganda for laughter only.”  It has never been out of print.

Here is a link to read more about the controversial history behind The Store of Ferdinand.

Kate Reagor holds a Captain Underpants doll and her son Nathaniel holds a Captain Underpants book.
Kate Reagor and Nathaniel share their favorite banned book series, Captain Underpants.

Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey

Kate Reagor, Resource Sharing Support Specialist: My son is getting started early on banned books with the Captain Underpants series! Both of the main characters, like my son (and the author!), have ADHD, and it makes him so happy to see himself represented in a positive light. Some perceive the series as encouraging disruptive behavior, but its main impact on him so far has been to encourage him to draw his own comics. The last book in the series was banned because when the two boys time travel to find their future “old” selves (they’re, like, 30!), one of them happens to have a husband. Nathaniel didn’t care about that, but he did have lots of ideas for how he would use a time machine!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Laura Tadena, Equity and Inclusion Consultant: One of my favorite banned books from my childhood is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. This horror series became the most challenged book of the 90’s because of the controversial material. People challenged this book because they claimed it had terrifying illustrations and was “too mature” for the intended audience. Fortunately for me, these books were available in my middle school library and was the reason I fell in love with reading. I remember being drawn to the scary covers and then reading and re-reading them all weekend. When I was a school librarian, scary books were the most requested items in my school library, and I was more than happy to add these to my collection.

Banned Books Week is offered every year to recognize the ongoing commitment to protecting everyone’s right to read. We celebrate the invaluable– and often brave–work of librarians and communities as they support reading and readers, especially in challenging times. For more information about Banned Book Week, please visit the Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Week webpage.  What is your favorite banned book? Let us know in the comments!

Censorship is a dead end. Find your freedom to read. Logo of ALA.org/bbooks.}

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy #HispanicHeritageMonth! This week, marks the beginning of a month-long celebration (September 15-October 14) to honor and recognize our Hispanic communities’ rich culture and history.

Join our friends at the Latino Caucus Round Table (LCRT) of The Texas Library Association to virtually celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this year. The have put together diverse and vibrant events taking place from September to October.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrate Differences Emplower Voicers. Image provided by the Latino Caucus Round Table, TLA.

What is your library doing to celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth? Please share in the comments below.

Feedback on Training Needs Sought through Survey on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Topics

The Continuing Education and Consulting Team at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is gathering information on current practices and issues surrounding accessibility, inclusion, equity, diversity, mental health, and social justice topics in Texas public libraries. We will be developing training opportunities and resources library staff can use. Please help us inform our next year of training by completing our TSLAC Training Survey Related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Topics. Your input is valued and greatly appreciated.

Here is a direct link to the survey: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5799978/Public-Library-EDI-Training-Needs-Survey

The survey closes on Friday, October 9, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. CDT. All library staff are invited to take the survey; please share this survey within your Texas library networks.

If you have questions, please contact Laura Tadena, TSLAC’s Equity and Inclusion Consultant, at ltadena@tsl.texas.gov.