Project READY Reflections

Jessica Fredrickson/ Douglas County Libraries

After a year of group study, our last Project READY cohort met in February. We looked at our webcams, each unwilling to be the first one to log off. How could it be over?

Of course, it’s not really over. One of my biggest takeaways from Project READY is that learning about equity and inclusion is a lifelong process. There is always more to learn, and always more work to be done. This is not work that can be checked off after watching a webinar, or after reading a book, or even after a year of study. It is the collective work of many lifetimes — emphasis on collective.

2022 Project READY Cohorts

Applications are open for the CLEL Project Ready Learning Cohorts. This will be a year-long learning opportunity, with a mix of biweekly small group discussions, occasional large cohort meetings, and asynchronous work; all taking place virtually between April 2022 and February 2023. Apply by March 21!

Although the Project READY curriculum can be worked through individually, I greatly benefited from the support of a small group. I also appreciated the accountability that the structure provided. The first foundational section was particularly challenging because it contained so much information to absorb. Several of us mentioned never learning about this important history in school. Without encouragement and solidarity from my group, I would have felt overwhelmed.

The following sections helped us to apply our learning, identify areas we can do better and practically transform our practice. Collaboration is a key component of equity work. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to meaningfully plan library programs with youth and families (instead of just for youth and families).

Effective library services for diverse youth info graphic

I think no one does this work better than Janet Damon, local librarian, Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and founder of Afros and Books. CLEL has been blessed to host Janet as a keynote conference speaker twice, and each time she has spoken about co-creation, collective community care and shared ownership.

Last year, Janet invited fathers from DPS Black Dads Storytime and Book Club to speak during her presentation. She asked, “Why do you think it’s important for Black fathers to host storytime?” Michael replied, “My love is a resource. My words are resources, my presence is a resource. So I think it’s important for Black dads to read because we are a resource, and we are healing and we are love.”

This moving response has had such an impact on my storytime practice. When families enter the storytime room, I want to honor their experiences and expertise. I strive to connect families and build community. One way I work towards co-creation in baby storytime is by having caregivers introduce themselves and their child, and then share something. This could be a tip for traveling with young children (transportation storytime); the title of their baby’s favorite tune (which I then play during playtime); a question that they have right now… the opportunities for conversation and connection are endless! When we have a large group, I ask caregivers to pair-share instead of sharing with the whole group.

While we learned a lot, there were some areas my group wished we could have explored more: facing censorship challenges and disrupting internal systems of oppression (such as racism) within the LIS field. Thankfully, both my group members and the curriculum connected us to many additional resources to explore. Here are some that I am excited to pursue:

Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship: A Reading List developed by Karla J. Strand, DPhil, MLIS

Embrace Race

Knowledge Justice: Disrupting Library and Information Studies through Critical Race Theory edited by Sofia Y. Leung and Jorge R. López-McKnight

Let’s Talk About Race in Storytimes by Jessica Anne Bratt

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Project READY: Reimagining Equity & Access for Diverse Youth is a free, online professional development curriculum for school and public youth services librarians, library administrators, and others interested in improving their knowledge about race and racism, racial equity, and culturally sustaining pedagogy. Beginning in April, CLEL will be facilitating new small study groups of youth services staff interested in working through the Project READY curriculum. Interested in joining a group? Apply by March 21