READY FOR A STORM: BUILDING YOUR MATERIALS CHALLENGE TOOLKIT
One day you come into work to learn that a parent, teacher, or community member has concerns about a book on your library shelf, a video viewed in a classroom, or a topic that is being taught in health class.
This Future Ready Librarians Challenge is focused on library and instructional materials challenges. Like natural disasters, these challenges are unexpected, unpleasant, and require a team effort to respond. But in the same way that you can prepare and plan for a hurricane or a wildfire, Future Ready Librarians can also ready themselves for the day when someone has a concern with a library book or other learning materials.
Your Future Ready Librarians Challenge activities include building a toolkit to help you respond effectively, professionally, and confidently to a materials challenge in your school or district. You also will compile policies and documents, understand your school and district processes, and know how materials challenges are managed when they occur.
ACTIVITY 1: WHAT ARE YOUR SCHOOL AND DISTRICT POLICIES?
Knowing your existing school and district policies and procedures is a simple first step. Having these in hand when a challenge occurs will help you know how to effectively and professionally respond.
Locate your district and/or school policies and procedures for the review and reconsideration of library and learning materials.
Looking for a flashlight when the lights go out is no fun. District and school policies and procedures will help you find your way when a materials challenge occurs.
Find and collect all existing school and/or district documents related to policies and procedures for the selection, review, and reconsideration of library and other instructional materials. Curate a digital list or make copies to create a “Challenge Toolkit.”
As you search for your school and/or district policies and procedures, keep in mind the following:
- Public school district policies and procedures are considered public documents and should be available on your school or district website. If you cannot find them online, your principal should know the policies and where they are available. If you still cannot locate them, contact your district legal counsel or general information desk.
- Many districts have both policies and procedures. Policies may be more general and serve as guiding language for school board operations. Procedures are more detailed and describe how a given policy is managed and implemented in practice.
- There may be different policies and/or practices for library versus classroom materials. Locate both, particularly if your role includes management of textbooks or classroom resources. If there is a form for challenging or reconsidering materials, add that to your toolkit, too.
ACTIVITY 2: WHAT’S IN YOUR SCHOOL AND DISTRICT POLICIES/PROCEDURES?
Now that you know what your policies are, let’s look at them a little more closely and take a deeper dive into the implication of them on challenged materials.
Now that you’ve found your district and/or school policies and procedures, let’s examine what they say. Read, review, and, if necessary, clarify existing policies and procedures for your school or district.
To use the same flashlight metaphor, if there are no batteries in your flashlight (or they’re dead), you’re still in the dark! Knowing your policies and procedures is as important as having the documents close at hand.
Read and review the documents and resources you’ve located. While policies and procedures vary widely, start by answering the following key questions:
What is required for someone to formally challenge materials in your school or district? Is there specific language or criteria for materials to be challenged?
Who are the people responsible for taking action when a materials challenge occurs? What role do you, as a librarian, play in review and reconsideration processes?
How are materials challenges evaluated by your school or district? What is the step-by-step review and reconsideration process once a challenge is lodged against library or instructional materials?
When: Are there timelines or deadlines for various steps or actions to be taken?
ACTIVITY 3: WHO ARE YOUR PARTNERS?
No one in schools or districts enjoys dealing with library or instructional materials challenges. To address challenges, partnerships need to be formed and cultivated throughout the district and within the school. From the central office to the principal’s desk to the classroom or library, you’re all in this together.
Identify who does what when a materials challenge occurs, including what you need to do as a librarian or educator.
Knowing who needs to be part of the solution is essential to being prepared when faced with a materials challenge. With the possible exception of a zombie apocalypse, your neighbors can be your best friends when a natural emergency occurs. Put aside any differences, roll up your sleeves, and help each other out!
Identify building and district partners who have responsibility for when a materials challenges occurs.
School: What role does the principal or others in school leadership play? Do they have discretion over decisionmaking or does that occur at a higher level? How do policies and procedures affect what teachers and staff members can or cannot do? What are you, as a librarian, expected to do?
District/systems: Who is responsible at the district level for managing a materials challenge when one occurs? Are there others (individuals or teams) who participate in the process?
School board: What role does the school board play in the materials challenge process? Is there a specific board director or committee responsible for materials challenges?
ACTIVITY 4: UNDERSTANDING THE HAZARDS
While materials challenge cannot be predicted, simple steps can be taken to be ready when one occurs.
Seek to understand the school, district, and community context as it relates to materials challenges.
Are there dark clouds on the horizon? Tremors at school board meetings? If you’ve come this far, don’t you want to know what to expect when the “Big One” strikes?
Conduct additional research or make observations to understand how your school or district responds to parent or community concerns and how they might respond when a materials challenge occurs. Ask colleagues, attend a materials adoption meeting, listen in on a school board meeting, or ask your principal.
Principal and school leadership: Where does your principal stand with respect to materials challenges? How have challenges been addressed in the past? How does school leadership manage other parent or community concerns?
District leadership: How have materials challenges been managed in the past? Are more materials retained or removed? Has there been any change in leadership or practices that could affect how materials challenges are managed now?
School board: How does the school board address and manage parent, educator, or community concerns? What role(s) do school board members play in selecting and/or retaining instructional materials?
Community: Is your community supportive of schools? How have they voted in past levy or bond elections? Have new groups or individuals emerged that are focused on school policies and procedures?