May Issue: Beyond Safe Spaces


“If more kids came to the library after school, they wouldn’t be getting shot on the basketball court in the neighborhood.” This is the startling answer one of Diane R. Chen’s students gave her when asked what he thought of the concept of libraries as “safe spaces” while preparing her new article for SLC.

Chances are good if you’re reading this that in your own life, in your own way, libraries served as a safe space for you at some critical time in your own childhood or adolescence. In my own life, as an out Queer teen growing up in rural New England, libraries were one of a handful of community institutions that helped me to develop my own sense of self-worth and resilience in the face of countervailing messages from peers, adults, and media. Today, I see this same life-affirming role for the library at play when my own children see their family structure reflected in library displays and at storytime—one of the few places outside their own home where that is true.

This month, we’re looking at the critical role our libraries play in providing safe environments that meet the basic physical and emotional needs of our students and how these environments then serve as the foundation for open dialogue, action, and risk-taking. In her article, Nancy C. Kranich defines such environments as not simply “safe spaces” but “brave spaces”—spaces where students feel comfortable rising to the challenge of pressing problems in their local, national, and global communities.

Diane Chen’s article offers numerous compelling examples from her own and colleagues’ practice demonstrating how the librarian can foster such an environment—take notice! Jean Hellwege shares how she and her coteachers have effectively married a middle school research project with a social action component and how this successful program has continued to evolve over the last five years. Gina Seymour provides field-tested ideas for you to integrate service projects into your makerspace, drawing from her forthcoming book Makers with a Cause: Creative Service Projects for Library Youth.

All of us at SLC are also honored by the opportunity to host Gina for a free live webinar on Tuesday, June 5th, at 4:00 PM Eastern. Registration is now available here. (And if you’re interested but unable to make the live event, please still register in order to receive a follow-up email to access the archived recording once available.)

Also please join us for our free webinar on May 8th at 4:00 PM when Jen Cannell and Mary Fellows will be presenting on innovative partnership strategies for school and public libraries to beat the summer slide. Register here—you won’t want to miss it!

About the Author

David Paige, Managing Editor, School Library Connection
David Paige is managing editor of the magazine School Library Connection, as well as books and electronic resources for library professionals.

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