Celebrating and Amplifying the Criticality of Libraries
February is National Love Your Library Month—and there are countless ways to demonstrate our support.
[Dear readers: Please note that this newsletter mentions accounts of imperialism, transphobia and racism.]
Last month, we focused our newsletter on whitewashing in publishing. And we know that the whitewashing of literature is not just upheld by the publishing industry; rather, it’s also deeply embedded within our educational systems—including school libraries.
This month—February—is National Love Your Library Month, fitting for a month that is so often associated with love. We love libraries for endless reasons, many of which we’ve previously spent time highlighting in this newsletter. But with a surge in book bans across the country, it seems more than necessary to highlight their importance for creating uplifting, affirming, and exploratory environments for individuals of all ages.
We’ve likely all found ourselves reading a book that shaped us, more than we might realize at the time. And many of us probably came across these while roaming our local library’s shelves. Perhaps we found a story that helped us understand it was okay to be ourselves, or maybe a story that showed us there’s more to the world than we are aware of, or a book that completely challenged the fundamental values we were taught as a child. Through their dissemination, libraries help foster an empowering environment for self-growth and acceptance.
If you have yet to see our banned books challenge, we encourage you to take a look—spreading the importance of these reads is more important now than ever, especially as they’re being eliminated from library shelves. But beyond amplifying our support via social media, what can we do to support the institution and librarians? In this newsletter, we will dive into suggestions. And if you have any others, please do share in the comments, or let us know on social media.
February is also Black History Month, a celebration that should not be limited to just 28 days. And while it’s important to always recognize U.S. history and where we’ve been, where we are at, and how much farther we have to go to achieve racial and social equity (especially as book bans attempt to restrict truthful depictions of our country’s history), it’s just as important to spotlight Black joy.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams interweaves three important conversations. One of these is its centering of Black joy, the others being the dismissal of chronic illness and the problematic assumptions people uphold about disabilities. From page one, Williams makes clear that protagonist Eva is not defined by her chronic migraines, leaving space for a successful career and mothering, humor, romance, and much more.
Have you read Seven Days in June? If not, what are your favorite books that spotlight Black joy?
So…how can we support our libraries in the face of book bans?
The American Library Association is a great starting point. (Note though that the organization is not without flaws—for one, it’s been called out for discriminatory behavior in previous years.) The ALA is working to support librarians and libraries facing censorship and challenges. You can donate to their annual fund which will be put towards combating such censorship and/or spread the word using their social media toolkit.
The Office for Intellectual Freedom is an organization within the ALA that works to highlight and combat censorship. Subscribing to their weekly email is a great way to stay aware of what’s happening locally by you, empowering you to get further involved.
Diverstories is an organization working to diversify the stories found in Little Free Libraries near schools and in school libraries. By donating to them—whether via money or books—we can help children and families get access to new and critical reads. (And, if you post as part of our #BannedBooksShapedMe challenge before the end of the month, we’ll donate to Diverstories.)
We Need Diverse Books recently announced their Educators Making a Difference grants to help educators support the amplification and teaching of diverse literature. They are also widening grant eligibility to support educators that have lost work. You can donate to and/or amplify their cause.
As always, one immediate action we can take to support our libraries is becoming a library card member and demonstrating our support. Need some recommendations of what to check out? Here’s a roundup of books that spotlight Black joy and five authors to read.
On that note, we can also contact our libraries and request the stories that have been banned. Showing our support for these authors and titles demonstrates to libraries their criticality (and supports our library in the meantime).
Consider hosting your next book club, sports team, or fundraiser meeting at your local library using one of their meeting spaces. You might also consider how you can engage their wider community. Using the space further demonstrates the necessity of the library (which aids with public funding).
LGBTQIA2S+ youth are facing discrimination across the country, including via book bans and exclusionary bills. Ask your library to host Drag Queen Story Hour or other events, such as rallies, educational sessions, etc. to demonstrate support. (Note: Here’s a post outlining ways to demonstrate support via political action.)
If there’s an issue you are passionate about that we haven’t discussed on Instagram, send us an email—we’d love to work with you on a spotlight.
This month, instead of sharing free downloads, we’re celebrating 3,000 followers on Instagram! In thanks for your support, we’re giving away to one winner a $50 gift card to an indie bookstore of choice, a $100 donation to an organization of choice, and a custom profile image.
Head on over to our post to enter, and for current subscribers to gain extra entries, share this newsletter with a friend.
We just love libraries, okay?
This month, we are featuring Anna Tsagkari (@abookish_love). Anna is an educator, intersectional feminist, avid reader, and writer. She is also an invisible disabilities advocate. (And being close to bodies of water brings her peace).
Content warnings: sexual harassment, assault, and abuse; femicide; sexism
Reaction to yet another femicide
We shouldn’t consider ourselves lucky, while the dead girls are the unlucky ones.
We shouldn’t count our blessings because we weren’t hurt
Luck has little to do with it.
We are hurting because we exist.
They are hurting us because we do not exist to please them.
Hadoula murders newborn and young girls, believing she is saving them from a fate worse than death: that of being raised in a patriarchal society.
In her eyes, she is doing an act of mercy, working as a dark angel, but an angel, nonetheless, rescuing these girls from a life of poverty, violence, discrimination, and misery.
Alexandros Papadiamantis wrote The Murderess in 1903. How painful is the realization that women are still fighting for life?
We shouldn’t still be fighting for air.
We shouldn’t have to choose between death and fear.
One starts to wonder if Hadoula wasn’t simply an unhinged old crone but a woman fighting until her very last breath.
We are looking for short (~150 words) writing submissions on any topic, as long as they are rooted in and/or guided by an intersectional feminist lens.
Each published writer will receive their choice of one of the following:
$25.00 gift card to bookstore of choice
$25.00 donation to organization of choice
More info can be found here. Feel free to email or DM us on Instagram with any questions.
So what’s the latest in book ban news? A full roundup of the latest can be found here, but one standout: A CBS poll found that over 80% of Americans reject the idea of book bans. “One reason for that: a big majority also say teaching about the history of race in America makes students understand what others went through.”
What we’re seeing take place across the country is frightening, and with a potentially detrimental political election taking place this fall, ensuring children have access to critical stories by way of libraries is important. Politicians (particularly Trump) have sought to end library funding time and time again, despite them being safe havens, providing shelter, and much more. And with bills such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida and Texas’ desire to criminalize gender-affirming care (and similar legislation in other states), these actions collectively target and oppress LGBTQIA2S+ youth—especially trans youth.
We also must mention Russia’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine. First and foremost, Feminist has rounded up a resource page with individuals to follow/amplify and organizations to support. How will current U.S. legislation impacting topics such as critical race theory and even depictions of the Holocaust (such as with the ban of Maus) shape how future students learn about this moment in history—especially with how whitewashed current U.S. history lessons (and current coverage) already tend to be?
As always, thanks so much for reading. If you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns, be sure to get in touch.
Olivia and Fiona