Librarian Diane Kitchen, who was the target of attacks in the Columbia-Brazoria school district for the past few months, made a magnificent speech at her district's school board meeting this week. The speech is reproduced below in its entirety with Diane's approval.
I have worked as a librarian for C-BISD for 34 ½ years, 30 of them at the junior high school.
Some people decide after being in the classroom for several years that being a librarian is the path they wish to follow. I went off to college knowing that this was what I wanted to do and that desire has never wavered.
As Mrs. James stated last month, we have taken courses and continuing education classes and workshops on book selection and providing for our patrons. This means ALL of our patrons, not just the students who have been blessed to live a “Beaver Cleaver” childhood. I wish that all of my students were so fortunate.
One student’s reality is frequently not the same as so many others.
1. A large percentage of our students are from broken homes, complete with all the baggage that encompasses.
2. We have students who are being raised by a single parent.
3. We have students being raised by a parent with his or her significant others either present or coming and going through their lives.
4. We have students being raised by parents who are not home when their child is, whether because of work or other reasons.
5. We have students being raised by grandparents.
6. We have student living in foster homes; and as a CASA volunteer, or Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, and working closely with CPS, I know what it takes to have a child removed from the home and placed in foster care.
We as librarians must know all of our students and provide for the needs of each of these students.
I have given each of you a publisher approved copy of award-winning author Gary Paulsen’s introduction to his most recent book. I regret not having copies for each member of this audience, but to exceed publisher Simon & Schuster’s approved number of copies would violate copyright laws.
If I were as eloquent as Mr. Paulsen, I would not feel the need to do this. Because I am not, I ask that you allow me to read sections from this introduction.
I apologize in advance for any display of emotion, but passion evokes emotion and like Mr. Paulsen, I am exceedingly passionate about the right to read and access to books.
1. p. 1
2. p. 4
3. p. 7
Over the course of my career, I have had:
1. 2 students who committed suicide. Maybe it would have helped them to know and read about someone who was able to overcome their despair.
2. 2 students who watched their fathers being shot to death
3. 2 students whose father or step-father killed their mother
4. Students who have had a parent or sibling die
5. Students who have endured life-threatening illnesses
6. Girls who have had babies
7. I had one student who rode with her mother every evening to the local bar where she sat in the car doing her homework and waiting to drive Mom home at closing time. Each morning she was responsible for getting herself and 2 sisters up and off to school.
These are just a minute number of students who could or have been helped by words of encouragement found in a book.
These students and others in difficult situations, more than any others who need access to books, are the students whose parents will not show up here, nor any other school function in which their child may participate, beginning with registration and continuing through, yes, even graduation.
Yes, there are some books in the library that some may find offensive. In each case that I know of, if the situation is taken in the context of the entire story, either the character eventually makes a wise choice, of if the choice is a poor one, the character learns from it. What a waste to spend one’s time searching for something to offend rather than something to teach a lesson
The district administration has initiated parental permission forms to allow or deny access to our young adult sections. As librarians, we recognize that it is the responsibility of the parent to act as the ultimate overseer of their child’s reading material. That is their responsibility and their right. It is not their right to decide for my child or your child.
We ask you to allow us to continue providing for all of our students.The result? Diane emailed us yesterday that, "The board voted to leave the library as is, with the separate YA section and approval needed. Any challenges must go through all of the channels. The 'book Nazis' are still out there writing letters to the editor, but the community seems to be really tired of hearing from them."