Her post continues to resonate. Suzie writes:
Not long ago, I asked a room full of about 30 queer youth, most in their early twenties, to raise their hand if they were bullied at school. Almost everyone did. I then asked those who had been bullied if they had taken refuge in their school library. About 75% of the room raised their hand.
For LGBTQ youth, school can be one of the most dangerous places to be, with 89% of queer youth in Australia reporting that they had been harassed on school grounds (Hillier, Turner, & Mitchell, 2007). For many of those affected by bullying, their library is a safe space, where there is a teacher always present, shelves where they can hide, and books they can escape into . . .
Libraries are in the unique position where we can give hope to some of society’s most at-risk youth. Little things, such as making sure you have a selection of LGBTQ-themed books in your library can go a long way for a closeted teenager, afraid to tell anyone his greatest secret . . .
Your library is a safe place, where you will not be judged, based on the books you read . . .
Above all, you are welcome in your library.
Suzie got me thinking about those fuzzier functions we serve. The ones we don’t generally point to in our annual reports. We have no metric to describe this impact. But we are havens. We are safe places. We are soft spots to land for kids of all shapes and sizes.
I started remembering how many kids have found a home in our/their library over the years. We host the Gay Straight Alliance, Students for Feminism, Book Club, Literary Magazine, the school newspaper, Interact, and a bunch of other student interest groups.
We host the popular, the happily adjusted. We host the nerds. And we also host the loners, some of whom discover the information they need, a caring adult, as well as each other in their library.
For some, the cafeteria is a scary place. Many prefer to skip the drama of table choice. The girl/boyfriend drama. The drama of competition. And simply the drama of not fitting in.
For them, and for many others, library is a third place, the place between home and school/work. (See Doug Johnson’s post from 2009.)
Library is a place where there is a table for everyone. Where it is okay to sit alone with a book or a laptop or your thoughts. We feed so many in so many ways. We smile. We greet so many who enter our doors by name.
As a profession, I suspect we especially love those kiddos, and perhaps we make the greatest difference for, the kids who don’t have a table.
“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging, “When in doubt, go to the library. ” Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets