Librarians play a crucial role in literacy. Not only do they impart of life long love of reading, but they also teach information literacy. In its essence, this means they teach how to locate, access, evaluate, organize and present information but on a grander scale, they teach that authority is contextual, scholarship is a conversation, research has value, information creation is a process and searching is strategic. (ACRL) Librarians teach users about the ethical use of information they help users develop critical thinking skills necessary to navigate biases in information. Today, more than ever, the presence of Black librarians is crucial. As part of my work this month, I’ve chosen to highlight the work of Black librarians who work with youth or youth literature. I think you’ll be quite impressed.
Name: Mahasin Jullanar Abuwi Aleem
Library: Children’s Librarian, Oakland Public Library
What book(s) are you currently reading?
So many books are on my nightstand right now!
I am working on a piece about Muslim representation in YA fiction, so I finished bothAyesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin and Internment by Samira Ahmed last week and just started reading The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad. I’m finally reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson; it’s my personal Black History Month read!
Books in the queue on my desk include: My Brown Baby: On the Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children (Denene Millner); Muslims in Story: Expanding Multicultural Understanding Through Children’s and Young Adult Literature (Gauri Manglik and Sadar Siddique); Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America(Alissa Quart); and Front Desk (Kelly Yang).
What are some of your critical librarian practices and/or beliefs?
My practices as a librarian are built on an ever-evolving personal practice of cultural humility, a commitment to equity and inclusion, and an ongoing examination of how my work is both challenging and upholding systems of oppression, especially institutional racism. I strive to reflect this commitment in the programming that I develop (including who I contract to help implement community programs) and the materials I select for the collections that I manage. I am a member of my library’s Race and Equity Team and am so motivated by that work! I am particularly invested in making sure that all members of the community are able to “have seat at the table” for decision making. Making and taking the time to reflect on the purpose and outcome of this work is integral to my librarian practice, as is learning about and honoring the legacy of African-American librarians who came before me.