HUGHES-HASSELL, S. (2013). Designing Effective Library Services for African American Youth. School Library Monthly, 29(6), 11-13.
Abstract: The article discusses the role of school libraries in helping achieve the goals outlined in U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive order of improving the educational achievement and life outcomes of African American youth. It notes that effective library programs move beyond teaching isolated skills to enable African American youth to see the value of literacy skills in the real world. It cites the virtual library that provides an opportunity for them to cultivate voice and agency.
Evaluation: In 2012, President Obama signed an initiative that attempts to provide more school library services and attention toward African American youth. This article discusses the five elements involved with designing effective library programs and services for African American youth. First, it is very important to have administrators who examine library policies to ensure that they are responsive to the lives of young African Americans. Responsive principals can provide the necessary infrastructure for developing and delivering appropriate library services. Second, it is essential to have competent and culturally sensitive school librarians who interact with African American youth as individuals and not through the lens of culturally deficit human beings. School librarians cannot be half-hearted in their efforts to close the education gap for African American youth. Teachers often see African American students as the problem students, instead of embracing the beauty and challenge of each individual student.
Next, school librarians need to move beyond the teaching of isolated reading skills to enable African American youth to see the value of literacy in the real world. By setting high expectations for them, and helping them connect literacy to the real world, they can enable African American youth to act in their own communities. Materials need to be relevant and sensitive to African American youth, with books that mirror and reflect their own lives. Too often, library materials are full of white children and have no cultural relevance to African American young people. Finally, library spaces need to be welcoming places for all young people, enabling them to increase and express their literacy.