Jessica Fitzpatrick is a high school librarian in Houston and is in her eighth year of education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Houston and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas. She is the 2020 TLA Branding Award Winner for Community Engagement. Jessica is an active member of both ALA and TLA. She enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her two daughters and husband. You can follow her on Instagram at @librarian_fitz and on Twitter at @librarianfitz .
Millennial can sometimes be a bad word in certain situations. It can be used to degrade someone based on their age, beliefs, or emotions. I know I have been called a millennial more times than I can count for not letting old bias continue. I view being called a millennial as a compliment. The millennials are the generation that saw that change needed to happen and are doing what we can to make those changes happen. These changes are the very changes I am making in my very own high school library, making even the smallest impact that can affect the greater good.
In my twenties, I am changing the way students, teachers, administrators, and even other librarians view the library. The portrayal that librarians wear a bun, cardigan, never smile, and constantly "shhhhh" is the idea that I am trying to break but don't get me wrong, I love my bun and cardigan. I have created a library that is full of fun, laughter, plenty of noise, a safe place for all students regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, or disability. My library is a safe haven for all students with a focus on mental health, celebrating diversity, community, and of course, sharing a love of reading. I have witnessed libraries and librarians who do not see their own bias or know their bias but do not make any effort at all to change. I have witnessed even in my time as a librarian (three years), a librarian with many more years of experience than I say that they do not need to put a book about an African-American student in their library because their school doesn't have that many black students.* These are the very ideas and problems that we need to change about our profession.
We need books that reflect all cultures, races, genders, sexual identity, disabilities, etc. regardless of if we have students who are reflective of that or not, some of these are items we might not even know or see. We need diverse books that reflect all to build empathy, knowledge, and love. Knowing, learning, and understanding different cultures, races, genders, and sexual identities help our society as a whole and could change how we treat each other and how we view each other. Empathy and knowledge could, in my opinion, solve almost all our societal problems.
Changing lives in my library goes beyond books. I am at a school in a low socioeconomic area and a lot of my students do not have a lot. One student was labeled as a "difficult student". He gave the teachers issues and caused trouble. In my library, I emphasize that it's a safe place for all students. The "difficult" student was yelling and throwing books in my library one day, I simply went up to him, put a hand on his shoulder, and took him into my office. In my office in my gentle voice, I asked what was wrong and he said that he was upset. He had to wear his younger brother's dirty socks because his only pair has too many holes in them. I took his socks and washed them in my sink. From that moment on I realized that I needed to always have socks and underwear on hand just in case for moments like this. I have followed in the footsteps of several librarians and have stocked the library office with personal items that can help our students physically and mentally. We always need to be that change we want for our society, especially in a role that is the heart of the school.
I am not the only millennial librarian out there; our numbers are growing vastly and will only continue to grow as we recruit more and more educators to pursue library science. We need to make the change in libraries so we can make the change we wish to see for our society.
* Trust me, I let them know how wrong they were and reported the situation, no educator like that should be allowed to make any impact on any child.