Turning the pages of civility…

Changing the power dynamic in any spotlighted profession is one of extreme adversity.  In our present time we have seen explosions of revelations in Hollywood with the Me Too Movement,  fair pay for women in all fields of acting, and lately, the grounds of a media specialist librarian has become a little more cautious ground to walk on.

Monthly displays and annual celebrations are a small part of what can draw patrons into a library – from March Madness, to National Novel Writing Month, to National Library Week, to a host of SO MANY MORE.

As a graduate student at Slippery Rock University – I received an amazing education, some professors there literally propelled me into levels of success I never knew awaited me, that follows me around forever.  What had been a lesson in retrospection also has been to expect the unexpected. As a graduate student, my thesis Opening the Windows of Time involved a passage from a Native American author, Sherman Alexie. which involved this quote – 

There are things you should learn. Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you. Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your skeletons do, and they always know what time it is. Now, these skeletons are made of memories, dreams, and voices. And they can trap you in the in-between, between touching and becoming. But they’re not necessarily evil, unless you let them be.

What you have to do is keep moving, keep walking, in step with your skeletons. They ain’t ever going to leave you, so you don’t have to worry about that. Your past isn’t going to fall behind, and your future won’t get too far ahead. Sometimes, though, your skeletons will talk to you, tell you to sit down and take a rest, breathe a little. Maybe they’ll make you promises, tell you all the things you want to hear.

Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as beautiful Indian women and ask you to slow dance. Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as your best friend and offer you a drink, one more for the road. Sometimes your skeletons will look exactly like your parents and offer you gifts.
But, no matter what they do, keep walking, keep moving. And don’t wear a watch. Hell, Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the present, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are trapped in the now.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Think what it meant to have Mr Alexie sit beside me at dinner during a visit to SRU and be able to discuss the origins of this quote, as well as discuss elements of my thesis, and meeting Alexie in the flesh.  It was priceless.

As a librarian always promoting his writing, as well as he Native American voice as a modern representation, it is pretty accurate to say Alexie has represented the Native American wandering in the modern age, and if you have ever delved into his older and most recent writings, mesmerizing is an understatement.

When news broke of several instances of improper conduct on his part, as a promoter and archivist of all things literary, it was a shock and quite devastating. It sometimes felt as waiting for someone to leap out and yell, “I told you so!” yet no one had until that very moment. How do you as an individual or promoting the best possible treatment if individuals retrace the steps of what you have been promoting?

I realized as difficult as a pill it is to swallow, as a media librarian specialist your modeling lies with the best possible path to dealing with obstacles.  The obstacles of the last year have involved name calling, slander, negative portrayals of individuals that others do not align or connect with, racial stereotypes, proper conduct when in public for individuals of all races, on and on – and this is just simply obstacles that deal with those in public offices.  While the cloud hangs heavy over individuals that you might have lauded due to their amazing work, the real work lies in showing individuals that are growing up in the ranks of schools into young adults of voting age, you deal with these setbacks, redial the controls of how you handle misconduct, and learn through the proper channels. no matter how difficult it is, to reset your temperance to treat those around you the best you possibly can, and use the negative, and obviously the positive examples as a guide through these murky waters.

Add to this personal experience with letdown an author that had acclaimed as much if not more attention – the author Junot Diaz. Again, over the last few years, Diaz would have been one name that no one would deny not knowing, even if nothing had been read by any individuals the name would still create discussion based on the writing that would cause you to sit up and pay attention.  When news broke of a similar situation concerning Diaz,

this occurring before the news about Sherman Alexie, I immediately thought of the controversy surrounding James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces , although the issue surrounding Diaz has made the impact much more disheartening as it affects so many individuals personally.  I had only picked up one Diaz, This is How You Lose Her, and as a avid book reader and Library Media Specialist, when it comes down to the end of the day, the main audience you look out for, despite your reading selections, are your patrons.  These in the form of adults, colleagues, parents, and students usually dictate the actions of what happens in and out of the library. 

I can only speak for myself but, the only way I have found to bounce back after formally lauding the writing of an author that has not been the author you thought has been this:

  1. The writing is the writing but as a Library Media Specialist I am unwilling to simply sweep deeds under the carpet and act as if the author is more important than the message.  Yes I had promoted an author that has shocked me with revelations of characteristics unbecoming of someone I want to put on a pedestal.  It is vital to point out, unbiased, how we deal with this so those we model literature and suggestions for have a path to follow when this occurs.
  2. There are authors that are also deserving of leading patrons to the more optimistic path.  Recently we had the pleasure of having author, Tabitha Lord, one of the few female science fiction writers that would take the time, hour upon hours, to talk with students and light excitement from within about their writing, provide avenues of where life can lead them with positive influences surrounding them, and believing in their own talents.  
  3. DO SOMETHING instead of silently wallow in someone that turned out to be a shocking disappointment in some fashion.  Their writing still has something to say, maybe even abut the situation they found themself in.  Also, what is stopping you as a Media Specialist from creatng a mini course on how to guide these precarious waters of interepretation? I have been fortunate enough to have been allowed to create a course that allows individuals to find resources that are reputable, to address questions that individuals have the tenendency today to fued on, but never come to the table to discuss.  Learning to disagree peaacefully, find unbias resources to back up issues and opinions (without slandering), shying from fake news (which has been around always), and finding information without putting down, without negativity is a challenge when so many individuals in the spotlight do today.  Yet, this is a chance to market the traits of a Media Specialist Librarian and show how these murky, negative waters can be navigated into more positive oasis areas.  

Certainly I wish I could see the future and know if a wrong turn or a cataclysmic event is about to occur, dont we wall.  However, in the light of shocking, suprising, and often what can be negative discourse, individuals have the opportunity to take advantage of positons that are often taken for granted (I point to School Media Specialists), and show what power such a position does have to benefit socoiety as a whole.  Turning the page is a way to show that you can deal with shocking and embarassing actions of those you were unaware they were involved with – but using that knowledge to better society turns out to be the best read book of them all.

I would like to hear from other instructors and Media Specialists to see how they feel about dealing with authors that were lauded, but now have redemtion to the public due to past actions.  Do you still study their past writing the same?  Different?  At all? I would like to hear your views on this – thanks for being amazing in a field that is often considered a lesser known and appreciated asset to education, but in reality is one of the most powerful depending on what you decide to do with it.  Next post will discuss the amazing effects we had of Tabitha Lord, Science fiction writer, coming to our School and inspiring so many.  There are many different pages to turn, and leading others to turn the most inspiring is a day to day lesson, every day.




About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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