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Proposal wants Michigan school librarians to ‘advance racial and social justice’

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The Michigan Department of Education requests public comment on draft revisions to the state’s school librarian standards, expanding what future librarians would learn to include some advocacy for social and racial justice.

The new proposed standards would expand the state’s expectations for librarian preparation programs to include the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics, which was not in previous versions of the standards.

The revisions come as state library associations across the country have opted to leave the American Library Association, citing ideological differences over book removals and content moderation.

On Tuesday, for example, Alabama’s statewide library association voted to leave the ALA over concerns surrounding sexually explicit content, according to Advance Local. A number of other states have left the national organization over similar concerns.

According to a letter from the Michigan Department of Education, the proposed standards would replace Michigan’s current ones adopted by the State Board of Education in 2012.

A component added would require school librarians to “model and promote the ethical practices of librarianship” according to the ALA Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights. The Code of Ethics includes principles such as providing access to resources, protecting intellectual freedom, resisting censorship and putting personal

But​, as of editions made in June 2021, that code indicates librarians ​should pursue social justice in their places of work and the broader community.

“We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education, collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces,” the ALA’s code for librarians reads.

The changes would govern what future school librarians would receive in the state’s college teacher training programs.

“The proposed standards would inform program development and continuous improvement efforts at Michigan’s educator preparation institutions,” a memo from Delsa D. Chapman, Michigan’s deputy superintendent. “School librarian preparation programs are responsible for ensuring that new school librarians demonstrate proficiency in these standards.”

Chapman sent the memo earlier this month to school leaders, asking for feedback. Public comment is due before March 11. The comments will then be reviewed before the Department of Education’s recommendation is made to the State Board of Education at its May 14 meeting, according to the memo.

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