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Campaign to Support Diverse Books Is a Viral Sensation

TLA News

By Michele Chan Santos
For the Texas Library Association

A social media campaign emphasizing support for diverse books and student access to books, launched by a group of Texas Library Association member librarians, was an astounding success, generating more than 13,000 tweets on Twitter with the hashtag #FReadom on Thursday, November 4. Nationally, it trended as high as 7th on Twitter’s hot topics for the day.

Since that successful campaign, a website has been launched, as well as the Twitter account @FReadomFighters; and there’s now #FReadom Fridays to keep the momentum of this movement going.

“Our goal was to energize teachers and librarians and authors. There are huge numbers of people out there who support diverse books and children’s access to books,” said Carolyn Foote, a library consultant and a longtime TLA member.

This grassroots effort came about after many high-profile efforts targeting school library books and libraries made headlines in Texas. State Rep. Matt Krause issued an inquiry to school districts asking if they have titles from a 16-page list of more than 800 books, many of which are well-regarded books by and about people of color; or have LGBTQ+ characters and themes. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called on the Texas Education Agency to investigate the presence of what he called “pornographic books” in school libraries.

“After Rep. Krause issued that letter, a few of us who have been working together on presentations and workshops decided we wanted to take action. We had a meeting that night and started brainstorming ideas for actions we could take. What stakeholders we wanted to influence,” Foote said. They quickly came up with the hashtag, designed logos and started getting the word out.

Becky Calzada, a librarian and fellow longtime TLA member, said the goal of this effort was to have “positive messaging about literacy and how books can change a life. There are thousands of people who really are for intellectual freedom. Our readers deserve to have access. For many students in our schools the library is the only place they get books. We want to be able to provide really great reading material, and have many viewpoints represented. There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation right now.”

Librarian Nancy Jo Lambert, a past-chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians and the Children’s Round Table, said, “For many school librarians, there is only one of us on campus. We felt like everybody felt very siloed; very alone. We wanted school librarians in Texas to know we are still together, and we are all working for the same things: access to information, to be able to provide diverse books to our diverse readers. When those tweets were retweeted hundreds of times, it showed how we needed to celebrate an aspect of our profession that was under attack. People needed that hope.”

The message they emailed out to friends and co-workers said, “A group of us in Texas wanted to get a positive message out regarding the power of diverse young adult titles. Tomorrow, we have planned a secret day of action on social media. The plan is to post an image and tweet about a diverse young adult book or picture book you have enjoyed or found powerful and tag the Texas Lege hashtag(#txlege). And we have coined a hashtag for our efforts which is #FReadom. So you will tag both.”

Using the #txlege hashtag was done to draw the attention of legislators and journalists who cover the legislature. “We wanted to make it known as a celebration of children’s and young adult books for all types of voices,” Foote said. “A lot of times the scary voices are taking over the narrative. Our goal was to signal that we are out here in significant numbers. We wanted to give people inside the profession heart and give authors heart.”

With the new website and Twitter account, librarians hope to make every Friday on Twitter a day to celebrate diverse authors and diverse stories. On #FReadom Fridays, the group invites people “to share positive reading posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, or Snapchat. Share what you love to read, share about books that have made a difference to you or to readers in your life. Share your work as an author or illustrator. At a time where many of us are feeling on the defensive regarding books and access to information, we need to flip the message. We can control what we share!”

“I want school librarians to know they are not alone,” Lambert said. “We are all together, and we can have spaces where we can band together and work for the greater good: which is our defending our students’ rights to access information, continuing to provide access and information to books that represent ALL students and stakeholders. Everyone deserves to be seen and valued for their full and authentic self. We want that complexity represented in our school libraries through books and information which contain so many perspectives. Those stories represent the complexity of the human experience and there is no end to that tale.”

Calzada’s message for her fellow librarians during these difficult times is “When you are feeling really down and low, reach out to somebody. Remember, we are specially credentialed, we are all following our policies. It’s important not to absorb all that negativity and stay resolved for the kids you serve. We all have to do what we can to have balance. Remember the things that bring you joy in the work that you do.”