Happy National Library Week!
By now you're all aware of at least one librarian who digs punk rock, food science, the watchdog press, and sustainable farming (this girl loves food, frankly). That's a relatively common set of core values among librarians (yes, even the punk rock part), but one more that I would venture to say that all librarians share is that of educational empowerment. Librarians' jobs are about a diverse bunch of things, but each of us is driven to connect people to the information that they need to be smarter, more confident contributors to academia, or society, or their families, or their communities... you get the picture.
Life Pieces to Masterpieces is a Washington D.C. area organization that shares this drive by empowering young African American boys and men to "turn adversity into possibility" through the values of love, art, discipline, leadership, and meditation, among others. "We all enter life as a blank canvas. With love, creativity, and discipline, each of us can become a masterpiece" (About Us). The program reports that 100% of its graduates continue their education in college or post-secondary institutions. Clearly, connecting young people to the right information -- you are creative, you make good decisions, you are important -- pays off! View the students' works in the Art Gallery.
Another inspirational program dedicated to educating and empowering American youth is the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), led by Geoffrey Canada, whom I had the privilege to see and hear during the ACRL 2013 conference last week. HCZ takes a holistic approach, providing sharp teachers, energetic role-models, in- and after-school programs, social services, and more to parents and kids from birth through college. Mr. Canada spoke with passion about his mission to give "his" kids the same advantages that kids from prosperous neighborhoods have by default, including a trip to Maine, where the sounds of nature ("they had never listened to a bee") supplant those of car horns, sirens, and gunshots.
Inspiring people to succeed by providing them with the information that they need -- excellent teachers, the right databases, a perfectly timed smile, affirmation of their value in this world -- is important work for librarians, educators, and plain old people, and not just during National Library Week.
Keep on being awesome.