podcastSeason 4

Ep 158: Ageism + racism in library culture

By February 11, 2020 No Comments

Audio Producer

Juan P. Perez


Fatima Mookadam


Valerie Anderson

Maleka Diggs: Mother of two daughters and founder of Eclectic Learning Network.

What Was Discussed:

What are libraries and what do we use them for?

Are libraries doing decolonization work to make sure the communities in which libraries sit, include and invite all members of the community?

This isn’t happening enough, so are we doing anything to change this?

Libraries are learning centers too, so let’s make sure our deschooling aka decolonization work, includes our interactions in our local libraries. There is energy and effort, through The Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) to help make libraries all over the US havens for self-directed families. Unschooling mother, organizer, and equity trainer, Maleka Diggs has also been giving energy and effort to expanding her local library in Philly, to be more supportive of fostering learning and empowerment through self-directed environments. In this episode, Maleka and one of her daughters, Maddy, are sharing a recent example of how ageism and racism can convolute the purpose of impact of our community spaces such as libraries. You’ll hear about the level of shade they experienced, and you can stay in touch with Maleka through her newsletter and Patreon community to find out what is being done.

This episode speaks to the need for libraries to be deliberate about decolonization work and how we can start to step out, when/if we can, to shift the experience for everyone.

Here’s an excerpt from Maleka’s discussion:

“She looked at my daughter and stated “Is this the girl or another girl?” I told her, “She is my daughter.” She then asked my daughter her age and why she selected this book. My daughter, taken aback by the tonality of the inquiry, answered. The manager then stated, “So you just selected a book not knowing what it was about?” The manager placed blame on my daughter for what happened, but stated “I’ll have to take it on good faith that this is true.” The way she spoke at my daughter and me showcased strong racial and age bias by way of condescension throughout our communication. My daughter was hurt and close to tears. This situation should not have left my daughter with feelings of failure for doing the right thing.” – Maleka Diggs. February 2020

Are free libraries a good connection to this unschooling/decolonization shift?  Yes, they are. They are a brick and mortar space that houses plenty of information in all the areas we can think of for us to expand and grow on our own terms. “However, the fact that we can go into such an institution as this and experience the opposite, is quite disheartening,” says Maleka.  She was afraid her daughter would lose her joy, her enthusiasm at the very place that should provide the freedom unschoolers need.

How could this experience have been better? Maddy makes a few suggestions as to how the library manager could have handled the situation.

What could have been the best course of action being a Black woman in this situation with her Black daughter? What if it were just her daughters who went and had this experience? How would they have been treated because the ageism and racism in this situation was real? What would it have been like not having someone to advocate for them in their corner?

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