Library: A Safe Place for Our Students

My library is an awesome place! It is a place where I check out books and teach classes. I offer computer usage, 3-D printing and lunchtime programs. During the pandemic I am offering digital breakouts, curbside pick-ups, and virtual book tastings. This is my library, and it is awesome!

My students’ library, however, is just a little bit different from my library. My students’ library is a place where they can come and check out books, use computers, print, and learn about digital citizenship, research, and information literacy. My students’ library is so much more than just lessons and books. It is a place that my students come during lunch and ask me personal questions some of which I am often amazed they have the cheek, or the curiosity to even ask. My students’ library is a place where my students can come and ask me why I was absent the previous day. Somehow, “I should know that they were going to need to talk to me.” My students’ library is a place where they talk about their personal lives. It is a place that my students who don’t want to mingle with hundreds of people in the cafeteria will come and meet with 4 or 5 other like-minded students. My students’ library is a place where my underserved students come and know that I will treat them with respect. It is a place that my LGBTQ+ students know that they can come and find a book that I found just with them in mind. My students’ library is a place where they can openly discuss what they read. It is a place where they know they are safe. My students’ library is a safe place.

I recently read a post on the Knowledge Quest website by Martha Bongiorno. The title of her blog post was “Civic Engagement with the Presidential Inauguration” and Ms. Bongiorno asked these questions: How do we proceed and move forward after what happened on January 6, 2021? Is it a topic to avoid or a topic to plan for in hopes of providing a safe space? After reading those words, it confirmed what I knew all along: that librarians have great minds, and great minds think alike. On January 13, 2021, I hosted in my students’ virtual library a forum entitled “Northern Teens Talk.” It was an open forum in which my high school students were invited to come in and express their thoughts, feelings and concerns about the events on January 6, 2021 in a civil discourse.

The previous week during an Equity Team meeting, I was listening to another team member talk about how some students wanted to discuss the event in their classes, but many teachers did not feel comfortable having those conversations. What we learned from our impromptu conversation was that we had many students who needed a safe place to have their feelings heard. As the librarian, I am the keeper of the safe place, and with some colleagues, I got to work setting up a time and “place” for students to talk. We had about 10 students who attended the forum.  While not a huge number by any means, it was 10 students who previously felt there was not a safe space to ask questions and express their concerns. They were reminded of the rules of civil discourse and given the tools to express themselves without belittling others.  It was a wonderful “teachable moment.”

I feel that educators often forget that we are not just teaching our students about events, dates and formulas. We are teaching the whole student and must be willing and able to do so.  This is a view that many school systems and districts are starting to embrace.  The implementation of school equity teams and school improvement plans that focus on equity are just a few processes that are being implemented in Maryland.  I am ecstatic that the process will continue in my students’ library.  I am ecstatic that I can play a role in providing a safe place to have civil discourse, a safe place for students to turn, and a safe place for students to learn.  My library is my students’ library.


Monique is a Maryland transplant and is the librarian at Northern High School in Calvert County.  She lives by the Albert Einstein quote that she has posted on the window of the library... “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.

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