Thurgood Marshall Middle School: The library is the heart of the school

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Erika Long, school librarian at Thurgood Marshall Middle School (TMMS) in Nashville, Tennessee, knows that giving students a space that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive helps them succeed in the library and beyond.

As a first year librarian at TMMS, Erika has grounded her work in the interpersonal relationships she has built with fellow teachers, administrators, and students.

Representation is one of her primary goals. She shares: “I was 34 years old the first time I could actually say, ‘That's me,’ in a book. Yes, I had read books by black authors before. Not a lot when I was growing up, but in the past years since I've become an adult, I have. But to actually say, ‘That character sounds just like me.’ That had never happened before and that was in "The Hate U Give." So I want my students to be able to have that experience before they're 34. I want them to be able to have that experience now. I want them to know that, because if I provide that experience for them now, then that's going to keep them reading.”

We recently visited Erika and spent the day learning about her efforts to create a joyful and welcoming space for students of all races, orientations, religions, and abilities at TMMS.

School libraries, staffed by great school librarians like Erika, are a place where all students feel welcome and encouraged to grow and learn. They provide more than just books, databases, computers, and other technology. They're a safe haven for all students to think, create, share, and grow. A multitude of studies in recent years have shown that school libraries are critical to student success, yet many school districts facing budget cuts are choosing to lay off school librarians and make cuts in school libraries. Learn what you can do.