Above photo: Dorsey parent Sherri Bell (left) talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten

Dorsey High School marked National School Librarian Day on April 4 with a roundtable discussion with staff and families, led by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten and coordinated by UTLA affiliates the AFT and NEA. Panelists included teacher-librarian John Beilock, English teacher Sharonne Hapuarachy, principal Orlando Johnson, student Brennen Higgins-Bell, and parent Sherri Bell. 

Beilock called out the importance of a well-staffed, fully stocked library and highlighted the 2019 UTLA strike win guaranteeing a full-time teacher-librarian in every secondary school. Dorsey also has 2,500 books arriving soon, thanks to pandemic recovery relief funds. While an infusion of one-time money is great, Beilock said, it’s no replacement for ongoing, sustainable funding to keep book collections relevant and vibrant.

The roundtable took place at a critical juncture for libraries nationwide, as book bans have accelerated dramatically over the past few years, driven by vocal far-right groups. 

At Dorsey, panelists doubled down on the need for librarians to curate well-rounded collections that represent a range of viewpoints and realities.

“Dominant media often crowd out our stories,” parent Sherri Bell said. “It’s so important to have books of all kinds and to teach students to think critically about the messages of mainstream media.”

According to the American Library Association, the majority of the books targeted for censorship have been written by or about a person of color, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, or a woman.

“The freedom to read is a bedrock democratic principle,” Beilock said. “Students deserve to see themselves, their families, and their communities in the books they can take off the school library’s shelves.”

English teacher Sharonne Hapuarachy (center) talks with Dorsey High teacher-librarian John Beilock and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten.