IRFT Member Spotlight – Sarah Colbert

Advocacy, Banned and Challenged Books, IFRT Member Spotlight

Sarah Colbert is the librarian at Moberly Middle School in Moberly, Missouri. She received her Masters in Information Science and Learning Technology from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2017. A 2023 ALA Emerging Leader, Sarah’s project group is working on the Intellectual Freedom Roundtable’s project focusing on silent censorship and unreported challenges across the United States. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys reading, knitting, traveling, photography, and spending time with her dog Henry. Sarah is looking forward to attending ALA Annual in Chicago this summer to share her project group’s findings. 

1.  What made you want to be part of the ALA Emerging Leaders Program?

Even though I’ve been in education for 10 years and have had my Masters since 2017, this is only my second year as our school librarian and my third year working as a librarian, period. I had been wanting to get more involved with ALA and with the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) on some level. When I saw the call for applications for the Emerging Leaders Program, I thought this would be a great way to dip my toes into the water. At times, it’s felt a little more like drinking from a fire hose, but I’m so glad I applied and was selected.

2.  What is your favorite part about being an Emerging Leader?

I feel very passionate about the freedom to read and about intellectual freedom. I have really enjoyed working with my project team to dig into the IFRT’s question about silent censorship and to learn more about what the challenge reporting process entails on a state by state basis. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know my fellow project members. .

3.  How do you keep up-to-date with OIF and IFRT happenings and concerns?

I recently rejoined Twitter (because when librarian Amanda Jones tells you that you need to be on Twitter, you get back on Twitter) so I follow the OIF there. MASL has also started sending out a regular report on legislation in Missouri that they are tracking. Depending on what side of TikTok you’re on, you can also find a lot of really interesting information about what’s going on at school board meetings in different states. It’s also a good place to find people who are keeping tabs on some of the groups behind the national pushes for book bans. 

4.  If you could meet a character from your favorite banned book, who would you meet and why?Melinda Sordino, from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love that book. I was probably about the same age as Melinda was in the book when I read it and I loved her sarcasm, her biting inner monologue, and her growth. Now, as an adult, when I re-read it, I just want to give her a hug and find her a quiet place in the library so that she feels safe because I see bits of Melinda in some of my students. and I always want them to feel like they have a voice and that their voice matters.

Composed by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Publications and Communications Committee. Follow us on Twitter @IFRT_ALA.

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