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  • Writer's picturedeborahtakahashi

It's Been a While

I can't believe it's been almost two years since my book was published! Prior to the pandemic, I had the pleasure to speak at a variety of library staff trainings and conferences to talk about youth mental health and how library staff can be the driving force behind supporting teens experiencing mental health crisis. When COVID-19 hit, my own mental health was put to the test as my responsibilities increased and I haven't been able to write as much as I wanted to. However, that all changed after the death of George Floyd. Not only were young people isolated at home due to COVID, they were overwhelmed with anxiety and anger when they saw the death of innocent man on tv and the internet.

Police brutality is not a new subject, especially amongst the Black community. Hundreds of innocent Black lives are taken at the hands of racist law enforcement practices. When Black Lives Matters took center stage, my heart and spirit went out to all those who took to the streets to not only stand up against racism, but to the institutions whose archaic and brutal methods result in death. Since I did not participate in the protests, I decided that I would channel my frustration into something productive: I wrote a blog post. I took what I consider a very teachable moment to reach out to my librarian colleagues to encourage and inspire them to support not only youth of color, but to take more action to support and promote youth of color mental health.

Among the death of innocent Black men and women, Asian and Asian American men and women were experiencing a high rate of racism and attacks by those who blame them for the spread of COVID-19. So much was happening at one time that thousands of people were developing mental health disorders. In fact, it was so overwhelming that my own therapist had to take time off. As a half-Japanese American, the racism against Asians hit me hard. I was angry, but felt helpless at the same time, which got me thinking: if I am feeling like this, Asian youth are feeling this as well.

On July 12, 2020, I wrote the following blog post as a way to communicate the needs youth

of color are facing in this day in age. As a librarian, and youth advocate, it behooves me to make noise about this issue because not only are teens feeling the brunt of a pandemic, they are stuck at home thinking about issues that are terrifying. As a public librarian, my goal is to not only provide youth free access to information and resources, but provide a hub to initiate dialogue about issues relevant to the community, provide a safe place, and promote healing. My hope and goal with this post was to not express my own feelings, but to share this frustration with my colleagues. What I didn't realize is how this post would affect my peers.

On January 27, 2021, I received an email notifying me that my blog post earned one of three Young Adult Services Association (YALSA) Writing Awards. Not only was I taken a back, I was thrilled that my peers not only responded to my post, but I have received such wonderful feedback from my fellow librarians of color. I am truly humbled but the honor as it validates that mental health and youth will, and always be, my number one priority as a librarian and human being.

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