Clean Slate Day will be a one-time opportunity for each child in our school district to receive a completely clear record and experience the same checkout privileges. Every child will have an equal opportunity to check out the same number of books as their peers. It is an opportunity to make good on the idea of libraries as a level playing field for all students, regardless of circumstances. (This is going to be hard, I know! But it's an important gesture that lets students know they have equal rights and responsibilities in their library community.)
Clean Slate Day will not be announced; students will not be aware that it is coming. Only after fines are waived will students be aware that their accounts have been cleared and they now have unrestricted checkout access. During the weeks leading up to Clean Slate Day, librarians will lead a push to locate and return as many missing items as possible by distributing “Did You Check Here?” checklists and other class- and schoolwide recovery activities.
Moving forward, elementary library policies have been adapted to continue to provide the most access possible for our students while helping them understand the role of responsible stewardship of shared resources. The emphasis is on restoration, not punishment. Students who lose or damage library books will have the option to create alternate plans for book check-out, such as limiting the number of books checked out, leaving them in the classroom or library at night, or choosing from a collection of less in-demand titles. Fines to cover the replacement cost of lost items will still be assessed, but librarians are encouraged to work with students and classroom teachers to devise work activities so that students can give back to their library community in other ways.
We hope that Clean Slate Day and these new restorative justice practices will help develop a community mindset surrounding the school library and its resources. We look forward to nurturing cooperative relationships with students and fostering a deep respect for shared public resources, including libraries.
I am deeply appreciative of the feedback I received last spring when we first began talking about this initiative, and how positively the idea was received. It feels scary to put yourself in a place where you could be taken advantage of. It's a difficult balance between being democratic and inclusive, and preserving collections so that students continue to have access to materials. It's going to be hard to check that brand-new Wimpy Kid book out to the student we're pretty sure isn't going to bring it back. It is my hope that we can help students feel what it is like to be included, to be a part of, to share community rights and responsibilities. I believe the ultimate effect of this shift in attitude will reap wonderful and unexpected rewards in our schools and our libraries.