November 16, 2017

Andria L. Amaral | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Advocates

Andria L. Amaral

CURRENT POSITION

Young Adult Services Manager,
Charleston County Public Library, SC

DEGREE

MLIS, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 1994

FOLLOW

@andriaamaral (Twitter); andria.amaral (Facebook); readingunderground.org

Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Free the Books

During her first semester in library school, Andria L. Amaral stayed silent—until the day a class discussion turned to censorship and Madonna’s controversial book Sex. “Suddenly I found my voice,” she says. “I started arguing, loudly, in favor of pop culture relevance and freedom of access.”

As young adult services manager at the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL), Amaral is still advocating for freedom of access.

In 2015, the parent of a student at West Ashley High School (WAHS) in Charleston challenged Courtney Summers’s Some Girls Are, a novel about a girl who faces bullying after a sexual assault. When the book was removed from an optional summer reading list, Amaral began to speak up.

Despite hurdles—CCPL’s then-director would not allow the PR department to issue a formal statement—Amaral leveraged social media to spread her message and engage teens in a discussion not only of the book’s themes but about censorship and the freedom to read. She also collaborated with Stacked blogger Kelly Jensen, who began a drive to make free copies of the book available. Media coverage soon followed, and books began pouring in. Amaral displayed the books at the main branch and the two branches closest to WAHS.

Her bold response put nearly 1,000 copies into the hands of hundreds of teenagers and others. The initiative has reached a wide range of patrons, from a high school teacher who brought copies back for her class to a homeschooled Christian girl who encouraged her book group to read it. “Andria could have written a letter to the principal,” says Leslie Tetreault, children’s room manager at Richland Public Library, SC. “Instead, she took charge and chose to use social media to reach thousands of people.”

A passionate supporter of YA literature, Amaral has helped grow YALLFest, Charleston’s celebration of YA authors and literature, from a one-day festival with 1,000 attendees to a two-day event that attracted more than 12,000 in 2015. And since coming to CCPL, she’s developed not only teen programming but also a dedicated teen space, a website for teens and books, and a strong YA collection.

With Charleston County’s recent passage of a $108 million referendum for the renovation of 13 branches and the construction of five new ones, Amaral will soon be developing more teen spaces. “All teens are at risk,” she says, from “negative influences” and from “failing to take advantage of opportunities and resources. I want to…create opportunities for kids to have meaningful engagement with the library.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. Catherine Threadgill says:

    As both Andria’s friend and former colleague, I could not be more proud for her. This mission is completely in keeping with who she is as a professional AND a person. There has never been a bad situation that got better by sweeping it under the rug. An open dialogue about the kinds of issues raised in literature that may be hard to read is important. If it’s hard to read, and hard to even contemplate, then maybe that means it’s time to take a deep breath and do the hard work of facing it.

    Brava, Andria! We in the lowcountry who get it have your back on this one.