The American Library Association held their midwinter conference as a virtual event in January 2021.
- Opening Session: Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
These authors opened the conference with an introduction to their new book, Four Hundred Souls. The book represents the movement that all libraries should be embracing, the need to see the diversity of voices and experiences of Black people in America. Kendi referred to their 90 contributors as a choir that celebrates this diversity, introducing readers to 400 years of experiences of Black people in America, starting in 1619, when the first African slaves landed on the shore at Jamestown, Virginia. was a call to action for all librarians, and Blain noted that contributors were having conversations in the pages of the book of different experiences in different generations, like the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s as compared to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Kendi ended the session noting that he hopes this book lives on in libraries for a long time, introducing readers to the plethora of Black voices here in the U.S.
- Anti-racism Work and Women in Librarianship
Moderated by Loida Garcia-Febo, International Library Consultant; presented by Twanna Hodge, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Librarian at University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries in Gainesville, FL, Nicole A. Cooke, Ph.D., M.Ed, MLS, Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and Associate Professor at the School of Information Science at University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, Tasha Nins, Children's Librarian at Ramsey County Library, St. Paul, MN, and Shauntee Burns-Simpson, Associate Director at the School Support & Outreach at The New York Public Library, New York, NY
Nina Hodge began the 90-minute conversation by defining such terms as diversity, equity, and inclusion, while reminding attendees that none of these terms or ideas is the same as anti-racism. Statements condemning racism and white supremacy are great, but they need to lead to action -- repeated actions over a long period of time. Nicole Cooke emphasized that overuse of certain buzz words (like multiculturalism in the recent past) can water down their meaning. We need to make sure that we stay true to the current meanings of terms like equity and inclusion or anti-racism, and stay true to the movement they imply: taking action and working for social justice. We need to make sure that equity, diversity, and inclusion need to be discussed (repeatedly) in classrooms and workplaces, not just in webinars and voluntary conferences.
Tasha Nins pointed out that many libraries still do not recognize that libraries represent whiteness as the norm, and have not asked about ways to reach out to voices of color, representing the diverse voices of their community. And this includes when working with children; the earlier we can talk about celebrating the differences of our peers, the more accepting they will be as they grow older. Shauntee Burns-Simpson asked attendees to challenge the issues that do not match the core values of our profession: Challenge your personal bias at the individual level to make sure that you are bringing diverse voices into your library, both in the collection and the personnel; waive fines that affect those that struggle the most in your community; create inclusive programming and broaden the types of voices heard at your institution; and consider how frequently and why you police patrons of color in your library.
The panelists then opened a discussion with all five women that noted the importance of inclusion in workplace culture. Are we considering the implications of being the only person of color on the staff? Do our policies and expectations take into consideration cultural differences? Are we expecting the voice of one person of color to represent the voices of all people of color? These ideas need to be considered, written into policy, and acted on across the workplace and with patrons.
- ALA President's Program: Joy Harjo with Jill Bialosky
This session featured Harjo in conversation with her editor at Norton, Jill Bialosky. They spoke about her poetry, and the role of writing and poetry in our modern society. Harjo noted that poets are the truth tellers, telling the story of a culture; she said that poetry is a great doorway into other cultures. She also discussed her latest project with the Library of Congress as Poet Laureate, a story map of First Peoples Poetry, titled Living Nations, Living Words.
- Emmanuel Acho, Featured Speaker
Acho joined the ALA to discuss his recently published book, Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, based on his YouTube channel of the same name. (The first video in that series is embedded below.) Acho says that his goal is to bridge the gap between Black culture and white culture, to help more people understand the experiences of Black people in America. As a former athlete who saw a locker room full of men united to defeat a common enemy in their opponents, he wants to help Americans embrace their similarities as humans to defeat the common enemy of racism. Acho also wants to inspire individuals to take action to make change, helping our society change as a whole to dismantle systemic racism.
- Acho, E [Emmanuel Acho]. (2020, June 3). Uncomfortable conversations with a Black man [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8jUA7JBkF4
- Ianson, C. (2016). Photo of Keisha N. Blain at the Global Garveyism Symposium, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2016 [Image]. Wikimedia, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keisha_Blain_Headshot.jpg
- Tony Turner Photography. (2019). Ibram X. Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist [Image]. Flickr, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/77549586@N03/48625099058
Amigos Library Services held a virtual day-long conference on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Libraries: Progress and Promise in December 2020.
- Opening Keynote: Re-Envisioning LIS: Activating Social Justice
Presented by Nicole Cooke, Associate Professor at the School of Information Science at the University of South Carolina; introduction by Miguel Figueroa, President and Chief Executive Officer of Amigos Library Services
Both Figeroa and Cooke discussed the importance of actively considering equity, diversity and inclusion in our spaces. Such true inclusion will require conscientious assessment of policy and programming, and, as Cooke emphasized, considering the language used in communication from daily interactions to formal policies across your institution. We need to re-envision and re-imagine what our institution would look like if it's equitably accessible to all of our patrons, and if we are actively pursuing change in order to achieve that.
- Building and Living a Shared Culture of Accessibility
Presented by William Helman, Information Technology Librarian, and Julia Caffrey-Hill, Web Services Librarian, both at Towson University, Towson, MD
This presentation discussed how accessibility should be an important part of any library's approach to not only digital collections, but also facilities, print collections and services. Accessibility is not only a core value for librarians, but also a legal and ethical imperative, as Caffrey-Hill pointed out. But accessibility should be driven by empathy rather than directives. Everyone in the library (and throughout campus) can be a part of this approach to accessibility, which also helps to distribute the work across the library as it should not just be one person's job.
The speakers ended the session with time to brainstorm what we all can do to improve accessibility. They used the graphic below to prompt discussion of the following ideas, encouraging such discussions in our own libraries, to remind ourselves that we can all do small things to help improve accessibility.
- What do I control?
- What do I contribute to?
- What can I influence?
- Where do I have no influence?
- Checking Your Work: Using Diversity Audits to Make Collection Development Decisions
Presented by Brianne Anderson, Youth Services Librarian, and Kiki Kramer, Intern, both at the Ames Public Library, Ames, IA
Anderson and Kramer have run three diversity audits of their children's collections in the past few years to determine whether their collections include a wide variety of points of view, experiences and representations. These audits help to identify gaps in the collection, as well as where implicit bias may be affecting book selection.
They advocate a simple plan of action for any diversity audit:
- Prep the collection by wedding old materials, which allows the team to save time and effort on a smaller number of resources. (Others advocate for weeding afterward.)
- Set the parameters of what you expect to measure: What demographics will you be looking for? Ethnicity? Gender? Characters with disabilities? Be sure to look at your own community too, to understand who is reading your books.
- Collect data on your collection. The speakers advocated using a randomizer to collect a sample of the collection; their most recent audit looked at about 1/3 of their collection.
- Analyze the data using Excel tools, online software like Dedoose, and other graphic representations of the information like through Infogram.
- Adjust your buying patterns to make data-informed decisions moving forward.
The American Library Association held their annual conference as a virtual event in June 2020.
- Opening Session: Misty Copeland
This introduction to the conference was a call to action for all librarians. ALA Executive Director Tracie A. Hall advocated for justice across the organization, "inviting us to explore the construct of the library as both the vehicle and driver of justice, as both a means to justice and an arbiter. To support this movement for justice, she called for
- More access to the Internet and digital services for all patrons
- A more diverse field of accredited librarians and library workers to ensure equitable access to knowledge and resources
- More investment in libraries, both from government funding and private partnerships
- Herstory through Activism: Women, Libraries, and Activism
Moderated by Sherre Harrington, Director of Memorial Library, Berry College, Mount Berry, GA
Speakers: Emily Drabinski, Interim Chief Librarian, The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY; Dalena Hunter, Librarian/Archivist for Los Angeles Communities and Cultures, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; and Teresa Y. Neely, Professor and Assessment Librarian, CULLS, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ms. Harrington started the session with a brief history of feminism within the field, and Ms. Drabinski agreed that it is a field that has been both feminized and racialized, and that the organization continues to work to diversify both through gender and ethnicity across the board. She encouraged all of us to see the library as a site of struggle, where we can pull together and push for a more equitable library in the hopes to see more equality across the board outside the library. Ms. Hunter gave the history of two Black librarians as a way to highlight how we need to celebrate all of the women that have come before us in librarianship, not just the white women.
Dr. Neely approached feminism through intersectionality in activism, noting that Black female librarians are doubly oppressed, and hoping to propel libraries toward a more equitable environment. In particular, she argued that by labeling protected groups and minorities as "women and/or people of color," it denies that Black women and other women of color are treated differently than white women, essentially silencing them. Ms. Hunter asserted that libraries are a part of a system built on racial inequity, and that our responsibility is to acknowledge our privileges in the library and work toward equitable access.
As part of an academic library at a private university, I think that is particularly true. It has been challenging to witness the events of the past few months without being able to discuss them in person with colleagues. While the university administration has released statements about combating racism on campus, I am curious to see what actually comes about whenever we are able to return to campus.
- Squire, G. N. (2013). Book Cover for Life In Motion memoir [Image]. Wikimedia, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Life_In_Motion_(cropped).jpg
- The keynote, featuring dancer Misty Copeland, was presented as an interview by Kirby McCurtis, the President of the Association for Library Service to Children, as well as the Library Manager of Multnomah County. Ms. Copeland spoke about her new children's book, based on her first dance classes as a child, which encourages diversity within and outside of the dance community, including gender as well as race. She also spoke of the importance of the mentorship of other African Americans who were "firsts" in their field, which gave her the courage to strive for success within the ballet community.
The Distance Learning Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries held a Virtual Poster Session in April 2020.
- How Can Libraries Move Towards a More Inclusive Model of Reference? A Practical Approach to Serve Distance Students
Presented by Camille Chesley, Reference Librarian; Amanda M. Lowe, Outreach and Marketing Librarian; and Lauren Puzier, User Experience Librarian; all at the University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY
This sounded very fitting given our current status of all students learning from home, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that we had already integrated many of the suggestions into our offerings at SMU Libraries. As soon as we began working from home, we transitioned to virtual consultations via Zoom. The one challenge we had with this was awareness -- there were not as many opportunities to suggest these consultations to students; I would often suggest consultations when students came to the reference desk in person and needed more help, which of course has not been happening. The marketing options they suggest in the presentation are the biggest benefit I can see that we could use moving forward in helping students from a distance, as well as their proposed assessment options.
- Creating Information Literacy Tutorials That Encourage Critical Thinking
Presented by Mandi Goodsett, Performing Arts & Humanities Librarian, and Copyright & OER Advisor, at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH
This was an excellent presentation on evaluating various ways to teach critical thinking when discussing IL. The author gives a variety of useful tools and suggestions throughout the presentation, and she introduces attendees to different technologies that can be used to stimulate conversation and discussion from a distance, like Padlet.