Thanks to ACRL/NY’s Early-Career Librarian Scholarship, I was able to attend ACRL/NY this year. The theme was “Redefining Ethical Innovation in the Academic Library,” which asks us to think about how libraries can redefine services, instruction, and collection development in a way that is thought-provoking, innovative, and ethical. As ACRL/NY so succinctly writes, “This ongoing shift calls for change agents to curate, acquire, and build upon competencies, while establishing fresh and transparent benchmarks.”
In this post, I’ll talk about a few of the sessions that I found especially impactful and informative.
Representation Matters: Asian American Voices in Academic Library Leadership
The first panel of the day, “Representation Matters: Asian American Voices in Academic Library Leadership,” with Janet Clarke, Brian Lym, Jennie Pu, Jennifer Shimada, and Anuradha Vedantham, really impacted me. The panelists discussed leadership, engaging and promoting diversity and inclusion, recruiting and retaining of librarians of color, and advice for new professionals.
What does it mean to be a leader? We need to start redefining what leaders look like, breaking away from the norm of stereotypical white male confidence. There are many ways to be a leader – for example, community organizers, activists, and folks engaged in civic work outside the library are all leaders too.
Diversity and inclusion
Our workforce needs to be more representative of our student body to better serve our communities – we can do this by promoting our paraprofessionals, clerks, & library assistants — who are most often interested in the profession — to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Institutions can and should have memberships to all ethnic caucuses within ALA because they are all united in the effort to diversify librarianship. We can also offer to write letters of reference for librarians of color that highlight their strengths and nominate them for awards (or create one for them!)
Within the library and across campus, there needs to be a structure for EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) work. We need to build relationships across campus, learn about EDI efforts and how we can support or collaborate with them, instead of focusing exclusively on our own work. Collaborating with groups across campus to do programming around EDI is a fantastic way to build community, create greater impact, and give visibility to the library’s efforts.
Also remember: EDI work isn’t just isolated to the library or our campuses either – community building and organizing happens at all levels, as does change – big or small, it matters.
The power of one-to-one relationships cannot be underestimated. Start conversations and build a shared vocabulary. Share your story (without underrepresented communities bearing the burden of the only ones being vulnerable.)
To new professionals
I think of networking as building community, which is a sentiment the panelists seconded. It’s a way to learn from one another, have conversations with each other, and advocate for our colleagues. I like to call networking “community building” because it feels less icky and impersonal this way. The panelists reminded us it’s never too soon to start expanding your networks (start today!) and to build community with other professionals as well, not just librarians.
The panelists also talked about writing, which is cumulative and starts with writing a paragraph and putting it somewhere, whether that’s blogging, reflective journaling, having a professional website, or publishing. Just start!
And finally, remember your life experience is valuable and so is local work, whether in your library or your community.
WOC+Lib: A New Blog Resource for WOC + POC in Librarianship
Lorin Jackson gave this amazing presentation, with help from co-founder LaQuanda Onyemeh (who couldn’t make it), and began by noting that many other folks also help WOC+Lib behind the scenes, donating their time and labor to help “nurture and encourage open dialog about our experiences in the field.”
WOC+Lib is an exciting new resource that I heard about via Twitter. Lorin noted that most people hear about their project by word-of-mouth and that library students and workers are often interested in their work, who, along with paraprofessionals, often have their experiences ignored and/or erased. WOC+Lib works to elevate their narratives, voices, and experiences on their site, giving them a platform to share their stories.
Yet even though WOC+Lib isn’t a scholarly journal, people still felt intimated to write for them (hello impostor syndrome!), so they began hosting writing webinars to help educate and support new writers of color. Their hope is that writing for WOC+Lib will serve as an entryway to writing for journals, publications, and more.
Although WOC+Lib is still a fairly new resource, site, and community of practice, it’s already had a huge impact, creating a community of folks looking for a community, increasing opportunities for writing and publishing by new writers, and beginning more conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work in the LIS field.
While all the panels were informative and interesting, I can’t begin to do justice to them all in a blog post. You can check out attendees livetweeting (including mine) by looking at the hashtag #ACRLNY19.
I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to attend ACRL/NY as an early-career librarian and diversity fellow. It was great to meet other folks in the field (I even met a potential co-author for an exciting article on a topic I’m passionate about!) and build new relationships in community with one another. I’ve been talking with other disabled librarians (we represent about 3% of the field) about how to start a community for us – and Lorin and LaQuanda’s presentation on how they began WOC+Lib gave me new insights, ideas, and inspiration. This conference also encouraged me to write more; I do have an upcoming book chapter, “Surviving to Thriving: Creating Cultures of Radical Vulnerability in Libraries” coming out next year in LIS Interrupted: Intersections of Mental Illness and Library Work and I’m a First-Year Academic Blogger for the ACRLog – but I want to write and publish more after attending ACRL/NY. For me, this conference reminded me that being able to write, research, and publish will be an important aspect of my next job – and of my career.