I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the ACRL/NY Symposium in 2015. Its engagement with ALA’s core values of social responsibility, democracy, education, and professionalism was invigorating. Throughout the program, participants inspired me to think beyond the hegemonic structures that govern institutions toward radical action through professional practice. A compelling dialogue about diversity threaded through the symposium, highlighting these core values and how they might manifest in relation to diversity.
Starting things off and setting the tone were Chris Bourg and Lareese Hall, who discussed what a radical (queer, feminist) agenda could look like in an academic library. They emphasized staff diversity, the breaking down of hierarchy, transparency in decision-making, and expanding the focus of services beyond the disproportionate emphasis paid to cisgender straight white men. Shawn Smith, Emily Drabinski, and Jen Hoyer addressed diversity, including discussions of labels in the creation of identity, both inclusion and exclusion in valuing difference, and reframing the concept of authority. Isabel Espinal’s stories of her own professional experiences with racism and sexism—coupled with Ione Damasco’s investigation of (the lack of) diversity initiatives in institutions of higher education—challenged us to think about radical social responsibility as integral to professionalism. Finally, these ideas reverberated through Jerilyn Veldof’s talk on professional development.
Espinal posed the question, in a time when libraries are re-imaging themselves: “where is the imagination in social justice?” This symposium represented such an imagination. Its conversations pointed to the necessity of struggle against existing structures of oppression in supporting the ALA core professional values. As a graduate student who has only recently began to think about the implications of these values, I found this symposium to be inspirational in its radical articulation of their meaning in both principal and practice.
Hannah Sistrunk is currently pursuing an MSLIS at the Pratt Institute School of Information. With a background in professional archaeology, her interests include cultural heritage preservation and access, digital archives, and community engagement through archival collections. Hannah holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Find her on LinkedIn.