Mentorship, diversity, social justice, leadership, and advocacy. These are just a few of the topics passionately discussed in ALSC sessions at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. Other ALSC blog posts have captured many of these conversations from individual sessions, the ALSC membership meeting, and the ALSC leadership meeting. The topics of these exchanges are not arbitrary in the least. They all align with ALSC’s new strategic plan and embody the association’s three areas of action: diversity and inclusion, advocacy, and learning and development.
In her presentation to the ALSC leadership, Dr. Nicole Cooke emphasized the necessity for our professional association to create mentorship opportunities that support culturally diverse librarians and to create inclusive, safe spaces that are welcoming to all. She cautioned about unintentional microaggressions towards librarians from diverse backgrounds and delivered a call to action. During the conference, the ALSC board began the initial steps of responding to this call. Specifically, we reviewed the Diversity within ALSC Taskforce report and the Emerging Leaders report The Pathway to Youth Library Leadership, and unanimously voted to follow specific suggestions and allocate funds to support these recommendations.
The Diversity within ALSC Taskforce proposed 22 recommendations of ways to make ALSC more inclusive, equitable, and diverse. From these recommendations, the ALSC board chose to implement 6 as soon as possible (recommendations 2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 5.4 and 5.7), consider recommendation 1, and prioritize the remaining recommendations. Although we discussed forming a standing Diversity Committee to see this work through, the board chose to start with a new Diversity Taskforce to emphasize the short-term actionable nature of many of the recommendations, and to discern how best to pilot them. This taskforce will suggest which existing committees and ALSC leaders are best suited for putting recommendations in action and will create performance indicators and a timeline that align with duration of our 2017-2020 strategic plan. Another charge of the taskforce is to determine if a separate permanent Diversity Committee should be formed within ALSC, or if there are other strategies for ensuring lasting change within existing ALSC committees and structures. ALSC is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and we want this reflected in all that we do and not just in the work of one taskforce or committee.
Recommendations 2 from the Diversity within ALSC Taskforce relates to providing cultural competency training and creating opportunities for ALSC members to honestly discuss inclusivity within our association, as well as barriers created by microaggressions, cultural misunderstandings, and the overwhelming whiteness of our professions. During the ALA Annual Conference, I participated in a panel led by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen and co-presented by Edi Campbell and Irania Patterson. In this short one-hour session, we initiated the conversation about how to radically interpret the ALSC Competencies in ways that challenge our profession and foster critical conversations related to equity, inclusion, and diversity. In addition to recommendations put forth by the newly formed Diversity Taskforce, plans are underway to create a webinar and/or article for Children and Libraries expanding upon our presentation. Meanwhile, here is our handout filled with selected resources to complement the conversation that we hope to continue later in another venue – community forum, webinar, article, etc.
From the Emerging leaders report, the board voted to accept and explore the recommendations to create an online leadership toolkit using existing ALSC, as well as other library-related, leadership resources. We also approved the development of a leadership training program, with further exploration on how to best implement this training in modes that are accessible to the broadest range of ALSC members. Aligning with input from various ALSC committees and constituencies, we agreed to find ways to maximize the skills and knowledge of ALSC members by strengthening our mentoring programming to include regional partnerships as well as expanded opportunities to participate in mentorship at different levels from assigned conference buddies to formalized mentors representing similar career trajectories and/or cultural backgrounds. Part of this action included the decision to offer an informal networking social at the 2018 ALSC Institute to allow regional library workers to meet other librarians and ALSC leaders attending the institute. This provides for potential mentorship opportunities and increases access to children’s library workers that may not have means or time to attend the multi-day ALSC Institute.
In addition to using our knowledge-based decision making to respond to these aforementioned reports, the board also approved several other actions that support our strategic areas. We accepted the recommendation of the relative committee to change the name of the Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers committee to the Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee. This clarifies the role of the committee but also eliminates the unintentional microaggression of “othering” this target patron base by calling them “special.” We also approved allocating resources to create a virtual toolkit to promote the expertise and role of children’s librarians as key educational partners in every community. In addition, the board approved funding for research into out-of-school time learning as well as the development of a research agenda from the newly formed Research Taskforce.
This year ALSC was the recipient of the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) Award for Political Activism for our decision to cancel the 2016 ALSC Institute in solidarity with our LGBTQ library communities. Along with this award comes an honorarium. The board voted to donate this honorarium to a library in North Carolina serving LGBTQ children and families. We also approved the use of Friends of ALSC funds to support sponsorship of one ALSC member from North Carolina that identifies as LGBTQ to attend the 2018 ALSC Institute.
While these are only a few actions taken by the board at this conference, I believe ALSC is moving in the right direction to support our action areas of the strategic plan. The ALSC Board is firmly committed to creating inclusive and welcoming spaces for all our diverse members. Based upon conversations at ALA annual, results of the Diversity with ALSC Taskforce’s survey, and dialogue with other library professionals serving children, we have a long way to go. Looking forward to continuing the conversation and moving strategically forward!
Jamie Campbell Naidoo is ALSC Vice-President/President Elect (2018-2019). He is the Foster-EBSCO Professor at the University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies where he teaches and researches in areas of youth services and outreach to diverse populations.