ALA Annual 2017

And the Work Continues — #alaac17

It has been such a pleasure live blogging for this conference. I wish I could impart every last nugget of knowledge to all of you who were #alaleftbehind. But, alas, even my copious handwritten notes don’t do the thoughtful, intelligent, perspective-changing presentations I attended justice.

Before I bid my blogging stint adieu, I want to share some final takeaways from the conference—especially for all of you who weren’t able to make it in person.

At the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) leadership meeting Saturday morning, ALSC President Nina Lindsay drew attention to the predominant whiteness and femaleness of ALSC leadership. She noted that there hasn’t been an ALSC President of color since the 1980s. I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows at this. Our organization has prioritized diversity and equity and, yet, in over 30 years our leadership has remained status quo.

In the same meeting, Dr. Nicole A. Cooke, of the University of Illinois iSchool, revealed that there is a retention problem in our field. Librarians of color endure microagressions and stereotype bias that make them leave librarianship in pursuit of other careers. Regardless of good intentions, systemic racism persists. And it takes a lot of work to undo it.

I attended a panel on diversity in which, though there were racially diverse speakers, the white speakers spoke first and longest. The nonwhite speakers spoke last and least. The person leading the panel—a white woman—didn’t research some of her co-panelists of color beforehand enough to give them a proper introduction. If I have learned anything from this conference—one with so many sessions on diversity—those two instances could be experienced as microaggressions.

I’m not sharing this to blame any one person. I loved that panel as much as I loved all of the ones I attended. I, a white man, have also been guilty of co-facilitating a diversity training that had missteps along with good intentions. I have also been guilty of racist thoughts and actions. But in addition to the program ideas, the incredible books to buy and recommend, and the new connections I’ve made, I’m leaving this conference with the idea that there is so clearly still so much work to be done to truly make our organization and its programs inclusive.

I am so proud to be an ALSC member, but I can’t wait to see the progress we make at #alamw18. And #alaac18. And onward as, hopefully, our profession—and our organization—continues to revolutionize the world.


  1. Nina Lindsay

    Alec, thank you for sharing your reflections from this session! Nicole Cooke has given me permission to share the following list of references and links that she shared with us at that session. You can follow her at @LibraryNicole

    ALA Diversity Counts Survery and Report:

    Cooke, N. A. (2017, May 4). Tolerance Is Not Good Enough (BackTalk column).
    Retrieved June 17, 2017, from Library Journal,

    Cooke, N. A. (2016). Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally
    Competent Library Professionals. ABC-CLIO.

    Huyck, David, Sarah Park Dahlen, Molly Beth Griffin. (2016 September 14). Diversity in
    Children’s Books 2015 infographic. blog. Retrieved from

    Jaeger, P. T., & Franklin, R. E. (2007). The Virtuous Circle: Increasing Diversity in LIS
    Faculties to Create More Inclusive Library Services and Outreach. Education Libraries,
    30(1), 20-26.

    LIS Microaggressions Tumblr:

    An Ivy League Professor on Why Colleges Don’t Hire More Faculty of Color:

    1. Alec Chunn

      Thanks, Nina. Glad you could share these references with those who weren’t able to be there.

  2. Sarah Dahlen

    Alec, thank you for your post. I cited you in mine:

    1. Alec Chunn

      Thank you for sharing your post here, Sarah. I wish I could have linked to it before I posted this!

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