During the #alavirtual20 Opening Session, ALA Executive Director, Tracie D. Hall, called upon libraries to “Let our legacy be justice.” Attendees were invited to “ explore the constructs of the library as both the vehicle and driver of justice as both a means to justice and an arbitrator.”
Hall stated, “There is something about justice that demands that we take sides; that we make intentional decisions about whether we were at the side of justice or opposite.” She asked, “What is our responsibility to justice when we consider that literacy and educational attainment are two of the key contributors to economic self-sufficiency, and that their absence contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, high unemployment, and cyclical poverty?” She went on to share and reflect upon her personal professional journey to librarianship as well as the historical contexts of the role of justice within the library field and ALA.
Hall then outlined 3 Calls to Action for ALA that can empower libraries to make meaningful gains in their intentional work towards justice within their communities, emphasizing that “ ‘Lead’, ‘Develop’, ‘Promote’, and ‘Improve’ are not passive verbs”.:
- Advocate for universal broadband internet access and to minimize adjacent barriers to access: “The United Nations has identified the imperative of universal internet access, which is defined as getting 90% of the global population online as its central goal. [A]longside access to food to social services and supports to medical care and public transportation [which are] all determinants of the overall health of a community population”. Hall added, “ [A]s an extension of the right to read, free internet access, free and open universal broadband, must be considered a human right.”
- Rapid diversification of the library and information service field: Recent studies show that “only about 6.8% of the 300,000 librarians in the workforce today identify as Black; 8.6% as Latino; 4.6% as Asian American or Pacific Islander; and less than 1% as Native Americans. The professions’ lack of reflection and alignment with its widely diverse client base limit its reach and credibility”. Hall emphasized, “If our institutions and profession is to be sustainable, all of us must devote ourselves to the diversification of this field, and we do not have time to waste.”
- More and better library funding: “We need our local and federal government and a wider array of public and private funders to deepen wide-scale investment” in libraries. Libraries are too often the first stop community resource, but rarely does our funding match that primacy, and we need to change that…Whether on a college campus [or] in K12 library setting or in a large Metropolitan Metropolitan Library or in a small town… libraries are recognized not only for the information access services they provide but also for their ability to amplify the impact of nearly every other adjacent area of support”.
Hall continued, saying, “Embedded in each of these three calls for action is the consistent and overarching call for justice. Let that ideal be our legacy as librarians and information workers because all of this is empty unless it is fueled by justice; the desire for peace and equity; and universal well-being and mutual respect”. In closing she stated, “Justice..is the star on our road map. Let justice be our legacy, and let us arrive there together”.
Hall extended an invitation to connect with her via email if you would like to be more deeply involved in any part of the call to action or have questions. If you are registered for the conference and were not able to tune in this morning, then I encourage you to listen to the full address using the “On Demand Video” option listed on the event page.