Attending the ALSC Virtual Institute was an invigorating experience. After nearly seven months of living a new lifestyle due to the Coronavirus and world events, it was refreshing to hear from so many library professionals about how passionate they all still are about their work, and their willingness to serve communities.
I especially appreciated the panel on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within ALSC. This panel allowed several professionals to speak about the initiatives that ALSC is taking in these important areas.
I enjoyed hearing from the Equity fellows, and hearing about the work that they are doing in libraries. When Ayn spoke, she mentioned that she would not get to go to Midwinter if it was not for this fellowship. Conferences are always an amazing way to learn and connect with others in our professional field. Ayn also mentioned her mentor, and how having a mentor was extremely supportive for her.
Evelyn’s story was also moving. She applied for the fellowship with only two days before the deadline, and did not think she would get selected.
When Sophie spoke, she stressed the importance of speaking up, saying that if you feel like you cannot talk to administration, try speaking to other colleagues or professionals in your field. This was a great reminder to me about why we even have groups such as ALSC. Sometimes you might have an idea and you may not feel supported. Turning to other people who have faced your situation before can help.
Our communities are often rich in diversity and we work to serve all patrons. It’s disheartening to hear that some patrons may not be supportive of Black Lives Matter displays or diversity story hours. Nicole spoke of forming guidelines with her library for programs and displays like this, using the question, “Is this something that the community asked for?” as a guide. With our current climate, many people have been desperate for education, wanting to learn about anti-racism, racism, and how they can be progressive. She also said that being interested in equity work is not a political agenda, that it should be the norm. I currently work for a very progressive school district that also embraces these ideas, but in the past I worked for schools that did not embrace diversity, and felt it was not our place to speak up. When that became apparent to me, I tried extra hard to supply my students with own voices literature. Because the majority of people in that building did not share my thinking, I wondered at times if I was overthinking this. Now that I am in my current placement, I see that yes, it should be the norm.
Hearing from Sophie’s perspective as in publishing was interesting too. Their work is supportive to the libraries’ work. Baker and Taylor are currently curating lists and trying to recruit reviewers from all backgrounds. She also stated that you learn an awful lot from people who don’t agree with you, which I believe is true. I don’t want to cut out people who might not agree with me. I want to learn why they have their beliefs and see if we can find any common ground.
The session on Children’s Librarianship in Communities Experiencing Trauma was similar. While the equity one focused specifically on the fellowship and new initiatives, there were intertwining ideas. It is partially because of the trauma that we have collectively gone through that we need to reinvent our practices. Anita’s library was already going through difficulties due to the Coronavirus when George Floyd died. Angry citizens rioted, causing some damage to the library. The library staff still worked to meet the needs of the community. They performed outdoor outreach programs. While it can be scary to go through these difficult situations, it is not an option to just stop library services.
The general public may not have a comprehensive idea of what librarianship looks like. I see that even in school systems. Classroom teachers might think we just read books all day. We work hard to advocate for our patrons. We work hard to educate our communities. We work hard to ensure that people of all backgrounds feel safe.
This experience proved all of that to me, and solidified again why I have chosen librarianship as my career. I am grateful for this opportunity, and hope to attend future ALSC events.
As part of receiving a Friends of ALSC Institute Scholarship, recipients were asked to submit written pieces on their learnings and experience at #alsc20 to share with members and readers. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.