Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 2023 April 4

The following  post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by Jay Weitz.

Stories Beyond Borders: A Chinese American and Disaporic Reading List

To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), in collaboration with the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and in consultation with the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), have created Stories Beyond Borders: A Chinese American and Diasporic Reading List. Its 49 books for children, middle-grade students, and young adults were “selected based on their authenticity, accuracy, appeal, and creativity.” Although the list concentrates on recent publications, it also includes older selections “due to their historical influence and continued significance to Chinese American youth literature.”

Sustaining Hope: Feminisms, Freedom, and the Future

April 13-15, the University of Wisconsin System (OCLC Symbol: GZM) Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium and Office of the Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian will co-convene a free and entirely virtual conference, Sustaining Hope: Feminisms, Freedom, and the Future. In these dark and uncertain times, the co-conveners “ask scholars, students, activists, artists, civil society leaders, and all members of the community to reflect on strategies for harnessing joy and hope in tandem with anger, frustration, and rage.” Of particular interest to librarians may be “Dismantling Bias in Academic Writing, Reading, and Research: A Librarian’s Approach in Integrating Inclusive Language Practices,” presented by Raymond Pun, Academic and Research Librarian of the Alder Graduate School of Education (OCLC Symbol: CAAGS), Redwood City, California. Pun’s talk will be part of Concurrent Session 2 on Thursday, April 13, 12:45-2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Library support of female architecture students

In “Breaking Barriers: How Libraries Can Better Support Female Architecture Students for Professional Success” (College and Research Libraries, Volume 84, Number 2, March 2023, Pages 260-279) Cathryn Copper, Head of the Eberhard Zeidler Library at the University of Toronto (OCLC Symbol: CNALD), and Sara Jamal Eddin, a PhD student in the Architecture Program at Virginia Tech (OCLC Symbol: VPI), Blacksburg, Virginia, suggest how library resources and services might support female students of architecture. Their study examines increasing access to mentors and role models, awareness of scholarly tools, diversity of materials, and sponsorship of diversity events and programs.

Diverse representation and information literacy

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Two pieces in the March 2023 issue (Volume 84, Number 3) of College and Research Libraries News may be of particular interest to “Advancing IDEAs” readers. In “Engaging neglected histories: First-year students, archives, and Wikipedia” (Pages 103-109), Sara Davidson Squibb, Catherine Koehler, and Jerrold Shiroma, all of the University of California, Merced (OCLC Symbol: MERUC), recount what both students and instructors learned from a collaborative project involving archival materials (newsletters created by Japanese Americas incarcerated during World War Two) and the furthering of diverse representation in Wikipedia. In “De-colonizing one-shots: Critical pedagogies and the ACRL Framework” (Pages 110-114), Shatha Baydoun and Ava M. Brillat, both of the University of Miami (OCLC Symbol: FQG) in Florida, advocate for the evolution of the “one-shot” format for teaching information literacy skills away from the faulty model of “neutrality” towards the active and conscious examination of biases built into librarianship and literacy instruction.

Censorship attempts in 2022

On March 22, 2023, the American Library Association (ALA) reported that during 2022, there were 1269 documented attempts to censor library books and resources, close to double those reported (729) during 2021. The 2022 numbers are the most attempts in the more than twenty years that ALA has been keeping track. A record 2571 unique titles were challenged, up 38% from 2021, the majority of them having been written by or about the LGBTQIA+ community and People of Color. As a reflection of book lists compiled and circulated by organized groups advocating such censorship, 90% of the challenges involved multiple titles, and 40% involves a hundred or more titles. Until 2021, the majority of challenges involved a single book. “Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. ALA will announce its list of the ten most challenged books on April 24, during National Library Week, April 23-29, 2023.

Library and technological “neutrality”

In his March 2023 “Systems Librarian” column in Computers in Libraries (Volume 43, Number 2, Pages 16-18) independent library consultant Marshall Breeding writes “Libraries Are Not Neutral—Neither Is Technology.” He makes the point that “Libraries strive to provide resources for all segments of their service populations,” yet use professional judgment to avoid misinformation and “disassociate themselves from hate groups or other entities that incite harm or violence,” which is not neutrality. He goes on to briefly consider how various aspects of technology, including standards, content management systems, advertising, analytics, social media, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, require libraries to delve below the surface “to ensure that they conform to their requirements as nonprofits with high expectations for privacy protections.”

Libraries connecting with older adults

When the pandemic struck, Missouri’s Saint Louis County Library (OCLC Symbol: ZAE) found that in addition to serving the needs of students in its community, “many older adults suffered in isolation, disconnected from family, friends, doctors, and others,” according to SLCL deputy director Eric Button. In “GrandPads: Creating Digital Connections for Older Adults” (Computers in Libraries Volume 43, Number 2, March 2023, Pages 12-15), Button explains how the institution used the opportunity to invest in “GrandPads” tablets, leveraging the devices “to connect with older adults who have traditionally been difficult to reach.” Although the program is not a panacea, Button says, “As libraries continue to focus on equity and meeting the needs of underserved communities, perhaps this model and others like it can narrow the technology and connections gap for older adults.”

Academic Library Advocacy Toolkit

Responding to the numerous challenges facing academic libraries today, ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has made available the Academic Library Advocacy Toolkit. ACRL describes it as “a curated collection of resources to equip academic library administrators and library professionals with the resources they need to advocate for the value, roles, and contributions of academic libraries to their campus communities.” It includes sections devoted to student success; faculty support; employment status; equity, diversity, and inclusion; affordability; and strategic goals.

“Using the Homosaurus in a Public Library Consortium”

The first Open Access issue of Library Resources and Technical Services, now published by ALA’s Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures, features “Using the Homosaurus in a Public Library Consortium: A Case Study,” by Rachel K. Fischer (Volume 67, Number 1, January 2023, Pages 4-15). Fischer, Member Services Librarian for Technical Services at Cooperative Computer Services (CCS) (OCLC Symbol: JED), the consortium of Chicago area public libraries, recounts how CCS has increased accessibility to LGBTQ+ resources through the use of Homosaurus: An International LGBTQ+ Linked Data Vocabulary to supplement Library of Congress Subject Headings. In addition to reviewing the literature, studying several possible solutions, and spelling out some advantages of Homosaurus, Fischer tells how CCS went about building institutional support and drafting instructions for its use.

FReadom Fighters

Becky Calzada, a library coordinator for an Austin, Texas, area school district, and Carolyn Foote a retired librarian from Austin, join Oscar winners Michelle Yeoh and Sarah Polley, and Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph, among others, as People‘s 2023 Women Changing the World honorees. Calzada and Foote are among the founders of #FReadom Fighters, “committed to highlighting the positive work of librarians, to speak up in support of authors and students, and to provide professional resources for librarians, teachers or authors facing book challenges.” Although they have received threats, they also take heart that both children and adults oppose book bans and have been inspired to get involved. In “Meet the FReadom Fighters Taking On Book Bans and Online Abuse: ‘Books Are Not Contraband,'” People writer Abby Roedel expands on their story.

Book ban analysis

Data scientist and machine learning engineer Yennie Jun analyzes books and authors who have been banned in the United States during 2021-2022 for “The Forbidden Pages: A Data Analysis of Book Bans in the US.” Jun breaks the dataset down by title, state, genre, age group, topic, and other categories, even enlisting three chat bots to recommend how they would rule on some of the books. “A majority of Americans across the political spectrum oppose book bans,” writes Jun. “As a life-long prolific reader, the topic of book bans is very near to my heart. Banning books is the first step in banning thoughts, ideas, and imagination; these bans are a violation of the very democratic values of freedom of expression America loves to tout.” Jun concludes “that there is currently a vast diversity of stories being banned in the US: stories of LGBTQ+ communities and Muslim families and women in science and racism and sexism and even picture books about cows.” What we read helps shape our understanding of the world; restricting the former limits the latter.

Library support in Illinois

Mike Sorensen of the Herald-Whig of Quincy, Illinois, reports that “Secretary of State makes push to prevent book-bans at libraries.” In Illinois, the Secretary of State, currently Alexi Giannoulias, also serves as State Librarian, who has authority over library funding after its allocation through the General Assembly. Giannoulias’s draft of House Bill 2789 stipulates that state funds will be available only to libraries that either “adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights indicating reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal disapproval; or issue a statement complying with the policies of the State Library or one prohibiting the practice of banning books or resources.”