Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 24 October 2023

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

Supporting communities through library classification

The Bristow Public Library (OCLC Symbol: O2J) was awarded the Inaugural ACRL Equity Champion Award for their support of the local Indigenous people, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The library has created a new Choska Talfa Room, which houses special collections to support local Indigenous communities. The room was created in consultation with the community.

Photo of the Choska Talfa Room at the Bristow Public Library. A map of the state of Oklahoma is overlaid onto the photo with the words Choska Talfa Room. The emblem for the Bristow Public Library is in the lower left corner of the image.
Choska Talfa Room at the Bristow Public Library

This story caught my eye when I learned about the creation, implementation, and use of the Fus Fixico (“Angry Bird”) Classification System (FFCS). Similar to the Brian Deer Classification System, the FFCS supports an Indigenous world view and is described as being “specifically designed for tribal and Oklahoma history collections.” I am always interested in learning about alternative ways of organizing library collections, especially when those methods support local needs and inclusivity. Hat tip to WebJunction director Andrew Harbison for sharing the good news about all the ARSL award winners! Contributed by Merrilee Proffitt.

Book challenges impact librarians’ physical and mental health

ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom reports that between 1 January 2023 to 31 August 2023, public libraries have faced a 20% increase in book challenges from the same period in 2022, which had the highest number of challenges since ALA began compiling this data. These challenges are having a big impact on the health of librarians as they are increasingly targeted along with the books. NPR’s Tovia Smith reported on the situation in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, on the 11 August 2023 edition of All Thing Considered. After she spoke against book banning at a Livingston Parish Library Board meeting, school librarian Amanda Jones was harassed verbally and online. She took medical leave, lost 50 pounds, and began carrying a gun because she was afraid for her safety. The Atlantic’s article “The librarians are not okay” provides insights from librarians at the New York Library Association’s annual conference about the impact of book bans and other challenging situations on their mental health. Speaking to writer Xochitl Gonzalez, Cindy Dudenhoffer, a former president of the Missouri Library Association says, “I’ve been called a pedophile. I’ve been called a groomer. I’ve been called a Communist pornographer. … It’s very hurtful.”

Being a public or school librarian today has become more difficult than it was even a few years ago because of book challenges. As Gonzalez notes, “… although books don’t have feelings, the librarians forced to remove them from the shelves definitely do.” Smith’s story reports that staffing is down 30% in the Livingston Parish Library System (OCLC Symbol: LVGSN). These stories remind us of the impact book bans have upon librarians and possibly the future of the profession. Contributed by Kate James.

WorldCat.org lists to support IDEAs

Creating a book list on WorldCat.org is a simple but effective way to organize and prioritize reading topics, for individuals or libraries. A number of lists have already been created relating to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility. Here are a few examples of the kinds of lists you might discover or create yourself:

Discover how to create, manage, import, share, and view WorldCat lists in WorldCat.org, and consider using this tool to connect your patrons to library resources aligned with priority topics.

I’ve enjoyed watching WorldCat lists grow over the past year, and we’ve been excited to see some of our recent WebJunction webinar presenters creating and informing lists, like Sustainable Libraries Initiative: Environmental Justice and Empathetic Leadership. Contributed by Jennifer Peterson.

Toward Inclusive Excellence podcast on decolonizing higher education

In a two-part podcast in the Toward Inclusive Excellence series from ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), TIE Editor-in-Chief Alexia Hudson-Ward, Associate Director of Research and Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries (OCLC Symbol: MYG) speaks with Jordan Clark, Assistant Director of the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) (OCLC Symbol: TOZ).  Clark, an enrolled member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, located on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, relates African American and Indigenous histories and the vital importance of decolonizing higher education, attending to previously overlooked voices, expertise, and ways of knowing.  In Part One, “Understanding the Afro-Indigenous History of Martha’s Vineyard and Adopting a Decolonial Mindset on Campus with Jordan Clark,” he talks in particular about the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah in Massachusetts, their efforts to gain federal recognition as a legitimate Nation, their Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP), and the general idea of dismantling colonial structures and mindsets.  In Part Two, “Applying Decolonization Practices to the Library and AI Tools with Jordan Clark,” he examines specifically how libraries and archives can put these ideas into action institutionally, intellectually, and personally.

Rethinking libraries and archives, so steeped in their own practices and traditions, poses such daunting challenges, not the least of which are establishing and building trust within local communities. Clark also glances into the future and the impact that Artificial Intelligence, which so easily perpetuates and amplifies existing biases, might have on decolonization efforts. Clark’s insights fit in well with as a valuable supplement to OCLC’s own Reimagine Descriptive WorkflowsContributed by Jay Weitz.