Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 25 June 2024

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

Logo from the ALA Community of Care website - text framing two hands that are holding up a heart
ALA Community of Care

Core Career LIFT Award winners 

Congratulations to the 2024 recipients of the American Library Association’s Core Career LIFT Award! OCLC sponsored two of this year’s four awards, announced on June 14, 2024. Kristin Lansdown serves as the Librarian and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility (IDEA) Coordinator at DePaul University Library (OCLC Symbol: IAC) where she works “diligently to develop strategic partnerships … to promote retention for low-income, first-generation, and students of color.” And Enito Mock is Assistant Director of Acquisitions at the New York Public Library (OCLC Symbol: NYP), where they emphasize “a need for PEACE (Proactive, Equity, Accountability, Communication and Cooperation, and Evaluation) in order to have a safe and equitable environment for the entire team.”  

“Grounded in Core’s mission of cultivating and amplifying the collective expertise of library workers in core functions and its tagline, Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures, the LIFT awards are designed to support information professionals whose passion, actions, and everyday work warrants recognition and celebration.” Awards in our field serve as an excellent way to recognize the outstanding and impactful work of our colleagues, and many share that even the award nomination process itself provides an opportunity to cultivate and amplify better practices. The award consists of up to $1,500 that individuals may use on professional development. Applications for the 2025 award will open in January. Learn more about the award here. Contributed by Jennifer Peterson. 

Quiet rooms support well-being of conference attendees 

The ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition will be held in San Diego, California, 27 June-2 July, 2024. The Community of Care will be part of the conference in support of ALA’s goal “to enhance a sense of community and safety by providing resources that offer conference attendees tangible support.” The Community of Care measures are a quiet room, communicating the ALA Code of Conduct, a team stationed across the conference to provide triage, and a mental health professional available during the conference. The Community of Care began as a pilot at LibLearnX (LLX) 2023 and was offered at the 2023 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition and LLX 2024. ALA describes Community of Care as an extension of its Code of Conduct, which prohibits harassment of persons and explicitly lists several protected classifications. The quiet room is available to conference attendees Friday-Monday 8:00 am-5:00 pm in Room 15 A B of the San Diego Convention Center. 

I’ve noticed that quiet rooms (also called “calm rooms” and “sensory spaces”) like this seem to be increasingly available at large events and in public spaces. Providing quiet rooms is a neuroinclusive practice helping those who feel overwhelmed by visual and auditory stimuli. The UbiComp/ISWC 2023 conference provided three sensory rooms: silent room, quiet, room, and chill room. Their page is an excellent introduction to the different needs of neurodivergent attendees. The quiet room portion of ALA’s Community of Care provides a safe space for use in a distressing situation. It also empowers neurodivergent conference attendees by giving them a space to regulate before becoming overstimulated. I look forward to a future in which attendees at all types of conferences do not need to search for whether the conference has a quiet room because it will become standard. Contributed by Kate James. 

Librarians in the culture wars

In the 16 June 2024 issue of The Columbus Dispatch, guest columnist Jay Weitz took issue with a 9 June Dispatch column in which Philip Derrow suggested that while “the Columbus Metropolitan Library has consistently worked to stay centered on its mission while staying politically centered as well,” other libraries “have put themselves in the middle of the culture wars.” Weitz, who retired in 2023 after working for 41 years at OCLC and originated the Advancing IDEAs series, countered that “like the Columbus Metropolitan, libraries everywhere have for decades been devoting themselves to their missions of improving access, serving diverse communities, expanding inclusiveness, and promoting equity.” On 3 June, Representative Al Cutrona introduced House Bill 622, which would “require each board of public library trustees to adopt a policy that prohibits its libraries from displaying matter harmful to juveniles and to redistribute the public library funds of libraries that fail to do so.” Weitz identified studies showing that “the materials most often challenged as ‘obscene’ or ‘harmful’ tend to be those by and about the LGBTQIA+ community and communities of color.” Weitz concluded: “Integral to their foundational principles is the obligation libraries have to defend themselves from partisans who have brought the culture wars to library doors.” 

Jay Weitz is a passionate advocate for libraries and their shared mission to promote DEI principles. He has been a mentor to me and to many others who feel strongly about social justice and the role libraries play in serving everyone in their communities. Contributed by Morris Levy.  

Considering gender and collections 

ALA’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has now made available for no charge recordings of the two-part webinar “Developing Collections on Gender Relations and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century.” The Iranian-American public librarian, socialist-feminist activist, scholar, writer, and translator Frieda Afary originally presented the webinars in April and May 2023, based upon her four decades of research and engagement. The first part of the webinar covers:  “The Covid-19 Pandemic, the #MeToo Movement, and the Reproductive Rights Movement,” “Twenty-First Century Authoritarianism and Feminist Responses to It,” “Feminist Theories of Social Reproduction,” and “Feminist Theories of Alienation.”  In Part Two:  “Black Feminist Theories of Intersectionality,” “Feminist Theories of Queer Identity,” “Feminist Alternatives to Capitalism and Environmental Destruction,” and “Feminist Alternatives to Domination in the Relationship of Self to Other.” 

In addition to the numerous programming ideas for academic and public libraries, Afary includes extensive lists of questions for study, definitions of key terminology, and bibliographies. Afary is the current co-chair of the PEN America Translation Committee, serves on the Programming Committee of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table. Contributed by Jay Weitz. 

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