Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 3 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.


Queerlit logo: Stylized capital letter Q with a rainbow design.

The QUEERLIT Database is an ongoing project by the Center for Digital Humanities at Södertörn University, KvinnSam – National Library for Gender Research at Gothenburg University Library (OCLC Symbol: UGY), and the National Library of Sweden/Kungliga biblioteket (OCLC Symbol: S3O). The project aims to develop a thesaurus for indexing LGBTQI literature that is mapped to the existing Swedish Subject Headings (Svenska ämnesord – SAO). Once applied to individual records, QUEERLIT materials are findable in the main LIBRIS discovery interface and as a separate stand-alone interface. You can learn more about the research going into this project in Queerlit Database. Making Swedish LGBTQI Literature Easily Accessible and Building and Serving the Queerlit Thesaurus as Linked Open Data.

The Swedish National Library’s LIBRIS was the first national library service to use linked data at its core in 2018. The QUEERLIT project blends traditional knowledge organization practices and the digital humanities with input from the community. Following linked-data best practices, the project began by translating and extending the Homosaurus vocabulary, while maintaining references to the source terms. Contributed by Richard J. Urban.

Mini-conference: Individual Responsibility for Creating Belonging and Connection in the Library Profession

A free, virtual Library 2.023 mini-conference, EDI 2.0: Individual Responsibility for Creating Belonging and Connection in the Library Profession, will take place Thursday, 9 November 2023, from 12:00 – 3:00 pm US-Pacific Time.  The conference is hosted by the San José State University iSchool. The focus of this event is the exploration of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) efforts within the library profession, how libraries can help to create belongingness and meaningful connection, and what individuals, specifically, can do to help make change.

Speakers include conference chair Julius C. Jefferson (Current Chair of IFLA, North American Regional Division, and Past President of ALA), Nicole Cooke of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina, Sandy Hirsch of the College of Professional and Global Education at San José State University, Maria McCauley, Cambridge Public Library (OCLC Symbol: BF4), and Alexandra Rivera, Michigan State University Libraries (OCLC Symbol: EEM). A call for 30-minute sessions is open until 19 October.

I’m excited about this conference and the emphasis on individual actions. To quote our report, Reimagine Descriptive Workflows: A Community-informed Agenda for Reparative and Inclusive Descriptive Practice, “All institutions (and individuals working within institutions) can and should consider the power they hold and their ability to dream and enact change. Not taking any action perpetuates the status quo.” I hope readers will consider submitting a proposal to the conference. Hat tip to Jennifer Peterson for sharing this resource! Contributed by Merrilee Proffitt.

Little Free Diversity Library debated in Rochester, Massachusetts

On 15 September 2023, the Sippican Week website published a story on the debate surrounding a Little Free Diverse Library located near the entrance of the Plumb Library in Rochester, Massachusetts. Sponsored by the local non-profit organization Tri-Town Against Racism, the Little Free Diverse Library was approved by the Rochester Board of Library Trustees in January 2021 but was not opened until June 2023. In July, the diversity flag that flew on the Little Free Diverse Library was removed following the adoption of the Rochester Select Board’s flag policy prohibiting the display of most non-governmental flags on town flagpoles. At the Board of Library Trustees’ 14 September meeting, some residents complained that the books in the Little Free Diverse Library, which included Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir, were “sexually pornographic.” On 29 September, WBZ News reported the Board had voted to remove the Little Free Diversity Library.

Grassroots organizations like Tri-Town Against Racism will continue to promote DEIA in their communities despite these kinds of setbacks. As Fairhaven Select Board Chair Leon Correy said at the opening of Rochester’s Little Free Diverse Library in June, “All anybody wants is to find that person, that thing, that town, that job, that whatever, that accepts you as you are. All of that brings you to what equity means … and that is why it’s such a fight. It takes so long to explain [equity], it takes even longer to understand it.” Contributed by Morris Levy.

Digital Inclusion by Universal Design free webinar

The Research Libraries UK (RLUK) consortium is offering a free webinar on 4 October called Digital Inclusion by Universal Design. (Note: registration is through Eventbrite.) Find all RLUK recordings here. The webinar, part of its Digital Shift Forum series, features two speakers:  Tiina Hill, Head of Delivery of LibraryOn at the British Library (OCLC Symbol: UKM), and Edward Jewell, Chief Librarian at Jersey Library (OCLC Symbol: UKJSY) and President Elect of Libraries Connected.

The Digital Shift Forum series is part of the RLUK’s digital shift manifesto, launched in March 2020. These webinars provide us with an opportunity to hear presentations from colleagues from around the world speaking about the common professional challenges we face. Although the RLUK has offered free webinars for a few years, I only recently became aware of them through announcements sent to an email discussion list. I am excited to hear Hill and Jewell speak about their work on digital inclusion. Contributed by Kate James.

Librarian wins settlement in civil rights case

Following up on an Advancing IDEAs item noted on 2023 March 7 entitled “Colorado librarian fired illegally,” former High Plains Library District (OCLC Symbol: SO$) librarian Brooky Parks will receive $250,000 as part of a civil rights suit against the Greeley, Colorado district.  In 2021, Parks was fired after creating a “Read Woke Book Club” considered to violate newly instituted district policies saying that library programs could not “persuade participants to a particular point of view” or be “intentionally inflammatory.”  Objecting to the policies that she considered discriminatory, Parks was fired, prompting her to file a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (OCLC Symbol: EOC).  Matt Bloom of Colorado Public Radio writes in “Former Weld County librarian wins settlement after district fired her for promoting LGBTQ, anti-racism programs” that the CCRC finalized the agreement on 22 September, dropping the discrimination charges against the district and requiring the district to create more inclusive programming policies.  Bloom notes that “certain LGBTQ programming, including drag queen story hours” continue to be prohibited as of his writing because library board members have tabled discussion of the topic until future meetings.  Iris Halpern, who represented Parks in the case and has defended similarly fired librarians in Texas and Wyoming, states, “There’s a lot of really important equitable and injunctive relief in these settlement agreements to ensure that the High Plains Library District and hopefully other districts across America remember what their mission is, which is to serve the entire public and to make sure that different communities are supported.”

As Halpern also says in the piece, “There’s been this kind of manufactured crisis around education and books that has been particularly virulent against LGBTQ youth and youth of color. We don’t want to go back in time where our public institutions were not welcoming of minorities.”  Although there was disagreement among members of the High Plains Library District board about the prejudicial policies, this case is part of the well-documented conservative political effort to ban materials and programs for and about underrepresented groups.  Contributed by Jay Weitz.

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