Diversity, Inclusion, & Social Justice in Technical Services: 2017 Annual Conference

On June 24, 2017, ALCTS, the American Indian Library Association, and the Public Library Association co-sponsored the ALA Program, “Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Technical Services.” The session was comprised of four parts presented by Hannah Buckland, Nancy Godoy-Powell, Sharon Grimm, Michelle Miller, and Ann Marie Willer.

Anne Marie Willer and Michelle Miller opened the session by outlining their charge by the MIT Libraries to develop a white paper that identified ways in which technical services, preservation, and archives staff could incorporate and exemplify diversity, inclusion, and social justice values into their daily work. They developed working definitions for “Diversity,” “Inclusion,” and “Social Justice” and explained that the terms build upon one another, and should be considered as a whole. Through this work they took inspiration from initiatives being done at Leech Lake Tribal College (MN), Arizona State University (AZ), and Oak Park Public Library (IL). This presentation was a result of reaching out to those institutions about the projects that had been developed to be more diverse, inclusive, and respectful of the communities that they serve.

Hannah Buckland of Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) in Cass Lake, Minnesota described the difficulty of using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) terms to describe materials in the LLTC Library. This was first brought to the library’s attention when a class assignment highlighted the disparity between the language used by the local community and that within LCSH. Students asked for books of “indigenous poetry” but the library catalog (which used LCSH terms) returned no results, even though it was known that materials on this topic were in  the collection. The Euro-centric framework that the Library of Congress Subject Headings operates within, did not reflect the local language used to describe indigenous culture and heritage. The failed catalog query emphasized that cataloging work has real public impact. It was put forth that librarians could develop culturally responsible metadata, and that can be done in partnership with community members.

The third part of the presentation was titled “Preserving Arizona’s Latino History: Community-Based Workshops” and was read by Anne Marie Willer on behalf of Nancy Godoy-Powell, of Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, who was unable to attend. Arizona’s population is comprised of 30% Hispanic-identifying individuals, but only 2% of the collections in Arizona archives represent this population. As a result of learning this, a community archives project was developed to document the cultural heritage of this population. It was important to create an atmosphere of equal ownership of the archives and to develop a culture of sharing stewardship responsibilities. Equal ownership was a key component as it was identified as a means to build trust between the University and the Hispanic community. The workshops that were created for this project ultimately reached 200 people that were able to trace their families back through the 1770’s. It was pointed out that the same workshops could be modified for the LGBT community–another underrepresented community within archives.

The final presentation, “Transgender Resource Collection” was given by Sharon Grimm of Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL. In 2005 the Oak Park Public Library performed a collection evaluation because there was concern that certain community groups were inadvertently being ignored. Through the evaluation, it was determined that the collection was representative of the “LG” and less of the “BT” of the LGBT community. The following year the library received a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to develop the collection to include more resources that were representative of the bisexual and transgender population that the library serves. In addition to the collection assessment, the Library held workshops, departmental conversations, and identified other barriers to the transgender community that could be addressed by the grant project. The Oak Park Public Library believed that along with adding additional resources to the collection, that transgender users should not feel isolated, but instead should feel welcomed by the library. This was accomplished through integrating the transgender resources into the existing collection so as not to isolate the materials, as well as creating a welcoming environment for the transgender community within the Library through staff-user interactions and adjusting library procedures to be more welcoming.

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