During the recent ALA conference in New Orleans, I couldn’t help but wonder what the founders of the American Library Association would think of the organization it founded and how well it achieves what they set out to do. Knowing that two African American women, Michelle Obama and Violet Davis, bookended the event would probably give them pause, as well as the growing number of Native Americans, People of Color and LGBT+ members. I intentionally leave out those with disabilities because I’m not convinced their numbers are growing because I don’t now how well their needs are being met. Yes, there are librarians with disabilities.
I feel consistent efforts to serve all communities in our libraries in pockets of ALA. Oh, it’s in ALSC as they incorporate cultural competencies into standards of practice for children’s librarians. It’s there in the way they seek diverse representation throughout this division of ALA rather than marginalized IPOC/LGBT/disabled members into diversity committees. I see the commitment to decolonization in their work with REFORMA and in the changing of the name of the Wilder Award.
ALA continues to press forward on political issues, wielding the power of its collective voice most recently by passing a resolution regarding migrant children and separation.
YALSA, what are you doing?
update 2 July: At Annual, YALSA’s board voted on a number of documents related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), including Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Next Steps and a Value of EDI Statement. Included in their task force recommendation were efforts to rent membership lists from ethnic caucuses to bring their members into YALSA. The effort was not successful.
ALA is a massive organization that represents the complexity of librarianship itself. Librarians work in schools, industry, universities and public libraries and some of us work directly with the public while others specialize in cataloging, copyright issues, special collections, outreach, emerging technologies, contract negotiations, data management and even teaching the next generation of librarians. And, all of these aspects of the professions come together in this annual event.
I can’t tell you all that I missed this year, all the people I didn’t get to see, books I didn’t get signed, meetings and sessions I didn’t attend but, I can tell you I gave it my best. I was exhausted when I got home. I had emotional highs from seeing the #DiversityJEDI in full force (something that rarely happens!), from celebrating with the Printz Award winners, attending the CSK Breakfast and the Caldecott/Newbery dinner and getting a taste of NOLA.
I’m still surprised there’s not more mention of the historic nature of this year’s Newbery List and the fact that it’s comprised totally of authors of color.
Where’s the celebration around Nina Lacour being the first openly lesbian person to win the Printz Award for We Are Okay (Penguin/Random House)? It’s 2018 and she’s the first.
I’m so very, very proud of the books on the 2018 Printz award list and the authors who wrote those books. At a poorly attended YALSA/Printz Ceremony Friday evening, Deborah Heiligman opened the ceremony by describing her inability to remember that call notifying her that Vincent and Theo had been selected as an honor book. The shock led to her having a type of temporary amnesia that caused her memory to recycle every 90 seconds, leading her to continually ask “what’s happening to me?”. What a reminder of how precious award recognition is. Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas reminded us who they write for and why, of the life and death nature of their work that they are happy to be recognized for, but will continue to do regardless. I can’t wait to see The Hate You Give movie!
I participated in several sessions, a couple of which were for ALA’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Team. We’re working to get racial healing circles into libraries through the Great Stories Program.
My panel, “Brilliance, Magic and Black Girls” was Sunday afternoon and was recorded by ALA. Zetta Elliott, Denene Millner and Hannah Gomez provided insights into what ‘magic’ means when applied to Black girls, what it’s like to work in professions dominated by white women and how we can support young Black girls in our lives and libraries. Here’s a copy of the book list we curated for the event. BrillianceBlkGirlMagic-2
I’ve already blogged about the ALSC President’s Panel, here’s a copy of the resource list that was provided there. 2018 ALSC Presidents Program Resource Guide
With more black and brown people present at ALA, I have to wonder how the ethnic caucuses continue to serve our needs? I can’t say I spoke with anyone who raved about what BCALA is doing, in fact it was quite the opposite. I’ve been a member and have tried to make it to their events, but with the general meeting always at the same time as the Newbery/Caldecott Dinner, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to attend that. Where was/is their proclamation for families and children? for Net Neutrality? What are they doing to address ‘fake news’, or to prepare voters for upcoming elections? Where has BCALA been during #WeNeedDiverseBooks? What are they doing to advocate for literacy among African Americans through libraries? What are they doing to embrace and recruit new African American librarians?
And, what happened to the proclamation that the ethnic caucuses would be collaborating on projects other than the Joint Conference for Librarians of Color (JCLC)? I’ve always enjoyed going to JCLC, but is this the entirely of work the caucuses plan to do together? I truly hate that I’ll miss JCLC this year because I’ll be presenting at the ALSC Institute. Isn’t there a way for ALA to prevent these overlaps?
There will always be snags, always be things that can be improved upon. For me this year, what I got was a chance to connect with My People; with my personal network of #DiversityJEDI. That was restorative. I really enjoyed how close and affordable the Quarter was, making it easy to get away and enjoy the city on that last day.
I’m so proud to have been there when the former Wilder Award was changed to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. I’m proud that ALSC was able to recognize that Wilder’s world lacks any sense of inclusivity and equality and should not be honored. I was thrilled to hear Jason Reynolds say “Y’all talk about Debbie Reese like she’s some troll under a bridge. I met Debbie yesterday and she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” Because she is a nice person. I leave the Printz Committee with nothing but good memories and have to agree with my colleague Megan Fink Brevard who calls our list ‘The New YA Canon”.
I’m OK with having missed so much of the conference; not really but life goes on. Publisher’s Weekly provided a really nice overview of some of the events. I’m challenged to know there is still work to do and to know there is room for me to do it. I’d like to think my work with ALA contributes to its lasting impact on the library profession and those we serve and, I hope it paves the way for those who look like me to do even more.