Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Always climbing, to fall down again

I just got back from a week's vacation and I'm slowly but surely digging out from all of the things that accumulated in my absence. It was with great interest that I saw that the ALA Midwinter pre-conferences had been rolled out. I was especially interested to learn that the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) is having a pre-conference at 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting called "Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Creating a new future for library collections."

A couple of things:
1. I don't speak for ALCTS. At all. So nothing in my post should be taken as any kind of anything on behalf of that organization.
2. I don't make a cut of the profit if you sign up from that link, and this is not a sponsored post.

I'm interested to hearing how this conversation unfolds and what change might come from it. I wonder what it might mean for us to think about how we might change our acquisitions, collections, metadata, and preservation practices in order to develop collections that support and represent the margainalized voices in our user communities. I hope this symposium gives the people who are in positions to be change agents in their libraries a place to have conversations about the places in collections and in technical services where change can begin.

One thing I think we have to acknowledge at the outset of this kind of conversation is that it's not going to be easy. And people tend to move away from things that cause them discomfort rather than interrogating those feelings. And I really do understand that tendency. Considering how the current practices of acquisitions, collection development, metadata creation, and preservation perpetuate the margainalization of parts of our user communities is difficult work. It requires difficult conversations and a lot of self-reflection. But it's important work, valuable work.

I also think we have to acknowledge that if we want to build collections that support and represent that marganalized voices in our user communities,  we're going to have to lose some practices to which we've become especially attached. I think this starts with decentering the voices of the people in power in favor of making space for those we don't normally hear from. If we're going to imagine where the intersection of collections and equity, diversity, and inclusion live, the people we hear from have to include margainalized voices. And we have to be aware of not asking our speakers to be diversity tokens and we definitely have to be aware of not asking our speakers to do the work of educating we, the privileged, about the things we don't understand.

But it doesn't end there. We have interrogate the language that we use to describe out collections and how they are othering to people in our user community. We have to examine our collection development practices to consider who we are (and aren't) collecting and why. And we have to not only do the work of interrogation and examination--we also have to decide as a community to do things differently.

In short, we have to decide what we're willing to give up to get the future we say that we want to build.

I believe in ALCTS. If I didn't, I wouldn't be a member and a volunteer. I believe that this association has within its membership the people to have the kinds of conversations that lead to real change. And I also believe that the membership is thoughtful enough to do the self-reflection necessary to begin to change structures and systems. I look forward to hearing this conversation and to seeing the future that we build as a result.

Stay positive,

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