#CLS2022: Creating Equitable and Inclusive Library Spaces in the Face of Obstacles

I didn’t get to liveblog/tweet this session because I was co-facilitating it, but I’m jotting down a few takeaways and a list of resources/links in hopes they will be of use to folks.

Our panelists were:

  • Julie Stivers, middle school librarian at Mt. Vernon Middle School in Raleigh, NC
  • Miles, a rising high school junior and former student of Julie’s
  • Kym Powe, Children and YA Consultant, Connecticut State Library
  • Juan Rubio, Digital Media and Learning Program Manager, Seattle Public Library
  • Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science

We opened by asking the panelists to share their broad perspectives on creating equitable and inclusive library perspectives.

Connected Learning Lab Senior Research Manager Amanda Wortman took awesome notes on these. Here are some big ideas:

  • Hold onto why you do the work.
  • Recognize structural aspects of fostering equity and inclusion and simultaneously equip library staff to take individual action.
  • Center the voices and experiences of youth themselves.

We then launched into some questions based on our work in the Transforming Teen Services for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion project. I basically acted as a clueless, well-intentioned librarian asking for help.

How do I know if I’m actually creating an inclusive space?

You might not be able to tell, but if your love for the work shines through, you’re moving in the right direction. When your space starts to feel like a living room and a community hub, keep doing what you’re doing and grow more in the same vein. Look at yourself and your colleagues; what unstated or invisible expectations are you communicating? They might be making the space less inclusive.

I think I’m creating inclusive spaces but people aren’t actually coming into them. What should I do?

LEAVE THE BUILDING. There are a lot of reasons people might not come. Go to where they already are. Consider not just your own actions, but those of your colleagues. Are other people in the space making it less equitable and inclusive? Build authentic relationships, in or out of the library. The relationship with the person is more important than the presence of the physical space. Change the power structures in the space; design with youth rather than for them.

I know I need to leave the building but I’m overwhelmed. How do I start?

You start by starting. Team up with a friend. Build on the work of a colleague near or far who has already gone out; learn from their experiences. Don’t stop going out after one attempt doesn’t work. Move on to the next potential place or partner. Keep trying. You’ll eventually find the right fit.

Okay I’m ready! But I talked to my supervisor and they said I can’t leave the building. What’s my next step?

Relationships are important here, too. Build a relationship with your supervisor. Help them understand the value of the work you’re doing and why it’s important to go into the community. Write a formal proposal for the supervisor. Include outcomes and impact. Make it clear it won’t take you out of the building for a whole day at a time.

How can school and public librarians think beyond just going into each others’ spaces? How can we get to places that don’t have library or school vibes?

Go to where they spend time outside of school. If you’re partnering with a school, think about going to extracurricular events that don’t feel so formal and school-y. Recognize that what matters most is that youth get what they need, not who provides it or where.

I want to learn more! What should I do next?

  • Attend events like the Connected Learning Summit.
  • Look for free professional development like Project READY.
  • Talk to your state library.

Links

✴️ Also on Micro.blog

✍️ Reply by email

Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @KimberlyHirsh
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 This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 .

I acknowledge that I live and work on unceded Lumbee, Skaruhreh/Tuscarora, and Shakori land. I give respect and reverence to those who came before me. I thank Holisticism for the text of this land acknowledgement.


We must acknowledge that much of what we know of this country today, including its culture, economic growth, and development throughout history and across time, has been made possible by the labor of enslaved Africans and their ascendants who suffered the horror of the transatlantic trafficking of their people, chattel slavery, and Jim Crow. We are indebted to their labor and their sacrifice, and we must acknowledge the tremors of that violence throughout the generations and the resulting impact that can still be felt and witnessed today. I thank Dr. Terah ‘TJ’ Stewart for the text of this labor acknowledgement.