Thursday, December 31, 2020

Wrapping Up 2020: A Pandemic Influenced Year

Librarians Threaten IgnoranceThis has been quite a year, which will be reflected in this look back on 2020. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Those three words became more important this year. The library and information professions were already examining themselves and how to become more diverse in terms of people within the professions, content, programs, etc. We need and want to be more representative of the communities we serve. We need to include all voices. This is an ongoing struggle and one in which every ally needs to remain vocal and active. We cannot leave this work to other people. 

In October, I wrote four posts on the struggle to diversify library staff, which have been widely shared and I think have helped to inform some conversations. If you are interested in increasing the diversity of your staff - whether your in a library or not - I encourage you to read these posts. 

By the way,  many people read the first post with fewer reading the remaining ones. Yet it is parts 2 and 3 which provides ideas for improving the situation.  (I think part 3 offers a radical idea.)

Racism in the Profession

In November, an article pointed to someone in the library and information profession as being a member of a right wing extremist group. This led to a lot of chatter on Facebook and in other places about the values of the library profession and how this person did not seem to have those values. However, the truth is that the profession contains a breadth of personal values and opinions, some of which are at odds with the values practitioners believe the profession has.  

This is an area where we all need to listen to those who have been - and continue to be marginalized in the profession. After that listening, we all need to think deeply about the changes that need to be made, and then make them.

I encourage you to read the ALA's Code of Ethics and consider how that code is helping or hindering us as we try to become more inclusive.  I also encourage you to read "This Is Who We Are" by Fobazi M. Ettarh.

If you head a library, look at your meeting room policy and consider if they would allow racist or extremist groups to use a room. Is that what you want?  Then look at your collection development policy. Does it support the inclusion of racist materials into your collection?  Is that what you want? You may need to update your policies. If you want racists to use your meeting rooms and be reflected in your collection, then you need to think about what that means to your community and likely you should document your rationale and decision. Finally, start a conversation with your staff about the values of your library, as well as about diversity, equity and inclusion.  Make this a long-term conversation. You will not be able to surface concerns or problems - or create solutions - in just a few sessions. You and your staff will need to get comfortable with each other and with the conversation, before people are willing to really open up. Everyone will need to see that conversation as safe space for all opinions.

BTW I have purposely not included links to articles, etc. about the LIS person who is associated - loosely or tightly - with a right wing extremist group. Why? Because this is not about scrutinizing one person, but about looking at the entire profession. 

My Most Shared Facebook Post

Rubber bullet

Much of the conversation around racism in 2020 was due to the Black Lives Matter protests. After a protest in Syracuse in May, a colleague helped pick up the debris and found a "rubber bullet." The term rubber bullet is used to describe a range of projectiles of varying sizes, including large ones that are used on our city streets. With permission, I created a public Facebook post about rubber bullets, noting that they can do serious damage, which other attested to. A few people disagreed, because there is a smaller version, which I know are used in police training instead of "live rounds," but these large projectiles are not those. I'm glad to know that Facebook post has been shared over 2,000 times, because it surely has educated some people.

A Push to Change the Pathways to Librarianship

There is a group in ALA and in the New York Library Association which are each focused on what needs to change in LIS education or the pathways to librarianship (I see these as being entwined).  

The work of the NYLA Pathways to Librarianship Task Force is just beginning and their timeline is ambitious. As stated:

This first charge of the task force will be to work towards the development of a Statement of Principles on the topic of Alternative Pathways to Librarianship. Particular emphasis will be placed on creating sustainable practices that allow historically discriminated groups to more easily enroll in library and information science graduate programs, attain graduate degrees in librarianship, retain employment in their chosen field, and advance through the profession.  These Principles will be used to create a white paper advocating for systemic reforms and the subsequent creation of a new framework to address inequities.

In ALA, nearly 100 people have come together  as part of the Librarian Education Reform Discussion Group (within the ALA Connect platform). This group is talking "about education requirements in the future of librarianship." Members of this group are also focused on other aspects that could help to diversify the profession.  

Talking about changing LIS education or pathways to librarianship is a complicated discussion. There are more opinions than people, and there is truth in every opinion shared.  Because there are so many valid opinions (or options), selecting which one to focus on can be problematic. Do you select the one advocated by the loudest voices?  It is the one that the group selects?  Do you select the easiest to tackle? Or perhaps your research leads you to the one that will have the biggest impact? If the focus is on making changes which will help the profession become more diverse, do you have representatives from those diverse communities in the discussion and are you listening to them?

I'm involved in the ALA Connect group, but have decided not to get directly involved in the NYLA effort. I've enjoyed the ALA discussions to-date and look forward to what they continue to surface and what ideas they might bring to the profession.

Digital Lending of Library Materials

After everything began shutting down in March, due to COVID-19, the number of copyright questions library staff increased. ALA did two webinars with me, Kenneth Crews and Lesley Ellen Harris. (Part 1 post and Part 2 post contain links to the recordings.) People had questions about fair use, storytime, the digital lending of materials, and more, and we answered all of their questions.

The digital lending of library print materials is the cause of many discussions and disagreements. Yet there are libraries - more than you realize - who are engaged in digitally lending their print materials. The simplest example are academic libraries who have digital course reserves. Ecourse reserves are done in a controlled environment. Making materials available in an accessible format for those who are blind or other people with disabilities (Title 17 Section 121), is a form of controlled digital lending. Libraries are also digitizing some of their print works and making those copies available in a "lend like print" fashion.  In other words, that one digital copy can be loaned to one person at a time, and when that digital version is out on loan, the print copy cannot be loaned. Below are related blog posts and I know I'll be writing about this more in 2021.

Related blog posts: 

Report: Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions

As I've written about before, two years ago, the Syracuse University iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI) became interested in the IMLS Public Library Survey (PLS) data. At the time, the IPLI was doing some work on the data in conjunction with the EveryLibrary Institute. Seeing the data from every public library in our 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and our U.S. territories raised questions in us. Exploring those questions took time and required adding some skills to our team, while also understanding which of our questions were answerable and how many were not. Fast forward and earlier this fall I finished a 17-page report using the 2017 PLS data entitled Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions (free download).  I am still proud of this report and hope that public libraries across the U.S. will continue to use it.  


I really enjoyed the ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia in January.  Now I look back at it as not only being a wonderful conference, but also my last trip before the pandemic. (Relevant ALA blog posts) That in-person conference was definitely a high point of the year, as was the virtual conference held by the New York Library Association in November. (Relevant NYLA blog posts) The NYLA Annual Conference us!ed the PheedLoop platform, which provided space for broadcasted and pre-recorded sessions, real-time chat, and a trade show.  It was more interactive than I expected, which was a huge plus. Of course, NYLA had excellent content as always.

Sticky bun from Beiler's in the Reading Terminal Market

My Last 2020 Flight

A travel highlight of being in Philly is the Reading Terminal Market. On the last day, I bought a half-dozen Amish sticky buns to bring home and put them in my backpack. A security person at the convention center wondered - as I was stuffing them in my backpack - if I could get them on the plane, which was an odd question. But later, there I was at the airport security checkpoint watching my backpack being scanned and the TSA agents staring at the screen.  One brought my backpack to me, opened it up, pulled out the bag of sticky buns and asked, "What is this?" Evidently, they did not recognize sticky buns on their scanner! (Yes, I got them home with me.) That was the highlight of my last flight of 2020.

A Change in Work!

The stay-at-home orders in March flowed nicely into my retirement from academia at the end of June. I am now Professor Emerita!

Yes, I am retired and just as busy as before. I am serving on several boards including the EveryLibrary Institute and the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL) Board of Trustees. Being on the OCPL Board during the pandemic has been very "interesting" (in every sense of the word). Like nearly every library in the U.S., all of the libraries in the OCPL system shut their physical locations for many weeks or months due to the pandemic. However, like many other libraries, the OCPL libraries have been online for many years, including the ability to search from home for a book to reserve, access to online databases which contain high quality verifiable information, ebooks, audio books, and much more. While online programs are not new for any library, they multiplied in 2020 when meeting in-person was not possible. The OCPL libraries used storytime, performances of Shakespeare, online book clubs, craft sessions, summer reading, staff generated podcasts and YouTube videos, and much more in online formats to give people respite from the stress that 2020 provided. While many people focused on the doors being closed,  but the staff at the libraries were still working to meet the needs of our communities. We cannot forget that our libraries are very digital and are always open.

Besides serving on several boards, I'm continuing to give webinars on a wide variety of topics, including copyright (running again in February), communications, using SMART goals, productivity, and mentoring (March 2021). In terms of consulting I am talking with prospective clients about copyright projects and projects related to innovation. Innovation is something I've focused on for a long time and I look forward to putting my knowledge to work with a new organization. 

Besides my website, this blog, and LinkedIn, I've been using a new service called Lunchclub as a way of thinking about "what's next." Lunchclub provides curated one-on-one professional connection, and smart introductions to relevant people. What an interesting way to meet other people who are interested in copyright, and from difference perspectives. Paul Signorelli has written about this platform, so you can go there to read more. Lunchclub does not allow people to automatically join, but instead looks for people to be referred in some fashion.  If you're looking for a new or different networking platform, here is a link so you can signup for Lunchclub.

What else?

I'm sure there is more I should write.  I haven't talked about what I've learned about Zoom, or about the site Gather.Town (which has more functionality than you can imagine), or discovering Sardek Love's Monday "Ask a Master Facilitator" videos...or Tom Haymes' book Learn at Your Own Risk, or Paul Signorelli's book Change the World Using Social Media (which includes information from an interview with me)...or about the days I sat in front of the TV watching in disbelief all that was happening in the world. I am thankful for the light, for the good...and I look forward to what I hope will be a better 2021.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Paul Signorelli said...

Grateful for the deeply personal year-end view of our world, Jill. Thanks for taking the time to write and post it--particularly the section that draws more attention to your earlier four-part series. Thoughtful, provocative writing...which is why I keep coming back for more as time allows.