TILT #31 — Social Justice at the Library and The Superest of Conferences
Conference Interlude — Professionally Developing Traveling Librarian
I am heading home from the OLA Super Conference, Canada’s largest library conference. Prior to this I was in Niceville Florida speaking to the Panhandle Library Access Network for their Small and Rural Libraries Conference. In both cases, I presented but also attended. I learn so much at these events. Here are my presentations.
Future-Proofing the Library — Offering appealing reasons for people to get online, including giving them access to local history and interesting crowdsourcing opportunities that even small libraries can do with limited resources.
Social Justice Roles for Libraries and Librarians: Bridging the Divide & Speaking Truth to Power — for Toronto Public Library staff. Answering the question “Why does it make sense for libraries to be involved in social justice, and how can they do that?” I talked about diversity and inclusion and implicit biases among other things.
Since I often speak in small and rural places, I rarely get a chance to present to large, diverse audiences and I got some really useful feedback from library staff. Big thanks to Bill Vrantsidis from TPL (check out his blog posts!) for the invite.
Digital Readiness — easing the empowerment divide and aiding digital inclusion — I’ve been shifting from talking about the digital divide to talking about the concept of digital readiness. In short: we need to get people not just the skills but also the trust & discernment they need to be able to go happily and safely online to satisfy their own information needs.
When I was at the PLAN conference I sat in on two presentations before I had to scoot home.
- Shoestring STEM with Megan Fontaine of the Destin Library — Megan talked about free online tools for teaching coding/technology topics and evaluated their ins and outs. Useful for libraries with STEM grants for programming who need an out of the box solution.
- How to Help Your Patrons with Financial Aid with Ursula Backus from Gulf Coast State College — a really poignant talk about all the ways people struggle with online FAFSA forms.
And then there was TPL and the Super Conference. Not only did I have a great time visiting several libraries at the University of Toronto (thanks to my former Archive.org colleague Andrea) and Toronto Public Libraries (writing this from the Gladstone Branch) but I attended some programs as well.
- Library Living: Programming for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities — an overview of an effective program which has been running at Caledon Public Library for six years.
- The User Experience Design Sprint, or How a User Experience Designer and a Librarian Reimagined and Prototyped Three Websites in Three Months — Graham invited me to OLA. This was his program, both a how-to as well as a hands-on session learning about UX and good design strategies
- Poster sessions where I learned about the Visible Minority Librarians of Canada Network and talked with Melanie Cassidy about librarians-at-comic-cons. Sorry I missed seeing Menstrual Metrics in person.
- When Things Get Personal: Privacy vs Access in Online Community History — Our Ontario helps a lot of different sorts of libraries get their community content online. Four people from different libraries discussed interesting privacy challenges they’ve come up against. One of these groups was the Federated Women’s Institutes and I went down a great rabbit hole looking at their digital collections including this great article on Ontario’s Traveling Libraries from 1961.
I also went to the All-Conference Welcome Party (make your own risotto bar!? my word!) and saw a truly terrific movie — Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things — about GLBTQ history and issues in Nunavut, as a community prepared for their first Pride festival. Try to track down this movie, it’s very worthwhile. Thanks to OLA for showing it.
I’m heading home tomorrow (I thought landing during the Superbowl was a good idea) to a country that, for now, has struck down the immigration ban. When I left the US on Monday, the International Terminal was mostly just me and a bunch of ACLU lawyers watching for trouble. I told them how proud I was, that librarians were, with the work they were doing.
Terrible political things continue to happen. In digital divide news was the FCC’s announcement that, though they claim to care about digital divide issues, they’re actually reversing progressive policies of the previous FCC Chairman. Specifically, the FCC is overturning a policy that would have subsidized internet services to the US’s poorest people. This sucks and public interest groups have been pretty vocal about it. It would not be a bad thing for libraries to be vocal about this as well.
I’ll have more political updates later this week as well as the summary of the suggestions I got for good diverse series to read. Reading this LibrariansResist Resource List is where I have been putting my attentions lately.
Thanks to everyone in Florida and Canada for showing me such a good time.