by Katie Seitz
Often conversations around race and racism in the LIS fields stay at the level of multiculturalism and tolerance, two concepts that don’t address deeper questions of justice and equity. Also, those same conversations rarely take into account racism within the profession. I started the Simmons Anti-Racism Working Group with the intention of creating a space where the GSLIS community could come together to learn from each other and deepen the conversation around race. Racism is often hard to talk about. By supporting each other in this work, we strengthen ourselves and our community, both personally and professionally, and we bring more to the table than just good intentions.
Our first community event, “Why Talk about Race and Racism in LIS?”, will be on Nov. 4th, 12-1pm in P207 and will feature GSLIS professor Lisa Hussey discussing her journey as a white librarian confronting race, white privilege, and racism as an academic subject and in the field. After the Q&A, we’ll have a chance to talk further about racism in LIS.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Working Group, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, several students and two professors, Laura Saunders and Shelley Quezada (who is also Consultant to the Underserved at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners), gathered in a Palace Road building classroom to discuss the importance and challenges of serving diverse/underserved users in libraries and information centers. Both Saunders and Quezada have taught the Info Services for Diverse Users class (LIS 410). In Quezada’s case, she’s been teaching these types of classes since 1987. Some of the populations that were discussed include kids/teens; LGBT; seniors; disabled; prisoners; ESL patrons; people with learning disabilities; and the illiterate, which can include the technologically illiterate.
One underserved group that may be overlooked are kids and teens. This group can often face age discrimination – one way this manifests itself is through book challenges, usually from their own parents. (This is especially timely because of the recent celebration of Banned Books Week.) The professors remarked that some librarians can be a bit intimidated when helping young people, and training and, in some cases, retraining, can help with some of those issues. Suggestions also included making a safe environment for LGBT teens, by using signage, for example, even if it’s subtle. Also be sure to build a collection that reflects the diversity of your community.
One startling statistic that was revealed at the meeting: Fifteen percent of American adults don’t go online and most of those people are 65 plus. Public libraries are in a position to provide vital digital services to adults who don’t have Internet access at home. These patrons will need basic information literacy guidance. And, Quezada revealed that the MBLC is able to serve only 6 percent of those who need literacy help.
The professors suggested taking advantage of grants to supplement any kind of budget your library may have to help to combat these problems. Joining regional and national librarian groups and drawing upon your fellow information professionals’ experience and knowledge can also expand any limited resources. Outreach is also vital; know your town and their community organizations. Talk to their leaders and find out what their members want from their library. Volunteering can also be another way to find out what an underserved population needs from its library – say for example at the Suffolk County House of Corrections or at an archive that would help diverse users connect with their past.
In towns with no public library but with a university/college library that receives tax breaks, librarians should work on ways to give back to the community. There should be a change in mindset. But Saunders and Quezada warn that there is no one-size-fits-all solution – know your community and tailor your plans to its citizens’ needs. For example, if there is a large ESL population in your community, but there’s no resources or staff for ESL classes, try to start up conversation circles that allow patrons to lead and set their own goals. Go to their turf: Start projects or hold events in cultural centers, housing projects, senior centers and the like.
More tips: Set policy that provides equality – don’t allow teens to sleep in the library if the homeless cannot. And remember not to pigeonhole – a patron can be a member of multiple groups. Advocate for your ideas: Get support from your board and director by presenting a well-thought-out plan. And when you succeed, hold celebrations and bring in patrons to discuss their success stories.
Potential partnerships could include social workers, nurses and teachers. We must reach out to these professionals and train them to refer their clients/patients to us. Librarians should also try to get a seat during their committee/organizational meetings and perhaps assign liaisons with these groups. The San Francisco Public Library even has a social worker on staff that trains formerly homeless patrons to be an “ambassador” to currently homeless and help them navigate the library.
Check out the Thomas Crane Library in Quincy’s literacy program and the Hartford Public Library’s immigration services for some ideas. We’ve also pinned some articles that may spark your imagination on how you can improve access, resources and services to diverse patrons. And here’s an extended reading list we’ve whipped up for you.
(Cross-posted at Comp Lit and Mediaphilia.)
I was very happy when I came across a listserv email about a zine maker and graphic artist, Nicole J. Georges, who was going on tour for her new book, Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir. I immediately brought the email to the attention of my co-PLG members and suggested we host her for a workshop of some kind. Obviously we did, because I’m writing this, so March 5, we had a most excellent time with her.
We didn’t really know what to ask her to do, so she asked us. Given that we are all in library school but all have very different interests and backgrounds (and some of us are in various dual degrees and library tracks, including archives), we had about eight million questions for Nicole, so a lot of the event was her answering questions and telling us cool things about Factsheet Five, Riot Grrrl, and other groundbreakers in the world of those self-published packets of expression. As she reminded us, zines are perfect if you feel that you aren’t represented in mainstream media, or even if there’s just a part of you that’s not represented, because maybe your favorite music is widely reviewed already, but there’s no perspective on it from your gender identity; or you love fashion, too, but there are no magazines that talk about it in the context of emotional memory. Or whatever. You get it.
I think we meant to start creating our own zines, but somehow, time ticked by, and all we were doing was discussing how zines can relate to library collections, why none of us in PLG (except one person) had been to the Papercut Zine Library yet (oops), how you can make a zine even if you aren’t the world’s most talented comics artist or grammatically correct writer, and how they can especially allow marginalized groups to be heard (oh hey, oral histories of people living in nursing homes). It was probably the most enjoyable two hours of natural, real discussion I’ve experienced in awhile, and it made me think of how much it should be applied to public and school libraries.
Zines aside for a minute, I can’t see a lot of events taking shape like this, but in some ways, they are a lot less intimidating than more traditional events, like lectures where you’re supposed to sit and be quiet and then ask an insightful question at the end, or workshops where you absolutely must make a sculpture along with everyone else. It was audience- and speaker-derived, which meant it was always changing and was, I hope, interesting to everyone involved. It is disappointing that we didn’t have a bigger group of people attending when so many people had asked us for more details, but certainly the weather had something to do with that, and also, I can’t really disparage people for not coming to events when I so often do not go to events even when they sound great. But I wonder, if events like these (meaning less defined, more casual, and less about having to immediately be really knowledgeable or fangirl/boy as soon as you arrive) were more common, would people be more likely to engage in group things at libraries?
It’s something to think about. Formal events, even if you think of them as informal book clubs, can be very intimidating to shy people or to people who are simply still feeling out what it is that they’re interested in. So this sponsored-hanging-out-with-an-awesome-person-and-eating-food was a great alternative to the usual stuff you see on offer.
Also, I’m going to start reading (and maybe even writing) zines again. As soon as I finish my homework. Wooo, spring break! Anyway.
Nicole’s Etsy shop is here, and her work is definitely worth checking out. We all went a little shopping crazy.
–Hannah Gómez, PLG@Simmons Community Outreach Coordinator (full disclosure: links are Amazon affiliate links)
We had a great turnout for our first DIY bookmaking event last night in P210. Thank you everyone for coming out, and an especially big thanks to Emily Hopkins for leading the workshop and co-chair Brian Shetler for making it happen. The PLG hopes to have another DIY bookmaking workshop in the spring, with some of the kinks worked out. We hope to have another big turnout; even if you came to this first one, stop by again and make another book for yourself or a friend and get to know some fellow GSLIS students as well.
But if you didn’t make it to this last one and think you may not be able to make any future one(s), here are the instructions (thanks again, Emily!):
Supplies needed: printer paper, a pile of big books, PVA/wood glue, brush, wax paper, a pencil, bookboard, book cloth, an exacto knife/scissors.
Fold each piece of paper in half horizontally.
Stack all your folded pieces of paper (make sure you’re putting them on top of each other and not inside each other) so that the folded edges are all lined up; this will be the spine.
Get your pages and make sure everything’s straight. Secure the edge opposite the spine with two even piles of big books and, using wax paper to ward off glue spillage, feather the spine to the right and the left, gluing as you do. This allows for glue to get in-between the pages, which helps them stick together.
Press the spine together and wipe off the excess glue.
Using wax paper to ward off glue spillage, leave the pages under the pile of big books until the glue has dried.
Get book board and, using a pencil, ruler, and an exacto knife/scissors, cut out two rectangles measuring 5 ½ in. by 8 ¾ in. If the spine of your book is thicker than ¼ in., you will also need to cut the book board to make a spine. The spine should be 8 ¾ in. tall and however wide your spine is.
Get book cloth that is large enough to extend 1-2 inches beyond the book when it’s spread open (you can estimate this with an unfolded piece of paper). Trim any excess.
Using wax paper to ward off glue spillage, glue the entire back of the book cloth.
Take the book pages and sandwich it in-between the two book boards. Position the book boards so that the edge of the board is not flush with the spine, but is instead about 1/8 in. away from the spine (this room will create a sort of hinge, so you can open the book once you’re done). The other edges of the book board should extend slightly beyond the pages of the book.
Holding the book boards in place, place the book on the book cloth so that the spine is roughly center and then fold the book cloth in half to glue the front book board to it and then unfold it (making sure the board remains attached) and remove the book pages, leaving the book boards.
If your book necessitated a spine cut from book board, get it now and place it on the book cloth in between the two book boards already there.
Using scissors, cut the corners of the book cloth about 1/8 in. away from the edge of the book boards.
Fold the edges of the book cloth over, onto the book boards.
Position the book pages on the back cover so it is in the right place (i.e. the edge of the board is not flush with the spine, but is instead about 1/8 in. away from the spine).
Using wax paper to ward off glue spillage, glue the top end page and then fold the cover over to glue the top end page to the top book board.
Then, flip the book over and repeat with the back.
Smooth out the book cloth making sure there are no air bubbles.
Put the book under the pile of big books and wait for the glue to dry.
We’ll be announcing when the next bookmaking event will take place next semester, so be sure to pay attention to the fliers in the Palace Road building, or hook up with us electronically on our Facebook or Twitter, or right here on our blog. Thanks again for the support!
Saturday and Sunday, November 10th and 11th, 10a-6p
Come check out the 2nd Annual Boston Anarchist Book Fair
Hosted by the Progressive Librarians Guild @ Simmons
Constructed by the tireless Boston Anarchist Book Fair Committee
Join us for an amazing weekend — shop for radical books, watch films, attend lectures and workshops! Sunday sessions include a presentation by Simmons students on “Activism in the Archives”. Chat with librarians in the Radical Reference Collective, meet Progressive Librarians Guild officers and members, check out reps from the Papercut Zine Library, and the list goes on… Complete details can be found at http://www.bostonanarchistbookfair.org/.
This event is free and open to the public, of course
The Progressive Librarians Guild (or PLG@Simmons) needs a logo. Badly. We know you’re all busy, but we figure, while you’re putting off that Moodle discussion post you could design the next PLG logo and win $25 to Revolution Books or the Lucy Parson’s Center, orrrrrr even the Curious George Store
Deadline: Monday, November 26th (11/26/12)
Submissions should be made to email@example.com
Design must include “PLG” and “@Simmons”
Submit logo designs in .JPEG format
Multiple designs may be submitted
Submission should include contact information
Voting will take place the week of submissions
Winner will be notified by email
Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org