While I was disappointed that I could not attend the 2015 American Library Association annual conference in San Francisco, I was delighted that Barbara Alvarez was willing to report back on what she learned. Thanks to Barbara for being my first guest columnist!
The Librarianship Way of Life: Highlights from ALA 2015
To an outsider, an annual library conference probably sounds dull or uninspiring. To those in the library field, we know that conferences provide us with the perfect time to rejuvenate ourselves, our libraries, and our careers. As the 2015 BRASS Morningstar Public Librarian Support Award winner, I was honored to receive the financial support to attend the annual conference in San Francisco. Throughout the various innovative workshops, inspirational colleagues that I met at various networking event, and exciting products/practices that I learned about, the following moments resonated the most with me:
Gloria Steinem, Keynote Address: As a history major who took many Women and Gender Studies courses in college, I have always admired Gloria Steinem’s activism and ability to mobilize others in an effort for gender and sexual equality. As a result, I was really excited to hear her speak about the impact that libraries and information access has had on her philosophy of equality. Gloria spoke about how libraries and librarians opened her eyes to new ideas and practices, but also emphasized that librarians democratize information and knowledge. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask her about her trip to North Korea in May, as part of Women Cross DMZ. In this effort, Gloria and other women’s right activists were able to cross the border into North Korea and speak with women about their rights and experiences in one of the world’s most secluded countries. A controversial endeavor, Gloria reiterated that it was worthwhile because it demonstrated how women throughout the world stand together in solidarity despite their national circumstances. Furthermore, she noted how they were forbidden to bring books, computers, or access the Internet when entering North Korea. As a result, Steinem’s experiences and discussion showed librarians that the work that we do is important because our democratization of information helps keep an informed and educated public, and in turn active citizens.
Building Blocks: Constructing Your Career Path through Networking, Branding, and Flexibility: As a 2011 Spectrum Scholar, I collaborated with four other Spectrum Scholars to present about our experiences in graduate school and in the library field and what we recommended to current Spectrum Scholars and recent graduates. Each of us on the panel had different expertise and backgrounds, but we all agreed on the fact that you do not know where your career path will lead you. Sometimes we have a vision for ourselves and our career, but depending on evolving economies, job industries, roles, communities, and opportunities those expectations can shift. Therefore, it is so important to remain flexible and open to change in your current position or future job roles. Additionally, it is essential to form connections and maintain contact with people that you meet at conferences, on committees, and in different positions because you never know how those relationships will impact your career and future. Lastly, developing yourself as an expert in a particular area will help you leverage your contacts and develop a reputation as someone who is dependable, innovative, and throughout the nation. The key message of networking, branding, and flexibility, as well as our own personal experiences in graduate school and in the professional field can be viewed here.
#Lovewins: While in San Francisco, the Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage will be legally recognized throughout the United States was announced. This paralleled with San Francisco’s Pride Parade on Sunday, June 28th which made it even more a celebration. Additionally, the conference opening auditorium speaker on Friday, June 26th was Roberta Kaplan, litigator in the defeat of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Roberta talked about her experience not only as an attorney who successfully fought for her client, Edie Windsor, a woman who was unable to inherit her partner’s estate despite being in an relationship that spanned over 40 years, but also discussed her own experience coming out to her friends and family. This was an emotional talk, especially in light of the Supreme Court ruling. Two days later, the Pride Parade brought many librarians outside the conference hall and into the street to celebrate equality and love for all.
As librarians, we contribute to equality, democracy, and innovation. The ways that we do this can vary: through the networks that we develop and maintain, through our changing responsibilities within the library and within our communities, by introducing and instructing residents about new technologies and resources available to them, and in creating equal opportunity access for every person that comes to us regardless of income, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs. My experience at ALA 2015 showed me that the role of a librarianship is not restricted to a library, job title, or organization. Rather, librarianship is a philosophy and way of life; a commitment to equality in our communities, for citizens, and to one another.