EMIERT Comments (Selected)

Earlier today, I was able to take part in the Virtual General Meeting for the ALA Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). This is an area close to my heart, as many of you know, going back years to my work with multicultural student centers, campus-wide initiatives like Inclusive Illinois, and academic programs like Washington State's Future Teachers of Color. These were my "opening comments."

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Thank you for offering us the opportunity to speak with you today, and to consider the critical role that libraries play in providing access to ethnic and multicultural materials, opportunities for students and professionals of color in our field, and in using the access to information, technology, and expertise that our libraries provide to empower marginalized communities, and communities that have come, over the past several weeks, to fear that they may be further marginalized. These are challenging times, but we have the tools we need to meet them, if we are true to the values of our profession and brave in speaking truth to power, even in the presence of “alternative facts.”

I know many of you from the work I have done over the past 20 years around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before I was a librarian, I was a teacher and a teacher educator. Two of the formative experiences in my career came during that time, and they were both related to diversity and multiculturalism. As a graduate student in the Indiana University School of Education, I spent a year as a graduate assistant in the “Cultural Immersion Project,” in my case preparing student teachers to teach in native communities in the Navajo Nation. Later, as an LIS student, I developed information literacy partnerships with a Bridge program designed to promote student success among first-generation students at Indiana, many of whom were African-American or Hispanic. The role of the library in promoting academic success and, thus, social mobility for students from these communities was something I took to heart, and a commitment to that role has shaped work that I have done since with academic programs, student affairs programs, and community-based programs. Currently, this means working not only to ensure a diverse and multicultural collection at my library to support academic programs in critical ethnic studies, but with the Office of Multicultural Student Success to develop joint programs, the Career Center to introduce students of color to opportunities in our field, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity to promote greater awareness of library resources and services, and K-12 schools in the very diverse City of Chicago to promote the academic success of all our children, including recent immigrants, undocumented students, and refugees. This is the work we have always needed to do, but in our “sanctuary city” of Chicago, it has never felt as critical as it has of late.

My goal for ALA is for our Association to take up the leading role that it must in protecting our core values in terms of freedom of speech, equity of access, and the fundamental belief that libraries are a force for good in our society. I would like to see the Association seek out new partnerships with local, state, and national associations that share these commitments with us, whether these are national associations like the ACLU or grassroots organizations springing up daily to help protect civil rights, privacy rights, and copyrights. ALA, with members committed at every level, has the potential to be a powerful force for good in our society, and to empower its members and their community partners with the tools they need to defend our core values and our rights as librarians and library users.

This work must begin now, and, with your support, I believe we can ensure that ALA remains a powerful voice in support of our diverse communities.