Necessary But Not Sufficient

By now you may’ve seen the new grant that I’m sponsoring through ALCTS: here’s the announcement and here’s the grant itself.
As I think transparency [particularly when it comes to bureaucracy], I thought I’d take a minute to explain some of the hows and whys that this has come to be.

There is a general backstory and a specific backstory.

First, the general:

Librarianship is not a diverse profession. Much has been written on the ways and means to address this: a brief bibliography [courtesy of Jessica Schomberg] is linked.

I also recommend this tweet storm by Anna-Sophia Zingarelli Sweet

This is a complex issue and it cannot be solved by throwing money at it. The inequalities that exist in society and of course librarianship are not going to vanish through more private grants.

I want to make that very clear, so I put it right in the title. It’s insufficient. It’s insufficient to give money to people who are already on the path to librarianship because we’re missing people who were never encouraged to pursue this career. We’re missing those who can’t afford to pursue the career.

It’s insufficient because bringing one person to an ALA conference doesn’t mean that the’ll be respected, or listened to, or given room at the mic. It’s insufficient because they may return with bold ideas and a mind full of change and be facing an institution which embraces neither.

Yet.

It’s necessary — which leads me to the specific:

A few weeks after ALA Annual 2016 [Jun 23-28] I saw a peer on twitter lamenting that she was unable to attend a conference for lack of funds. This colleague, so early in her career, and in a field in which so few people look like her, had already impressed me with her confidence and voice as a cataloger.

I reached out to her and offered to pay the registration fee — she graciously declined, and I understood that there was an impropriety to what I’d offered, even if it came from a good place. Offering money to [and taking from] people, although ostensibly a nice thing to do, is laden with social and cultural rules and expectations.

But I still wanted to make a difference and help others like her get to the professional conferences and and meetings where big things happen. I briefly flirted with the idea of starting some kind of grant on my own, but that would still have some of the “rando giving you money” vibe. I knew that I needed the power and weight of an institution of some kind behind me. I needed to go legit.

On July 19th — I emailed Keri Cascio, our wonderful, hardworking, and talented ALCTS Executive Director. I explained what I wanted to do and over the next many months she put into motion [along with Susan Wynne] the complex forms and discussions necessary to get this off the ground. This simply could not have become a reality without her, and she has my deepest gratitude.

To sum up:

It is necessary because it will bring one more person to the table — someone to whom we need to be listening and to whom we haven’t been.

It is insufficient because it is a tiny speck amidst an entire culture [both at large and in libship] of Nice White People who think that we’re open and welcoming and that we’re all doing what needs to be done.
It is my honor and privilege to be a part of this grant, and it is my duty to find ways to do more.
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