July 6, 2014

Hiring and retaining diverse talent by supporting risk

Image via http://fvckthemedia.com/issue25/the-end-of
We are hiring (soon)! Let me preface this post with the fact that I have little power: by way of not being a supervisor, not being a hiring committee member, and furthermore, not yet having tenure. However, the UA Libraries is a collaborative atmosphere, and since we are going to be hiring a number of new positions (including 2 positions on my team, the Research and Instruction Department, name subject to change), we are all invited to contribute content for the position description and our wording on diversity. My library does have a commitment to diversity and we do have current wording we typically use in our job posts--diversity meaning both underrepresented groups including POC, and also diversity relating to mindset and lived experience. Likewise, I have felt through being interviewed myself for my job and participating in others' interviews more recently that we do seek out risk takers and creative thinkers. But as I think more about what hiring for diversity means at my institution, I wanted to work my thoughts out on how we as a profession overall could improve our efforts because clearly we need to do more.

The book I just finished editing with Miriam Rigby, The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work with ACRL Press (read chapter 1 and the foreword as an OA PDF here) discusses implications of our stereotypes and how they negatively impact the collective profession, by way of lower status, pay, and diversity. The more our stereotypes stick around, the more negatively they impact efforts to increase diversity; and the more difficulty we have in increasing diversity, the more our stereotypes are perpetuated. A lack of diversity in librarianship harms everyone. Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, Juleah Swanson, and Azusa Tanaka examine this in greater depth for librarians of color in chapter 7 of the book; and Annie Pho and Turner Masland reflect on diversity and activism pertaining to all underrepresented groups in chapter 12. The authors, as well as many of us, question: why have so few efforts made an impact?

A couple ALA sessions inspired greater thinking for me. As there are many dimensions to increasing diversity within librarianship, I'm going to take a narrow focus to the issue at large. I attended Nicole Cooke, Robin Fogle Kurz, and Safiya Noble's amazing #alaac14 session, Power, Privilege, and Positionality: Applying a Critical Lens to LIS EducationThe panelists described the struggle they have faced with their scholarship, as it has been viewed as controversial, where they have dealt with roadblocks in support, tenure, and even the ability to present at ALA conferences. Although this session discussed what needs to be done in library schools to encourage greater diversity in the field and greater diversity of thought/more radical thought in the classroom, points can be applied to hiring from the institution's perspective. Some snippets from Twitter:
The expectation for this research and action should not fall solely on LIS professors, but all of us. It should be an expectation for practicing professionals as well. One thing that might attract and keep more diverse talent is encouragement to research, teach, and implement more critical approaches to librarianship that the presenters discussed.

In also attending another session at ALA, Introduction to Women's Issues: The Staff Potluck, organized by the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL), Social Responsibilities Round Table Feminist Task Force (SRRT/FTF), and ACRL's Women and Gender Studies Section (ACRL/WGSS), the question arose of why did only 15(ish) of us show up? Of course it's a big conference with a lot going on at once, but it's always such a small group at these discussions. TBH, I haven't attended one in awhile, myself. But I made the point that it's a risk to attend. This type of work is not always valued at institutions, and it would be more plausible for people to attend a session on assessment or discovery systems, for example, than these types of sessions. Until our institutions explicitly value this type of thinking, talk, and action, we will continue to have a small number of individuals able to commit to these issues.

I live in a questionable state--AZ--when it comes to taking a more radical stance on issues. Our campus is generally liberal-leaning, even recently expanding the transgender studies program, but we are still funded by the state. I'm even a little nervous about writing this post since I'm still just assistant faculty. And I know much of the research I have done recently related to the book (linked above) sort of counts toward tenure, but not really. Where one chooses to devote their efforts is a risk in itself.

So this brings me to how hiring could change for libraries to attract and retain diverse talent. I think explicitly stating in the job ad that not only is the library committed to seeking out and hiring diversity, but also that the library is committed to retaining diverse talent by supporting (or even advocating) the risks these individuals may take would make an impact. Will the library step up if these new hires engage in potentially controversial research? Will the library encourage new hires to take risks and integrate critical pedagogy into library instruction (for example)? Will the library overall agree that these sorts of activities are positive things that will improve campus, student learning, and the field as a whole?

We as librarians are certainly not neutral as the presenters, and others writing about critical librarianship, have expressed, so instead of supporting the status quo by remaining silent (silence = consent), we should make a concerted effort to change the power structures within libraries and our campuses. Of course this goes for all--not only new hires. For those of us hiring in locations where more diverse individuals might not have instant attraction, if we could demonstrate an even higher level of support for actions and thought comprised of what we say the profession needs, we can better support those we seek to recruit.

(And if these sorts of topics interest you, please join us for #critlib chats on Twitter where we discuss critical discourse and action in libraries typically within critical pedagogy, but expanding to the library as a whole.)

Thanks to colleagues for reading over this post before I published! If anyone out there is at an institution with diversity hiring language along the lines of support for scholarship and service within more critical topics, I would love to see a copy as we solidify our position descriptions. Or please post here as a comment and share with everyone.

July 3, 2014

#badgecurric workshop recap from #alaac14

#alaac14 was great! The first thing I did was Storify the digital badges workshop I did with Annie Pho and Emily Ford before it got away from me, and hoping to put together a bigger post on the conference overall next week.

In the meantime, here is the recap if you missed the session. Thanks to all who attended and participated, we were really pleased with how it went!

June 24, 2014

#alaac14 schedule

I had high hopes of writing at least 1 more full post by now, but have had no time! Anyhow, thought I'd share my ALA 14 schedule in a static location. Excited to see and meet people there!

The specific sessions I'm involved in are:

Friday, 5:30-6:15pm:
ACRL booth-ing (#1847 in exhibits) to promote newly published book (see party below) with my co-editor, Miriam Rigby. You have until Wednesday to enter our raffle to win one free copy over Twitter! We will also have book pins with us

Saturday, 10:30-11:30am:
ACRL NMDG panel on "The Stories We Tell: Academic Librarians and Identity"
ACRL NMDG and Librarian Wardrobe teamed up to have two of our authors discuss their research for chapters they wrote along with 3 other panelists

Saturday, 3-4pm:
ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group, topic is using information literacy learning outcomes for general education. Will be here with my co-chair, Jaime Hammond

Saturday, 9pm-forever (champagne toast and vegan/GF cakepops at 10pm): 
Book release party for The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work (ACRL Press)
(This party is part of the larger After Hours party with EveryLibrary, and we will be raffling off 2 free copies of the book!)

Sunday, 1-2:30pm:
Dive into Digital Badges! A Badge Curriculum Workshop - Presenting with Emily Ford and Annie Pho on digital badges for instruction. This session is for all types of librarians at all types of libraries and will be very hands-on. Our hashtag will be: #badgecurric

April 3, 2014

Introducing #critlib chats!

Tuesday night marked the first #critlib chat we had on Twitter to talk about critical pedagogy in libraries. Myself and the awesome @barnlib, @catladylib, @edrabinski, and @kellymce  organized the chat, and I served as moderator for this week. I'm really excited that these are happening, because not only is it important to talk about this stuff, but selfishly, I've been really wanting there to be something like this for awhile.

We created a cheat sheet for the chats to provide information about upcoming topics, how the chats work, and then to post the questions in real time as a reference point beyond the constantly updating Twitter hashtag feed. It's pretty fast paced to do these Twitter chats, and can make having in-depth conversations difficult, but it is a good entry point, is fairly accessible, and open to all. We had a good amount of people participating and some excellent conversations going. It's helpful to have 3 tabs open for this: the cheat sheet, the hashtag feed on Twitter, and then your own notifications feed to make it easy to reply to people without losing #critlib. Thanks to @aszingarelli, we also now have a Storify you can check out to see how the conversation went.

For this first meeting, we mostly talked about definitions. What is critical pedagogy, and what is critical library pedagogy? How do you incorporate critical pedagogy in your library instruction and in other aspects of library work? It was a good first meeting to establish a somewhat common understanding, and provide more context for those who are interested but don't feel comfortable participating yet. Some people mentioned they were just going to lurk, and I think that's great there is so much interest. I hope the chat will make everyone more comfortable sharing their thoughts, it's not meant to be a judgmental place or where anyone assumes they're an expert.

We posted Gregory & Higgins' intro to Information Literacy and Social Justice as supplemental reading since they introduce the concept very well. I was reading Toni Samek's foreword to the book as well, and thought what she said about risk was important:
We should not underestimate the collective will of projects like this one. Each contributor should be thanked for the risk they take on the page. I have, on a number of occasions, said publicly that information literacy is far too often realized in service of the state. This is rarely a popular observation. (And so I have been told.) But for almost twenty full years I have worked under the protection of my right and responsibility of academic freedom. The same cannot be said for all of the seventeen chapter contributors to this work. I admire them for their conviction (2013, vii).
This is important to think about, as these might not be popular opinions. It is somewhat of a risk to discuss these things, particularly for those who are not in tenured positions. So it's great to have a place to chat to support others with these similar convictions. We hope more will join us next time. Tuesday, April 7th will be the second #critlib, and then we will be moving to every other week after that.

Also see our Zotero group with further resources and readings (some of these might wind up being readings for future chats).