Vermont librarians have been talking off and on about the need to address diversity and inclusive practices as a profession in this state. The issue for Vermont is this: given our traditional commitment to issues of fairness and diversity practices, it is frequently assumed that this kind of work isn’t needed here anymore. Committee work usually involves creating a safe space for librarians and generating services to patrons who identify with, or as part of, marginalized groups. In recent years these types of committees are in decline; not just in New England but everywhere. Why?
One answer could be that groups formed around ideas naturally struggle more than those formed around the commonality of work. Generally speaking, sections about Youth Librarians or Technical Services thrive by binding members to each other by work practices. Those groups that focus on the Big Ideas, like Intellectual Freedom and Diversity, are bound by a commitment to the idea but can lose focus in the action phase when we all work in different environments and communities that have different needs.
This is where we look outward. VLA has a blindingly successful Intellectual Freedom Committee because they balance beautifully the need to be a safe space for librarians experiencing challenges, providing resources to patrons so that they know their rights and who can help, and projecting librarianship outward to represent the profession to other professions and communities. They go out there–to our government representatives, to other organizations–and do the work outside the library, not just in it. It’s a vibrant cyclical process that keeps the VLA’s commitment to Intellectual Freedom nationally recognized!
Diversity and inclusion groups need to take a page out of VLA IFC’s playbook. We can serve as a safe space and a resource, but to be strongest we must get out of the library. We need to represent librarianship to communities from within, instead of waiting for them to come to us. At the VLA Board Retreat on Wednesday, August 1st, the board voted to begin a committee, name to be determined, that will focus on issues of diversity and inclusionary practices. If you are interested in going on this journey with us, please contact us at email@example.com.
I have decided to get started by marching in the Pride VT 2012 Pride Parade in Burlington on September 22nd. It’s important that we are out there sending the message librarians are proud members and supporters of the queer community. My vision is to build a float with a “Librarian Ship” that fights a “Censor Ship.” It shoots banned/challenged books from cannons. There would ideally be a book cart drill team giving out banned/challenged books to the crowd. It’s a deliciously goofball idea. If you want to be a part of some fun community building, let me know and we’ll make something happen. Many hands make light work and my vision isn’t the only one: what’s the float of your dreams?
VLA News Editor/Editorial Committee Chair
Eliot D. Pratt Library, Goddard College