As I write this message to our membership during the last week of the year, I am wanting, as we all are this time of year, to reflect on the year past. As I reminisce, it is hard to imagine everything we have witnessed all occurred in a single year. That we actually experienced a presidential impeachment, is such a distant memory, it is easy to forget. We all will never forget the first surge of COVID in the country, but who would have thought we would see a second, then a third wave of the virus spread all in the same year. It is mind boggling that we may be looking at a wave upon a wave as I write, wild right! We have also had to deal with the closure of our buildings, many of which are still closed. In addition to this ongoing (seems-it-will-never-end) exceptional challenge, we also witnessed perhaps the strongest advocacy movement against social injustice and racism towards our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) co-workers, friends and library users. What is hard to imagine is that the oppression of other human beings continues. It all seems so ridiculous. It certainly is saddening for me that this continues because it really is diminishing to everyone. My sadness is nothing compared to the burden BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals have borne, and continue to bear.
Though my sadness is ongoing, I am also inspired to take action and do what AzLA can do to make an impact and take advantage of the apparent equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) winds of change that have started to blow in the country. To that end, I suggest as we move forward, that AzLA leads the moving of these restrictive boundaries. That we commit to equitable, diverse, and inclusive practices in everything we do as an association and as a profession. I believe that there are areas within our association, and our profession, that deserve a critical review. I am not suggesting we make drastic changes, only that we bring new ideas to address these practices so we can realize libraries’ promise of inclusivity. I think we need to intentionally adopt anti-racism infrastructure and ensure our libraries reflect the values of EDI. This will demonstrate to our BIPOC and LBGTQ+ workers and our vulnerable, marginalized communities that they matter, that their lives matter. This is a daunting undertaking and by no means will it be easy, change never is. However, I feel this has to be done, our response cannot be surface dressing or just checking things off a list to say we did. We need to respond with action.
In responding, I am proposing we undertake the following actions and I hope you will join me and support these initiatives:
- Formalize EDI Committee within AzLA: currently, an ad hoc EDI Committee is working on a EDI strategic action plan for the AzLA organization. I recommend that AzLA formalizes this committee as a standing committee that will inform the strategic plan and holistically address EDI in the Arizona library workforce from pre-service to employment and beyond.
- Reinvigorate the Native American Special Interest Group (NASIG): in an effort to privilege and prioritize the tribal libraries story within AzLA and within the state of Arizona we should support the reorganization of the NASIG immediately.
- Unify the tribal libraries under the umbrella of a full division: to bring the tribal library voice into board decisions and AzLA strategic planning we need to form a Tribal Division within the AzLA hierarchy.
- Support our teacher librarian and school media workers: This membership of our profession has gone largely unnoticed throughout this year of turmoil and continues to struggle with a host of challenges that public and academic librarianship do not. We should make a concerted effort to engage our colleagues who make up a substantial percentage of library workers in the state.
This list is not meant to be all inclusive, it is just a short list of initiatives that are possible right now. As the EDI Committee progresses with the EDI strategic plan, this list will grow. We are not going to undo all the implicit bias within our profession with these actions, but these are the low hanging fruit to get us started in the right direction.
I so want to close this message on a positive note, so I will announce an event I am really excited about, the Teacher Librarian Divisional Meeting we are planning. On Saturday, January 23, 2021, the Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) will hold their first meeting of the year. We are inviting all teacher librarians and those who work in the school library services community. The 2 hour event will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Zoom. In addition to sharing AzLA and TLD updates, author and educator Shannon Anderson will share a presentation: Ready? Set! Grow!. We are looking forward to seeing all the K12 library workers, sharing information, and learning together from this professional development opportunity. Please contact Judi Moreillon or Jean Kilker with any questions.
AzLA needs to take the lead in inclusivity within our profession. To lead the moving of restrictive boundaries, we must look critically at our library spaces, services and resources, to better meet the needs of all workers and users; our BIPOC communities and those within the LGBTQ+ communities. This year does not have to be all about division and negativity. It can be about togetherness and lead to inclusivity. This past year has presented us a great opportunity to bring the EDI change we would all like to see, let’s not lose this opportunity, we can do this together. We are AzLA, and together we can move the boundaries of librarianship. Be well and be safe all.