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I spent last weekend with several WFU colleagues from both campuses in an Institute for Dismantling Racism (IDR). We were joined by students from the Divinity School, and other representatives from the Forsyth Health Department, ECHO and the Green Street Baptist Church. One undergraduate WFU student was also in the group. The Institute was facilitated by Crossroads, a company that specializes in anti-racism organizing and training. The weekend began Thursday evening with a wall of history. This was a year 1492 – 2010 review of events. Each of which had a direct impact on race relations in the United States. Racism was defined and then discussed in terms of how it still occurs, though not necessarily as overt as one might think. A couple of films were shown that helped members of the class see the many faces of current day discrimination. Mental destruction in elementary schools, attacks on self esteem, increased likely hood of being stopped by law enforcement officers and greater chance to be given longer prison sentences were all discussed as manifestations of racism. That yes, even in this post racial society, still exist. We also discussed the direct impact of this on the general overall health of African Americans. How can we dismantle racism? The answers lie in modeling correct behavior, motivating others, agitating and providing support to those in the fight. At the beginning of the session we got the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” speech. However I will share that one class member made the following comment to me. “You would have to close your eyes not to see it, I on the other hand, have to focus really hard to see it.”

After two and a half days with the institute, I had an early a.m. start to Little Rock, Arkansas to attend the Southeastern Library Association meeting which was held jointly with the Arkansas State Librarians Association. You might wonder why I have chosen to review the IDR and SELA in the same blog, but I think you’ll see the lessons learned from each belong together in this review. I came to Little Rock to speak on a panel tasked with discussing Information Literacy. Thanks to Roz and Lauren P. for sharing the book chapter they co-authored which pretty much detailed the WFU information literacy experience from beginning til now. I had all the data I needed. The audience was most receptive to our strategy for assigning teaching responsibilities, the for credit course offering and especially our teacher support network. Other panelists focused on the transition from stand alone course offerings, to immersion in the 1st year English/writing seminars. As I looked out at the audience, walked down the hallways of the conference center, I saw very little evidence of diversity. I found myself wondering why I had volunteered for this journey and dreading the moment. Then I thought about everything I had spent the weekend thinking on. No one had done anything to make me feel any less welcomed. Was I guilty of pre-judging the audience by how they looked; possibly their age? Was it necessarily their fault that the numbers showed little evidence of diversity? Why was I feeling like an outsider, after all I did belong here. Here in rooms filled with Librarians. When I changed my attitude, I loosened up. I reached out starting conversations and found as librarians of course, we had lots to discuss and share. With my new attitude in check, I went heart and head first into the sessions I attended.

The SELA/ArLA session choices were not as plentiful as some conference offerings. Also ZSR, as you well know, is really out there leading the way and that attendees sometimes we will not necessarily get exposed to the new. Hearing different perspectives on varying topics however is a value within itself. Librarians shared stories on assessment efforts in small rural libraries. Assessment documents that sought answers around library usage. Was your visit today to use the library for its computer or for the internet. Interesting?? An attendee inquired concerning minority usage of the library resources and shared his before and after story. After they hired a staff member that was African American they noticed more of the African American community would visit. When they ordered more African American books they checked out more titles. As minor as this may seem, I wondered what the difference in our minority visits to ZSR reference would be if we had an African American librarian on our staff.

Camila Alire, immediate past president of ALA was the opening keynoter. Her focus was on the need for more library front line advocates. This is work for all library staff, in all library types. Alire states that each of us is the face of the library to our communities and influences what the community knows and thinks about the library. It then becomes a part of the administrative agenda to make sure all are equipped for this service.

The presenter for “Defining Digital Projects” identified five key questions every manager should answer to define and justify any digital project. Why are you undertaking this project? What do you want the project to achieve? For whom are you undertaking the project? When will you achieve it? How will you achieve it? The presenter touched on everything from identifying relevancy, defining audience, conducting environmental scans, SWOT analysis, constraints, and even risk benefit analysis. I do have the handout from this session.

“RDA: A Brave New World of Cataloging” was a historical review of cataloging trends. It was refreshing for me if you buy that cliche, once a cataloger always a cataloger, to revisit cataloging standards. His view of RDA, was most positive as he believed the focus shifted from institutional focus to more emphasis on the user. RDA should help the user identify, select and obtain information with less complications. This handout is available also.

What I found most interesting in the “Article Delivery: Increasing Access to Print and Microform Collections” session was the display of statistics around this service. They had detailed numbers relating to all angles of this service. How many items were filled as a result of a request for a title already owned by the library, how many items delivered each month, how many items they had to pay copyright for etc.

On Monday night several attendees visited the Clinton Presidential Library. It was a beautiful building and nice to revisit mentally events during that political time. One of the visiting Library directors commented on how he’d have to hide this visit from his mom. Another attendee who opted out of the event, but who choose to share her reason for not participating as a conflict with her party affiliation. And I thought well how silly until the next morning when I won the table prize of a potted flower cup and a book entitled: Barbara Bush: A Memoir. As I offered both items to another librarian at my table, I understood. You see strangely, In a most unique way, we are all the same. Now do you see now how easy it was to combine both events?