ALA president Sari Feldman introduced John Lewis, his co-author, and his illustrator to a very full ballroom. His words were moving, heartfelt and inspiring. My favorite quote when talking about the influence public libraries have over youth was when he said “Encourage kids to get into trouble, necessary trouble, continue to do just that!” He and his co-authors earned several standing ovations. Earlier that morning, I also attended a memorial service for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. John Lewis also made a brief appearance there and offered words of support. The memorial had speakers Sari Feldman along with members of the GLBT Round Table and Social Responsibilities Round Table. There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere around me.
The most helpful Diversity and Inclusion session I attended was one entitled “No Room at the Library: the Ethics of Diversity” in which the programmers offered, through skit form, four different situations related to marginalized people and had us react to the question “how would you handle that situation?” The members of the audience then got up and gave their reactions, based on library policy, or sometimes just on what they thought was right. One situation discussed how to handle a request for a community room for a group who wanted to have a meeting that excludes white people so they can have a frank discussion about racial inequality in their community. Another was about whether it is important to intercede in a conversation between a youth and his mother when his mother is committing a microagression to a staff member wearing a hijab. The reactions to these important questions were fascinating as we frankly discussed options. Everybody’s position was “right” even if they were very different. Such is the nature of ethical dilemmas.
ALA Annual in Orlando will go down as one of the best, and certainly one of the hottest ALA’s I’ve attended. (The humidity even made it feel as though it were hotter than Vegas to me.)
Also, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a Member-At-Large of SustainRT if I didn’t encourage you to join the round table. The cost is just $10 per year and you can add it to your ALA membership at any time!