2019 marks my thirteenth year of attending ALA Annual as well as the second time I’ve traveled to Washington DC to do so. The first time was in 2010 in which I, along with several ZSR librarians, rode up together to our nation’s capital in the library’s newly purchased Quest van.

Below are recaps of some of the sessions I found most meaningful and interesting at this year’s ALA:

Cataloging Norms Interest Group: Panelists Joshua Barton (Michigan State) and Violet Fox (OCLC) presented “Cataloging the Living” where they discussed instances in which authors/creators (particularly active and/or marginalized individuals) may wish to remain anonymous and apart from the content they create. Some authors/creators may be operating from vulnerable spaces (e.g. Anti-Apartheid movement members; an individual’s past or current drug use; one’s sexual orientation that may or may not be openly known). Privacy and safety (e.g. losing one’s job) may be at stake for these authors/creators.

Two formats that are part of our cultural record, posters and zines, were specifically examined as potentially problematic for both content creators and catalogers. Zines may be created by individuals when they were young and were distributed via print or electronically to be read by one’s friends or limited audiences. Per the speakers, zines often have addresses listed in them, and xerography eroded the boundaries of privacy. In regards to cataloging, an access point for author/creator is considered essential according to the International Cataloging Principles; safety, however, is not. Alternatively, the “right to be forgotten” is addressed in Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A Zine Librarians Code of Ethics was created in 2015.

As a profession, we need to know how to proceed ethically. Not including an author’s/creator’s name in cataloging records may compromise a catalog’s integrity and our users’ ability to find the information they need. The speakers suggested a reframing of catalogers as stewards of information, not just scribes. We also need domain awareness; that is, a sense when identification might be dangerous as well as awareness of media that potentially straddles public and private spheres.

Bolster Academic Libraries as Integrated Safe Spaces for Mental Health: A panel of four speakers from Marshall University spoke about their library’s initiative to partner with their campus’ Women’s Center and Counseling Center to assist in addressing the mental health needs of the Marshall community (i.e. faculty, staff, students). Sabrina Thomas, Research and Instruction Librarian, reported West Virginia, where Marshall University is located, has the highest number of drug overdose deaths in the United States as well as some of the highest Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scores in the country. A LibGuide chock full of information on resources, suggested reading lists, and a schedule of upcoming library sponsored programs was created specifically for this initiative. More details can be found on the three hyperlinked LibGuide pages below:

  • Don’t Call Me Crazy: Resiliency through Art – An art exhibit featuring 22 artists and 49 pieces of art that was intended to begin a conversation about mental health. An art prospectus was developed that listed specific parameters of what would and would not be accepted. Some of the art pieces were challenged, but the university’s president sided with the artists.
  • Don’t Call Me Crazy: Resiliency through Education – Experts from student health, the university’s medical school, and community agencies were invited to come and speak on discussion panels examining mental health related issues. Interested individual could attend the discussions either in-person or via live stream. The live stream option provided accessibility and anonymity for individuals who wanted to attend but couldn’t for various reasons, and the videos were archived in the library’s institutional repository. An anonymous question form was created using LibWizard and made available via the live stream. Five panel discussions were hosted on the topics of anxiety; trauma and resiliency; addiction; eating disorders; and autism awareness.
  • Don’t Call Me Crazy: Resiliency through Community – Information on services available on Marshall’s campus and at the community and national levels were collocated on this LibGuide page.

ALCTS President’s Program: Franchise: the Golden Arches in Black America: Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown, spoke about her upcoming book on African American McDonald’s franchise operators and the role of black culture/community in McDonald’s history. She commented how the positive rhetoric/history conflicts with today’s food movement and current views about fast food and healthy eating. When she contacted McDonald’s about using their archives for research for her book, their response was basically “Good luck with that.” She praised librarians’ willingness to partner and go along on research journeys with historians, and commented on a researcher’s excitement in “finding the archive we don’t know is there yet.”