With apologies for being late in posting about this, I attended the all online NASIG Conference from Wednesday, May 19th through Friday, May 21st. Although I greatly missed the in-person conference experience, I attended a number of interesting sessions.
As Chris noted in his post about this conference, the keynote addresses were excellent but were wide-ranging and difficult to summarize. Both covered diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. One thought-provoking part of Twanna Hodge’s The Future of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Librarianship was her listing of characteristics of white supremacy culture, which include:
Sense of Urgency
Only One Right Way
Fear of Open Conflict
She elaborated that the characteristics as seen in organizations include:
Right to Comfort
Quantity Over Quality
I never specifically thought of those qualities/characteristics as being representative of white supremacy culture, but hearing them framed that way made total sense to me.
In Fobrazi Ettarh’s keynote address, “The Future of Libraries: Vocational Awe in a Post-Covid World,” she elaborated on the idea of “vocational awe,” a concept that she coined. She began by outlining the difference between an occupation, which is something that you do, versus a vocation, which is a calling with a religious overtone. Vocational awe is the idea that librarianship tends to be seen as a vocation and thus libraries are seen as inherently good and sacred and beyond critique. This elevated symbolic status of library work makes it ripe for job creep, the destruction of work-life balance, the overuse of “other duties as assigned,” and general exploitation and abuse that is too often tolerated by workers because they have been conditioned to think that that it can’t be bad if it’s for the good of the library. She argues that library workers need to set boundaries, keep a healthy work-life balance, and not let their jobs become their entire identities.
Of the other sessions I attended, my favorite was “Measuring Collection Diversity Via Exploratory Analysis of Collection Metadata” by Jordan Pedersen of the University of Toronto. I found her approach interesting, using metadata as the object of scholarship and using it to assess the geographic diversity of the University of Toronto’s collections. Rather than use place of publication as her measure, she decided to use subject headings to determine how many items were “about” specific countries. She focused on the 651 field as her source for identifying countries. In examining over 2.7 million occurrences of the 651 field in U of T’s catalog, Jordan was able to confidently assign countries to almost 2 million of them. She found that the United States had the highest count at around 200,000, with the UK in second at less than 150,000, with China, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Russia rounding out the top 10. When broken down by region/continent, Europe was the top region with a count of about 800,000 followed by the Americas and Asia, both with about 500,000, and then a steep drop-off for Africa and another steep drop-off for Oceania. She is planning to continue developing this research and is looking for collaborators to explore new directions with this approach. I found it an interesting approach and, as I was Jordan’s mentor through the NASIG Student Mentoring Program just a couple of year ago, I was delighted to see her come up with a unique and potentially useful area of research.