By Bridgett Birmingham, FSU Libraries
The third Joint Conference for Librarians of Color (JCLC) was held this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The event is organized by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association; REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking; the American Indian Library Association; the Chinese American Librarians Association; and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. Although it is affiliated with the American Library Association (ALA), ALA membership is not a requirement to be a part of either JCLC or the associated caucuses. JCLC’s purpose statement is: “To promote librarianship within communities of color, support literacy and the preservation of history and cultural heritage, collaborate on common issues, and to host the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color every four to five years.”
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a librarian of color to attend. Many of the sessions addressed serving populations of color or with specific literary needs and those methods are of use to librarians in any community. In my role as the Diversity and Inclusion librarian at Florida State University (FSU), I felt fairly well versed in diversity and inclusion topics before going to the conference. I was surprised by just how much I learned over the course of three days and how often my eyes were opened to new ways of looking at issues. For instance, at FSU we run a very popular and very successful Hackathon each year in conjunction with our students. A Hackathon is a 48-hour event where people come together to prototype a new design or create software, usually in a group or team environment. Prior to attending JCLC, it would not have occurred to me to assess the barriers for participation in an all-night event for working parents or those with medical needs. That is one of the benefits of going to a conference like this: there are always opportunities to reflect on your practices and look for ways to improve them.
The sessions were great and varied in their topics but one other aspect of JCLC that I appreciated as a librarian of color was interacting with other librarians of color. At the conference, we could discuss microaggressions or challenges that arise from not having the same cultural touchpoints as other librarians. Many sessions ended with brainstorming or Q&A where members of the audience worked collaboratively to solve problems or give advice.
Librarians of all ages, genders, and backgrounds were treated like experts and valued for their unique experiences. Partly that might stem from the types of people that are drawn to a conference to discuss diversity and inclusion with a thousand other people from all over the Americas, but I was impressed with the spirit of inclusion that infused the conference.
I would highly recommend anyone that is even slightly interested attend the next JCLC conference. The conference was definitely a highlight of my year. The next JCLC won’t happen for another four to five years so you have a bit of time to make your decision. I, for one, will be going.