IDEAL Conference Reflection

(The following is a blog post from Twanna Hodge, MLIS, one of the 2019 winners of the UNYOC Professional Development Award)

On August 6 and 7 2019, the Ohio State University Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries hosted IDEAL ’19: Advancing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility in Libraries & Archives in Columbus, Ohio. IDEAL offered a variety of formats that supported various learning styles and provided a safe and brave space, facilitated moving from conversations to action, assessing past efforts, and planning for the future for providing equitable services and access. The information and (re-established or new) connections aided in the further development of my competency in delivering high-quality, equitable support to students, increased my knowledge about current events and issues in coordinating a library diversity fellowship, and contributed to building and advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in librarianship. This conference assisted me in attaining my goals mentioned above as well as added to my aspiration of cultivating and maintaining a professional support system as an early career academic health sciences librarian. Below I offer an overview of some of the keynotes and sessions that I attended.

Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, was the opening keynote speaker. Her words were eye-opening, thought-provoking, poignant, and inspirational. She spoke candidly about the structure of racial inequality, asking: Who are the heroes? Who is the team? What gets elevated as truth and what gets left out? It is thinking about how things are framed, what the baselines are, who sets them, and understanding what is acceptable/non-contestable. As well as trying to answer the question, how do we frame inclusion work? Dr. Crenshaw also showed the Unequal Opportunity Race video, which offered a broad overview of structural discrimination. Lastly, she talked about paying attention to our equity practices, the additional challenges, and more. Sometime to remember is that what we don’t know creates social injustice.

Dr. Crenshaw in front of the IDEAL sign

There were too many sessions to attend and not enough time to do so. Some of the other sessions I attended included Diversity and Inclusion in Libraries: Be the Change Agent!  presented by Janice M. Young, JJ Pionke, Shannon D. Jones, Beverly Murphy,and Shaundra Walker. The presentation highlighted their chapters in the book Diversity, and Inclusion in Libraries: A Call to Action and Strategies for Success. In 1,000,001 Unwritten Rules For Being A Librarian of Color presented by Jennifer Brown & Brittani Sterling, the presenters asked questions such as: How does intersectionality play a role in your everyday life? Are you aware if it does, or do you not think about it? They both dispensed hard-truths, little known facts, challenged me personally and professionally and left me with ideas on how to make a difference.

From Ally to Change Agent: Utilizing Collective Action to Build a Successful Library Equity Plan, presented by Jessica Dai, Grace Adeneye, and Jesus Espinoza delved into equity, diversity, and inclusion plans, how to change the culture of an institution, empowering allies to become change agents, making small changes within our control, instilling the need for creating safe/brave spaces so that people can speak up, acknowledging the work that’s being done, and understanding that everyone is entitled to a grace card. Participants reviewed other institutions’ equity plans and identified the essential elements.

The closing keynote speaker was Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times journalist. Her presentation focused on 1619, when the first slaves arrived in America, to the present day. She talked about a slaveocracy, looking at the true side of America, and that the system was created and doing exactly what it was created to do. That we must stop being the country we were created to be and remember that we are one generation out of legal apartheid. So much more was touched on, and uncomfortable facts, analyses, and explanations were presented. Her presentation unveiled some dark, unknown truths and perspectives.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Not only did I attend sessions, but I presented as well. I was a panelist alongside Tarida Anantachai and Petrina D. Jackson on Residency Retrospective: Advancing the Future by Examining the Past. I also facilitated a roundtable discussion with Erin White, Shannon D. Jones, Tarida Anantachai, and Sojourna Cunningham called If We Don’t, Who Will? How Managers Can Support Employees, Who Work in EDI.

IDEAL was a fantastic conference that allowed for tough conversations to be held and for people to be uncomfortable. It challenged how we perceive ourselves, our identities, the power, and privilege that we have, and that oppression occurs on structural/cultural levels. I was able to re-connect with colleagues from different institutions, mentor others and be mentored, and learned from experts in the field and emerging voices. This conference pushed me to think beyond the traditional ways of engaging with others about equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, and it also had me critically assessing my experiences and roles.

IDEAL Dessert Station