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Special Interest Group Meeting Notes: EDI SIG 9/22/2021

Notes from the most recent meetings of special interest groups at Southeastern

September 22, 2021

The meeting was held on September 22, 2021 via Zoom. The facilitators were Tracy Dunstan and Morgan Strand of Nyack Public Library.

Notes

Land Acknowledgment:  

Icebreaker: In what ways does being Hispanic/Latinx, Black, white, Asian, Pacific-Islander, Native American – however you identify racially – impact your personal and/or professional life?   

  • Don’t have to worry about safety; I will be treated fairly in most spaces I occupy.  

  • People like to make me the spokesperson for Black people in a professional environment 

  • I constantly think about how I say things, how I look, because I know I will be judged. 

  • I have to do things that I feel like my white friends don’t have to do; it gets tiring. 

  • As an Asian person, people are sometimes surprised when I am assertive. That surprises me.  

  • Professionally I experience imposter syndrome, and you wonder if you’re there based on your own merit or if you’re being tokenized or administrators are trying to meet a quota. 

  • Dealing with the voice in your head that says, “You know that you got that job because you’re black”  

  • In grad school, it was really hard to extract that feeling of imposter syndrome, even when others told you it wasn’t warranted 

  • In grad school, not another black person in my graduating class 

Video: Diversity training scene from Superstore & Discussion 

  • Is EDI a trend? 

  • Yes, I think it’s become a trend, but people are also gaining awareness of EDI issues in in a meaningful way. As the masses are becoming more informed, other people are getting angrier.  

  • In my library, we put out an EDI statement and it ended up meaning nothing. For example, we’ve had an open position for two years, and they’re not filling it with a Hispanic/Spanish-speaking person even through we’re in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community. 

  • On the surface, it is a trend. Certain organizations, however, are integrating EDI initiatives into their strategic and long-range planning. 

  • “the challenge is how to maintain the momentum, so it's not  just a trend.  It needs to become commonplace. Like... PB&J sandwiches? I don't know if  that's commonplace lol” 

  • EDI initiatives have been around for a long time, but then something happens it gets trendy again, and then it eventually slides to the backburner. It’s a cycle.  

  • This SIG started with a lot of people, and now there are only 15 people. A lot of libraries/institutions have put out statements, etc., but the concrete follow-through isn’t actually occurring in most places. That’s reflected in this SIG. The POC are mostly the folks who are left to do the work. 

  • It has come to my attention that we are mostly women – this is usually the case in DEI initiatives. For example, an anti-racist reading group I’m in is mostly composed of women. Where are the cis men?  

  • Doing this work and following through makes you the workplace “irritant.”  

  • What steps can we take to make sure it’s more than a trend?  

  • It seems like there are lot of opportunities to share ideas, serve on committees, etc., but not much concrete output comes from those meetings.  

  • Talking to administrators in libraries, local politicians; rally community members to demand change alongside workers  

  • For example, an EDI coalition exists among elementary schools in Nyack. Coalition is composed of parents and teachers who will ensure that EDI promises are fulfilled/enacted.  

  • Board of Directors (which usually lack diversity) are so entrenched and often removed from current events globally and on-the-ground work in the library  

  • Should staff go out to the community to recruit board members of color?  

  • Board needs to be more involved in the day-to-day; if they were more connected, they could have a lot of impact (i.e., hires) 

  • “I think repeating the same training is a mistake because people feel, ‘oh, I've heard this before.’ and ignore it.  But we still need to do regular trainings.  Also, we tend to be reactionary - and only think about it when something specific happens.  It would be beneficial to have a step by step plan for creating institutional change - as part of the strategic plan for example” 

  • I would argue that civil service is a barrier & that it can be pretty racist barrier depending on how it's implemented 

  • Board members get news filtered through the director and don’t actually experience what is happening on the ground;  

  • Some board members didn’t even have a library card upon being elected in one library; thus, they don’t actually represent the community  

  • “I thought someone or an organization was conducting a study to showcase how civil service is a racist barrier...perhaps NYLA was doing this?” 

  • “how much is the library's role in promoting DEIA incorporated into library advocacy day in Albany?  Not to toot our horns, but to engage legislators in a shared vision and our work in communities." 

  • Holding administrators accountable when racial harassment occurs 

  • Head of department set specific goals to increase the percentage of diverse books after conducting a diversity audit 

WOC + Lib article: https://www.wocandlib.org/features/2021/9/3/statement-against-white-appropriation-of-black-indigenous-and-people-of-colors-labor 

  • It was a lot; “they put it all out there”  

  • I hadn’t heard of the term “tone policing” before, and I realized it happens all the time—often between genders, too.  

  • “Has anyone in the history of all time ever relaxed when they were told to do so?” 

  • The petition is remarkably honest; EDI talk is not as frank in person, usually 

  • Appreciation of the idea of holding people accountable for the padding on their resume that people include to make themselves look better 

  • Ask candidates what concrete things they’ve worked on  

  • “Stop centering yourself and whiteness as normal”  

 

Breakout rooms  

  • Library leaders can train other librarians on how to do diversity audits 

  • Doing diversity audits on collections as well as programming hits a brick wall when your library administration and board are not interested in such things 

  • If you’re a white worker – particularly a civil service worker or tenured – use your power to circumvent administration or to be an “irritant”  

  • Pay attention to the census to understand your community of users while also actively soliciting suggestions from patrons 

  • Follett can pull a report that essentially completes a diversity audit  

  • In addition to serving the curriculum, librarians should purchase (fun) books that kids want to read 

  • Lack of diversity in holiday books especially 

  • NYS Trustee training bill – each trustee will be required to complete two hours of training per year 

  • Can we advocate to make this training EDI-related? Diverse hiring practices?  

  • Health audits intersect with diversity audits! Not enough health books addressing medical needs of different populations  

Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
21 South Elting Corners Road | Highland, NY 12528
Phone: (845) 883-9065
www.senylrc.org