Officially Speaking | November 2017

Transforming ALSC | DIA as Radical Change | Thanks to ALSC Donors 

Transforming ALSC: Leadership Development

Nina LindsayI’m thrilled: the recent ALSC Mentorship Program application period was a huge success.  We made 58 matches: the most since we began the program in 2014, and the first time we successfully matched every mentee who applied.  
The ALSC Board of Directors talked about the importance of mentorship and sponsorship at a recent informal online board orientation session. We came to the discussion having read April Hathcock’s White Librarianship in Blackface (In the Library with the Lead Pipe, October 7, 2015), and used it as a lens to explore where structures in ALSC may stand in the way of achieving goals in our strategic plan, specifically:
        Transforming ALSC: Members have clear, welcoming pathways to contribute to the work of the organization.
        Diversity & Inclusion: ALSC will become more diverse and inclusive, acting to promote these values in all aspects of library service to children.
We considered where our applications and volunteer forms may be “recruiting for whiteness,” as Hathcock puts it, rather than for diversity. I’m excited that we’ll soon be putting out call for committee volunteers with a revised form, and that the Board recently voted to expand the charge of the Nominating Committee to become the Nominating and Leadership Development committee. These and other pipelines for ALSC leader development will be evaluated by the newly formed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within ALSC Implementation task force, further developing recommendations made at annual conference by the Diversity within ALSC task force, and working closely with ALSC leadership through the course of our strategic plan. 
The mentorship program is just one piece of this, and it’s affirming that so many of you heeded the call to step up to mentor. Hathcock calls upon those of us in librarianship with privilege “to make space for our diverse colleagues to thrive within the profession ... by mentoring early career librarians in both playing at and dismantling whiteness in LIS.”  
Matching mentees and mentors is only the first step in this work, and we don’t have to do the work solely through a formal mentoring program. Who can you work to support, to advocate for, to dismantle barriers for, to champion?  
And...think you might be interested in the next round of the ALSC Mentoring Program? Just RSVP, and we’ll let you know when the application reopens.--Nina Lindsay, ALSC President

Diversity, Inclusion, & Advocacy: DIA as Radical Change

Jamie Campbell NaidooIn October, I attended the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) conference in Seattle, Washington. The theme of the conference was Radical Change Beyond Borders, building off the late Dr. Eliza Dresang’s seminal work Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age (1999, H.W. Wilson). Much of the conference was looking at new approaches to international children’s literature made possible by technology, and how these changes have allowed books to cross borders.  
It was the panel on diverse Asian American perspectives in children’s books that sparked my theme for this column. Author Linda Sue Park eloquently spoke about how we unintentionally create walls when we booktalk literature with diverse themes. Rather than centering the pitch on the exciting adventure or suspenseful plot in a story that will draw in listeners from numerous cultural backgrounds, often librarians and educators engage in othering by presenting the book as a title about a particular diverse culture. Human nature is such that if we hear a book is about someone different from us, we create an “us vs. them” wall that prevents us from fully engaging with a story.  For instance, pitching a book as “a story about trying to find your place in the world and understanding the power of your voice” will attract a wider audience than selling it as “a story about a Pakistani American Muslim girl trying to navigate a school culture that doesn’t support her religious beliefs.” While children reading the book will invariably learn more about Pakistani American Muslim culture, some will never embrace the opportunity to understand universality of experiences if their librarian delivers an othering booktalk that creates the notion that the book is about someone completely and totally different from their own culture. Children’s author and illustrator Grace Lin has also talked about this in her “A Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity.”  
So what does this have to do with ALSC? As indicated in the last year’s ALSC survey from the Diversity within ALSC Task Force, specific members of our association do not always feel welcomed in our activities, meetings, etc. due to the prevailing homogeneity of our membership. ALSC leadership is continuing to look for new ways to create an environment in our association that is inclusive and welcoming of all individuals.  We’ve created the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) within ALSC Implementation task force to help us. While they are hard at work, I think we can lay the groundwork for change by looking at othering and centering moments we have experienced at ALSC events and in our own libraries. 
Want to bring about radical change in the way that we engage with others in the association and in our library communities? Let’s begin thinking of approaches to centering experiences. One avenue in our libraries is through intentional programming ¬– specifically, inclusive programming that engages children and families in opportunities to explore diversity, understand commonalities, and build bridges of cross-cultural understanding.  
Programs like Día can be offered not only on April 30th but also throughout the calendar year to create centering experiences where diverse perspectives are welcomed and respected but not portrayed as “other.”  Día activities can lay a foundation for advocacy, providing the framework to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion into collections, programs, and services. Back in January 2015, ALSC hosted the Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming to begin the conversation on how to increase diversity in children’s literature and make that diverse literature available in libraries. Much of the day’s content is archived on the Día website, providing recommendations, thought pieces, and more, to turn dialog into action. 
It is time for radical change in the way that we approach diversity in our libraries and create inclusive spaces within ALSC. We need opportunities to investigate ways to be effective advocates that promote diversity and inclusion, avoiding othering practices. The 2018 ALSC National Institute with the theme of Embracing Advocacy and Inclusion will be one opportunity to explore this conversation as several keynote sessions and breakouts will address these topics. Other opportunities are sure to arise as the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) within ALSC Implementation task force works on its charge. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s work together to create library spaces and an association where all really means all.—Jamie Campbell Naidoo, ALSC Vice President

Thank You to Our Recent Donors

Many thanks to the following generous contributors to ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit our website.

Pura Belpré Award Endowment

Alan Bern

Friends of ALSC logoFriends of ALSC

Gold Circle

David Mowery

Notable Circle

Sarah Donnelly
David Edwards
Cecilia McGowan
Sue McCleaf Nespeca
Ellen Riordan

Friends Circle

Alan Bern
Stephanie Charlefour
Barbara Klipper
Mimi Patton
Kathryn Salo
Beatriz Wallace