Show Me Your Champions event organized by Carla Davis-Castro

2011 Spectrum Scholar and 20th Anniversary Champion Carla Davis-Castro organized a November 8, 2017 panel program “Show Me Your Champions” in collaboration with the District of Columbia Library Association (DCLA), a chapter of ALA and the local service organization for librarians, library workers, LIS students, and library supporters in the capital. The ALA Washington Office generously donated their space to host the event.

Carla%20Davis-Castro%20event%202The three panelists, or champions, are mid-career librarians who have paved their own roads and who now occupy influential positions to open doors for others. The first panelist was Hector Morey who currently serves as Head of the Africa Section in the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate of the Library of Congress. The second panelist, Elayne Silversmith, is the Librarian for the Vine Deloria, Jr. Library at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), and the Smithsonian Libraries who served as President of the American Indian Library Association from 2000-2001. Amanda Wilson, the third and final panelist, serves as the Head of the National Network Coordinating Office for National Library of Medicine’s National Network of Libraries of Medicine.

Carla moderated the panel and set the tone by establishing the panel discussion as a safe space and that every individual’s lived experience is a truth that cannot be negated by others. The champions began with opening remarks regarding the professional or institutional retention of librarians of color. The moderator then posed several questions to the panelists with the audience participating throughout the session.

The discussion began with a basic definition of code switching before asking participants if this was part of their professional lives. All three panelists agreed that their cultures were different from the majority and thus code switching happened at work and outside of the workplace. Later questions covered the topics of managing managers, good advice, and advice worth ignoring. The champions’ strategies ranged from bringing your own diversity to the table rather than waiting for management to take the lead, making yourself “too good to ignore” in the library where you work, and ignoring those who tell you that there is “one right way” to succeed.

The Spectrum Scholarship and other initiatives have helped bring in library students of color. The profession cannot afford to lose this valuable and highly-educated sector of the workforce. Ongoing brainstorming is needed to increase the retention of librarians of color and more events are being planned in Washington, DC. One sure strategy includes tapping the wisdom of these and other champions in order to continue transforming the profession.

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