Countering Weaponized Tradition in Libraries

Tuesday, 8/8/2023 - Wednesday, 8/9/2023
  • 10:00 AM-6:00 PM (Eastern)
  • 9:00 AM-5:00 PM (Central)
  • 8:00 AM-4:00 PM (Mountain)
  • 7:00 AM-3:00 PM (Pacific)

A lot has been written on the benefits of understanding the history and traditions of organizations when you join the team, but not a lot has been written on the ways history and tradition can be used to affect an organization negatively, or what actual tangible progress comes from understanding this history and using it to instigate positive change. This CORE e-Forum seeks to open a dialogue that might offer a broader, honest perspective of progress informed by organizational history and traditions in libraries and archives. This e-Forum will explore how librarians or archivists have taken institutional history and tradition and pivoted the narrative towards progressive changes. A relevant topic even prior to 2020, the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic showed libraries and archives where their organizations were weakest and has left even the strongest organizations wondering how to leverage tradition for future diversification. In addition, library and archives employees who were already taxed by the tough realities of work are now asking more serious questions about their work environments and wondering how to leverage traditions to create a more progressive work environment.

Questions to be considered include:

  • How did you create buy-in in your library/archives/department to change legacy practices?
  • What pre-COVID traditions has your library/archives shifted as you return to normal? What led you to make this change?
  • What assessment methods do you use to inform shifting traditional practices? Where is your change originating from?
  • How do you encourage new librarians and staff members to utilize their expertise to implement change?
  • Legacy and tradition is not necessarily bad. What legacy practices have you deliberately maintained and why? What led you to this decision?
  • How do you create balance between legacy practices and progressive momentum?
  • It’s not just about planning for shifts: almost every practice shift requires significant labor to achieve. Whether that’s temporary work or changing existing workloads: how have you managed the labor costs of practice changes?
  • How do you work flexibility for change into strategic planning and core library documents?

Please note: The moderators acknowledge the potentially sensitive nature of this discussion and ask participants to consider this as well and keep our discussion collegial, productive, and focused on the positive.

If you have question, need assistance, or would like to propose an e-Forum topic, please write to

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Learning Outcomes

At the end of this e-Forum, attendees will have learned:

  • How to identify traditions and history of an organization that may be useful for progressive change.
  • How to create buy-in from others in the library using tradition and history.

Who Should Attend

Anyone interested in becoming leaders for positive change in their libraries and addressing factors that are problems in their current library practice.


Erin Renee Wahl is the Assistant Professor and University Archivist at New Mexico State University Library. Wahl’s research interests include sustainability in libraries and educational change, rhetoric of and about libraries, interdisciplinary use of archival sources, and library work environments. In addition to her role in the library, Wahl is a PhD student in NMSU’s Educational Leadership & Administration program, and plans to begin collecting data for her dissertation in fall 2023.

Arlene Schmuland is the Head of Archives and Special Collections at University of Alaska Anchorage. Schmuland is the second head of the Archives at UAA since it was founded in 1979. She's been an archivist in a variety of institutions including local and state government archives as well as academic archives and special collections over the course of her nearly 30-year career. As she's taken on progressively more responsible positions, she has experienced the interplay of institutional memory, tradition, and change management and the role all of those may play in the progress of library and archival work and goals.



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