Library community comes together to build bridges for diverse library users

Contact: Macey Morales

ALA PR Coordinator


For Immediate Release

October 24, 2006

Library community comes together to build bridges

for diverse library users

More than 1,100 attend first Joint Conference of Librarians of Color

DALLAS - More than 1,100 library staff, authors and educators packed the Adams Mark Hotel from October 11 - 15 to discuss diversity issues that impact America’s libraries and their users during the first Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC).

The conference, themed "Gathering at the Waters: Embracing our Sprits, Telling our Stories," offered more than 100 programs and poster sessions. Such topics as minority recruitment, early and adult literacy, collection development and delivery of service to communities of color were key areas of discussion.

The JCLC exhibit hall was filled with 120 exhibiting companies including top book publishers, who discussed and demonstrated the latest in diversity-related products and services for libraries and their users.

Attendees came from all over the country, including 35 scholarship recipients. The National Library of Medicine donated $35,000 for JCLC scholarships, which funded many attendees’ first conference experience.

The JCLC Placement center with more than 23 employers, proved as popular setting for job-hungry attendees, who took advantage of employment tips and interview opportunities.

Fifteen individuals were honored by the JCLC for their lasting contributions to diversity in U.S. libraries. The JCLC Advocacy, Author, and Distinguished Service Awards were given to authors, educators and library staff who have supported efforts to diversify collections and services; portray people of color as positive role models or have served as cultural ambassadors.

More than 120 attendees attended the conference’s Legacy Breakfast where retirees were recognized for their service to the profession. Effie Lee Morris, Public Library Association Past-President, who retired in 1978, and several others who had given more than 40 years of service were recognized.

Conference awards also included the first American Indian Library Association’s American Indian Youth Literature Awards. This new award identifies and honors the best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Award recipients included "Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story," by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, illustrated by Sam Sandoval was the winner of the picture book category; "The Birchbark House" by Louise Erdrich was the winner of the middle-school category and "Hidden Roots," written by Joseph Bruchac won the award’s young adult category. All selected titles present Native Americans in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts. Each recipient received $500 and a commemorative plaque.

"I can’t explain the positive energy I experienced on site," said Gladys Smiley Bell, JCLC co-chair. "The conference was a great success and proved to be just what the library community needed - an open forum to share ideas on how to better serve communities of color."

The JCLC began with "Good Health/Buena Salud/Sen Ti Gien Kan/Tá Waaqis," a preconference that focused on the health resources available in libraries. Speakers from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) focused on several medical conditions that impact communities of color. From high blood pressure to diabetes, NLM representatives showcased a variety of traditional and online medical resources, and provided tips on how libraries can better provide diverse users with health information.

The conference Opening Session featured author Loung Ung author of "First they killed my Father: a Daughter of Cambodia Remembers" (HarperCollins 2000), who discussed the murders of her parents and two of her six siblings in the killing fields of Cambodia. Audience members were moved to tears as Ung gave a detailed account of the four years she spent as a child surviving the Khmer Rouge regime. "Books have the power to heal the hurt, change and save lives," said Ung.

The theme of hope and perseverance continued during the conference’s Keynote Session featuring National Public Radio correspondent Juan Williams. Williams discussed his latest book "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America and What We Can Do About It." Williams talked about how libraries represent hope for communities as he discussed his views on where the Civil Rights movement needs to go in the 21st Century. He noted that the movement was similar to the JCLC - communities from all types of backgrounds coming together to achieve one specific goal and empower underserved and under represented communities with the power of knowledge.

Children’s author Cynthia Leitich Smith "Indian Shoes" and Magic Pencil Studios’ creative director Lisa Yee served as keynote speakers for the Children’s Luncheon. Both discussed the importance of having books available to children that represent all cultures and offer positive characters of color that children can admire. "We need to break color barriers," said Yee. "Labels easily stick, but are hard to remove."

Other JCLC speakers included Tim Tingle, "The Choctaw Road"; Janis F. Kearney, "Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton;" Bertice Berry, "Redemption Song" and Mayra Montero, "Braid of the Beautiful Moon."

The JCLC was sponsored by the five ethnic caucus associations affiliated with the American Library Association (ALA), that include the American Indian Library Association (AILA); the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA); the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA); the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

To learn more about the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC), please visit . To reach JCLC spokespeople, please contact PR Coordinator Macey Morales at 312-280-4393.