Academic librarians 'Recasting the Narrative' at ACRL 2019 Conference in Cleveland

For Immediate Release
Thu, 04/18/2019


Steve Zalusky

Communications Specialist

Communications and Marketing Office

American Library Association

(312) 280-1546

CHICAGO – More than 4,000 librarians, exhibitors and guests convened in Cleveland to reflect and rethink the role of academic librarians in a changing and challenging society.

With the theme “Recasting the Narrative,” the ACRL 2019 Conference, presented by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), was held April 10-13 at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland.

The conference attracted 3,335 onsite attendees, along with 1,033 exhibitors, to Cleveland. There were also 337 additional attendees participating remotely through the Virtual Conference.

Programs, speakers and invited presenters demonstrated that today’s academic and research libraries are vibrant and fast moving, responding quickly to changes in the higher education landscape. Library professionals must continually reinvent themselves to stay on the cutting edge, adapting and leading the transition to new roles.

Programs focused on such topics as “Social Justice as a Core Professional Value,” “Why We Leave: Exploring Academic Librarian Turnover” and “Indigenous Studies Scholars in Canada: Recasting Narratives of Research Support in Academic Libraries.”

Keynote speakers included Michele Norris, a Peabody Award-winning journalist, founder of The Race Card Project and Executive Director of The Bridge, the Aspen Institute’s new program on race, identity, connectivity and inclusion.

In speaking about The Race Card Project, which asks people to share their stories about race in just six words, she assumed that talking about race is difficult. But she has received hundreds of stories. She shared her own six-word story: “Still more work to be done.”

In his keynote speech, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Sympathizer,” addressed issues of racism and inequality.

Nguyen, who came with his family to the United States as a refugee during the Vietnam War in 1975, noticed growing up in America that most movies and books about the war focused on Americans while the Vietnamese were silenced and erased. He was inspired by this lack of representation to write about the war from a Vietnamese perspective.

He said it is not enough to have diverse voices in literature, declaring, “Representation is not enough. We need decolonization.”

Alison Bechdel, an internationally beloved cartoonist whose darkly humorous graphic memoirs, astute writing and evocative drawing have forged an unlikely intimacy with a wide and disparate range of readers, was the closing keynote speaker.

She spoke about realizing she was a lesbian at age 19 and checking out books from the library on homosexuality.

“At some point I had a strong library cathexis—which is intensely focused mental energy directed at one person, object, or idea, especially to an unhealthy degree,” she said. “This is apparently a key characteristic of queer people—shamed persons who are drawn to lonely stacks and secret research.”’

She also spoke about the importance of libraries, saying, "I think it's important to have these spaces that aren't dedicated to selling you something. They [libraries] are giving you something."

Invited presentations were given by Fobazi M. Ettarh, undergraduate success librarian at Rutgers University Newark; Rajiv Jhangiani, a special advisor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, B.C., where he conducts research in open education and the scholarship of teaching and learning; and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, an associate professor in the sociology department at American University (AU) in Washington, D.C. who has published dozens of articles and book chapters in his areas of research: Latinx studies, race and ethnicity, migration, gender and sexuality, and queer studies.

During Ettarh’s presentation, “Becoming a Proud ‘Bad Librarian’; Dismantling Vocational Awe in Librarianship,” she described vocational awe as the set of ideas, values and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession. They result, she said, in the notion that libraries are “inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique.”

She criticized those notions and said she is a “bad librarian” because she will not be silent about the inequality and injustice in her field.

During the conference, it was announced that ACRL and Gale, a Cengage company, have collaborated to create the ACRL Libraries Transform Toolkit. This free new toolkit provides academic and research libraries with easy-to-use tools and resources to develop effective marketing and outreach strategies to promote their services and impact to students, faculty and administrators. The toolkit extends the American Library Association’s (ALA) Libraries Transform Campaign, that’s designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals.

ACRL also honored Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, associate librarian at the University of South Carolina-Lancaster Medford Library, as the 2019 Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. The award, sponsored by GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO, recognizes an outstanding member of the library profession who has made a significant national or international contribution to academic/research librarianship and library development.




About ACRL

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for academic libraries and library workers. Representing nearly 10,500 individuals and libraries, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products, and services to help those working in academic and research libraries learn, innovate, and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. Find ACRL on the webFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube