Social Justice Librarians: Planning for Your Own Social Justice Group

In December 2017, after the conclusion of the University of Denver’s Fall quarter, I met with students from the first Privilege and Equity special topics course to discuss creating a plan for further action. For the class, we had explore topics of social justice in a respectful discussion environment and created content that was then published on a blog. My classmates and I shared a desire to continue the conversation in our program surrounding social justice. With this desire, the Social Justice Librarians group was born.

Although this group was originally conceived in December of last year, it was in this last month that we finally had the privilege to promote this group as an organization within our LIS program. The enthusiasm received from my peers along with similar testimony from other social justice groups reminded me that this new generation of LIS professionals is a force to be reckoned with. For others that may be consider creating groups within their own LIS programs or community, I wanted to share three notes that I found important to remember during the last eight months.

Before I get into them, I must stress that we are by no means experts in this topic, and the creation of our group is not without faults, nor are we done developing our group, goals, and vision. This is only a testament to the specific path we’ve taken to get here.

  1. Have a faculty advocate, if possible:

Not to be confused with a faculty advisor/sponsor. There is absolutely no way our group would have made it past that first meeting without the full support of one of our LIS faculty. She not only championed the addition of the Privilege and Equity class to the course schedule, but she encouraged our group to get together after class ended, advocated and stood by us while we stumbled our way through a planning period, and even opened her home to us as a meeting place. She continues to tell us how we represent the future and her encouragement throughout this whole endeavor has truly been inspiring.

  1. Be okay with baby steps:

When creating a group, you won’t go from Point A to Point Z in one night. While it’s important to have long term goals documented, you must keep your work in perspective. If you and your group members focus too much time on what could be, then you’re not using that time to reach out to community members. It’s okay to let the work produced by the group start out small and remember that the logistics don’t have to be set in stone. A mind open to learning, changing, and adapting is essential to understanding social justice. Let the group reflex that mindset.

  1. Always remember why you decided to create your group:

Your reason for pursuing a social justice group serves as an initial mission statement. It will set you straight when your mind’s eye bites off more than you can chew. In my experience, it was easy to want to plan and establish all of the ways our group could develop in the future. But, during some of these conversations, what we needed most was to stay in perspective. There was much time between December 2017 and now that felt unproductive due to a loss of focus. It took some time to reevaluate why we originally wanted a social justice group and to steer the group back on course. Once focus was reestablished, Social Justice Librarians was able to claim its place within our program community.

Featured image by StartupStockPhotos from Licensed under Creative Commons CC0.

Janette Ruiz is a current student at the University of Denver. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or find her on Twitter.

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