For those currently in library school, you have seen firsthand how social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion make sudden, relevant appearances in most LIS courses. If you need a place to start learning about these topics, check out Sheila’s reading and resources list. Learning about them is one thing; seeing them in action is another. I had the pleasure of attending REFORMA Colorado’s annual conference for the second time on May 18th as they celebrate their 25th anniversary.
I live in Casper, WY, located approximately four hours away from Denver without traffic or construction. This conference requires quite a bit of planning, as I take advantage of the trip to do some shopping and catch up with friends in the area. However, this year took additional planning now that schoolwork had to be factored into the equation. Here is a brief rundown of what I learned at the conference:
–REFORMA, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, is doing amazing things at the national level for Latinos and the Spanish speaking. Take advantage of their $10/year student membership price while you can!
-One of the first things that stood out to me this year was how amazing it was to hear English and Spanish conversations about your profession. As one of two Spanish speakers at my public library, this is a rare occurrence. I overheard multiple conversations about collections and new services while I frantically tried to plan out which sessions I would attend. Unfortunately, I then immediately realized how much my Spanish fluency has decreased since finishing my undergraduate studies. Wyoming has a growing Spanish speaking population and I speak to a handful of library patrons and my family in Spanish, but it is no where near enough to maintain my fluency from six years ago.
-The first session I attended was about dual language learners and bilingual storytime. As an adult services specialist, I have very little experience with children and wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I also needed to get more familiar with youth services, as many of the bilingual librarian job announcements I have seen prefer someone who can work with children, families, and adults. My hands immediately got clammy as the presenter handed out shakers for the singing portion of the presentation, but I walked away understanding the many benefits of incorporating another language into storytimes.
-Choosing a second session was tough, as my fellow University of Washington online classmate, Laura Wright, was co-presenting on radical cataloging for diversity and inclusion at the same time as a panel on Spanish services. I chose the panel, although Laura and I were able to chat throughout the day about our program and future endeavors. The panel reinforced how libraries are all about meeting the needs of their communities, and the examples of services provided by the panelists were no different. They also mentioned some of the challenges they faced in starting services and challenges they continue to face. Advocating for staffing that reflects the community is absolutely crucial to fulfilling a community’s needs.
-The third session I attended was about multilingualism in libraries. After a brief lesson on the demonization of multilingualism, language as a weapon in identifying “others,” and the feminization of the lingua materna, we jumped into how libraries can support multilingual staff. My table talked about compensation for using their language skills in their jobs. Is speaking Spanish required? Do you make the same as other coworkers in the same level who only speak English? Is speaking Spanish lumped into the “other duties as assigned” portion of the job description? This session sparked some interesting thoughts as I continue my LIS education.
-The final session I attended was about Spanish language collections. I am currently taking a collection development course and manage a very small collection of adult Spanish language materials, so it seemed like a natural choice. The panelists gave some great advice on figuring out what to buy and where to find materials. The biggest takeaway from this session? I need to plan a trip to FIL Guadalajara one of these years!
Not everyone will have the opportunity to attend a conference while they are in school, but for those who can, take advantage of them to reinforce everything you are learning in your classes before you lose student pricing options. As for me, it’s back to the discussion forums as I finish up these last two weeks of the quarter.
REFORMA Colorado logo used with permission.
Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and works as an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library in Casper, WY.