2016 LACUNY Institute – Race Matters: Libraries, Racism, and Antiracism
by Professor Maureen Garvey, Evening/Weekend Instruction Librarian
LACUNY Institute, the annual day-long conference organized by the Library Association of CUNY, was held at Brooklyn College on May 20. This year’s theme was Race Matters: Libraries, Racism, and Antiracism.
From opening remarks, through two keynote speakers and many concurrent panel sessions it was an inspiring, thought-provoking and challenging day, sparking a very necessary conversation.
In a beautiful opening talk drawing appropriately from both theory and lived experience, April Hathcock (Scholarly Communication Librarian, NYU), pointed out that that race matters in our profession, when 87% of librarians are white. As such, she noted that neutrality is not a just choice, in the face of such facts. She further stated that we have seen an increased focus on diversity in hiring, but we also require a subsequent focus on inclusion, to support more people of color who enter the profession, to remain and succeed. “Acknowledging these issues is not perpetuating them, as some maintain. It is a first step toward change.” As we were reminded by April, Frederick C. Douglass taught us that power will concede nothing without demand.
Mitchell S. Jackson’s keynote (author, recipient 2016 Whiting Award) was a blistering trip through his upbringing in urban Portland, Oregon in which he deftly used the stories of people he knew, alongside his own, to illustrate that ‘revision’ is possible for everyone, and to urge us to consider our role in making this revision possible for all those students and patrons that appear before us.
Other sessions covered a huge range of subjects from inequality in publishing, both scholarly and literary, to repairing our unjust taxonomies, microaggressions, antiracism and whiteness, and the social justice potential of specific collections. CSI was represented by our Chief Librarian, Dr. Wilma Jones who presented and participated in a roundtable session of chief librarians on “Diversifying the Library Profession.”
Several CSI Library faculty played a large role in bringing this event to fruition. Professors Jonathan Cope, Anne Hays, and Mark Aaron Polger were all on the planning committee. Altogether, it was a great day. A shout out to Professor Ellen Sexton of John Jay College, who coordinated the catering for the event. For what I heard, several people acclaim as the best conference lunch ever!
The library community looks forward to seeing action and discussion that will grow from this terrific event.