Hyperlinked Librarian

Reflection Blog #2: Inclusion is a Verb: Library Service and Inclusive Excellence

Posted on: September 21, 2019

In order for the library to become “hyperlinked” – that is, connecting people and their communities together – the library must be an inclusive space, a space where all people and all communities are welcome.

Last year, the library district where I work, Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD), hosted Drag Queen Story Hour, a program that encourages early childhood literacy while promoting diversity and inclusion. My library district is located in Colorado Springs, a fairly conservative town. So, when one of our main library branches decided to host Drag Queen Story Hour, there was some pushback. One city councilman publicly demanded the library to cease support for the program before it began. Our library director, John Spears, responded to the councilmen in a professional, well-worded letter saying that the library is and always will be open to everyone. In his letter, Spears cited two sections from the ALA Bill of Rights:

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

The ALA Bill of Rights protects citizens from discrimination when using the library. However, Spears also evoked a sense of leadership that libraries ought to have when promoting inclusion.

One of the readings that really resonated with me this week was Christian Lauersen’s “Do You Want to Dance?” keynote speech. Lauersen stated that “inclusion demands action, awareness, [and] responsibility” (p. 3). In other words, “inclusion” is a verb – it is something an institution must actively do rather than passively promote. For libraries, to be inclusive is to undertake “acts of inclusion [aimed] at improving the conditions for those who are disadvantaged by our social and historical structures” (Lauersen, 2018, p. 5).

The moment that PPLD decided to keep Drag Queen Story Hour, regardless of varying opinions, the library district engaged in a deliberate act of inclusion. In Spears’ letter, he reminded the public that the library provides a service that is “steeped in humanism, compassion, and understanding […] for all members of our communities, including the underserved” (Garcia-Febo, 2018, para. 5). Libraries have become spaces in which everyone is invited to participate, which charges libraries with the responsibility of being stewards of diversity and inclusion.

References

Garcia-Febo, L. (2018). Serving with love: Embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in all that we do. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/11/01/serving-with-love/

Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/

Picture References

Drag Queen Story Hour. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dragqueenstoryhour.org/

Hands. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hewlett.org/committing-diversity-equity-inclusion/

2 Responses to "Reflection Blog #2: Inclusion is a Verb: Library Service and Inclusive Excellence"

Hi Melina!

I’m so happy to hear that you guys did Drag Queen Story Hour! We just booked our very first one and it’s happening next weekend! I wish I had the day off to go attend but I sadly do not. I’m so happy that libraries are starting to invite drag queens to tell wonderful stories because they most definitely are capable of doing so. They bring such life and I honestly was so happy knowing that libraries are becoming more inclusive and welcoming.

It’s a shame that it was met with such pushback but we even received a letter telling us to cancel the program. But I think the way it was worded politely definitely helped. I can understand some people might not feel comfortable with it but it’s good to know that we can reach some sort of understanding and really explain to our communities why we wanted to have these events at the library.

I thought your director was incredibly eloquent in his response and he certainly upheld the library mission and the ALA Bill of Rights in doing so.

It really is about action. I think I watched a TED talk about the emphasis on action to make change happen and it was something that came from a 16 year old Swedish girl on the topic of climate change saying that the time is now.

I think the more welcoming and inclusive libraries become, the more that they can truly be a part of that participatory culture and really become hyperlinked.

I ❤️ this so much! So glad you shared the story from your library. I was on Loida Garcia Febo’s Presidential Advisory Board with John – he’s a great guy!

John’s examples from the Bill of Rights are perfect and I am so glad you went forward with the program. It seems to me the public has been fine with DQSHs overall…it’s the politicians that stir things up.

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