Recruiting New Librarians

It’s been such a tough pandemic for academic librarian job seekers, particularly new graduates. Enrollment declines led to shrinking budgets which in turn meant disappearing job opportunities when so many librarians needed them most. I feel very lucky to be in a library that has had the budget, personnel, and time to hire several new librarians this academic year. Later this summer I’ll be in a position to hire both a Teaching & Learning Librarian and a Student Success Librarian. I’ve been working on the job description and thinking a lot about the recruitment of new colleagues. I definitely have the usual concerns about the construction of the job advertisement:

  • Is the language used to describe the position responsibilities accessible to librarians new to the profession?
  • Are we including a salary range?
  • Am I asking too much under Required Qualifications?
  • Does the job ad emphasize our library’s commitment to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion?
  • Will the position description sound appealing and welcoming to librarians from different backgrounds and communities?
  • Does it make our department sound like a good place to work?

I shared my initial draft with our assistant department head and two new(ish) librarian colleagues who had recently been through the job search process. They offered helpful edits and suggestions, and I was able to pass on our draft to our Associate Dean for Organizational Development and Learning.

But there are the OTHER factors to consider when thinking about recruitment, ones inextricably linked to the pandemic, politics, and legislation. The last few years have been and continue to be difficult for people with disabilities, compromised immune systems, families, income precarity; and all of the most vulnerable individuals. Are new or experienced librarians in a position–financially, emotionally, personally–to move for a new job? What kind of support and flexibility can we offer to individuals who may have unique health, family, or other needs? Are we prepared to have those conversations when negotiating with potential candidates? I hope that we’re ready.

Living in Texas I’m familiar with the common refrains online urging people to either (a) get out and vote or (b) get up and move. Both make a lot of assumptions about finances, personal situations, and other extenuating circumstances. So as we are hiring I will continue to think about how we can make work as safe and welcoming a place as it can be for the people who work within it.

Are you also hiring and onboarding new librarians this year? If so, what’s been your approach?

Recognizing and Citing Indigenous Oral Knowledge: An Interview with Lorisia MacLeod

In June of 2021, Lorisia MacLeod, a librarian from the James Smith Cree Nation, published an article called “More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers,” presenting citation templates to recognize Indigenous knowledge in academia. Because both APA and MLA style guides encourage writers to cite any oral communication that does not have a written or audio recording as “personal communication,” Indigenous oral teaching gets put “on the same footing as a quick phone call, […] while even tweets are given a reference citation.” 

By using MacLeod’s templates to include a full citation in a References or Works Cited list, Indigenous oral knowledge can be “presented as an equal and valid information format alongside familiar formats like books and journals.” Lorisia has generously agreed to be interviewed for ACRLog about her work; I invite you to click the link above and read her original article as well! 

Q: In news coverage about this project, you’ve shared that you first realized the need for better citation of oral communication when you were an undergraduate studying anthropology, and that you worked with the Indigenous Student Centre at NorQuest College in Edmonton to develop templates for APA and MLA style. Tell me more about the process of creating custom citation templates. Was your institution supportive from the beginning? How did you select which elements to include? 

A: That’s right, I was very lucky to have two amazing anthropology professors during my undergraduate—Dr. Jack Ives and Dr. Kisha Supernaut (Métis)—who really recognized the importance of including Indigenous voices especially in a field that traditionally studied Indigenous people but in a very extractive way. I felt they both really highlighted the importance of community-engaged archaeology and taught about valuing Indigenous voices despite the historical academic records lack of Indigenous representation. Of course one of the tricky things about valuing something in academia is that often our value is shown by whose voices are highlighted, so if citation styles don’t recognize Indigenous ways of knowing it can be really hard to fully achieve that level of respect it deserves. At the time, I just remember thinking someone should change that limitation—make ways of citing our oral teachings more equal. Fast forward a few years and I’m talking about things academic institutions could do as actions to support reconciliation, indigenization, decolonization etc and I realize as an Indigenous librarian that maybe it was something I could be involved in doing. Since I had developed good relationships with the staff in the Indigenous Student Centre at NorQuest it really was about drafting up some examples of alternate citation templates and just asking if I could show it to them and talk.

I think I was really lucky because there was a lot of support—folks seemed to understand that it was important to take action, to make a change, in order to make the big buzzwords mean anything. I’ll admit, the fact that it was developed by an Indigenous librarian and the input from the folks in the Indigenous Student Centre helped (big shout out to Delores, Elliott, Conor, and Karie)— I had some great friends there cheering us on every step of the way and really trying to uplift our voices. When I started out drafting up something to talk about, I actually relied heavily on Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging (an amazing resource for anyone and everyone to read in my opinion). It does a great job of talking about how nations differ so it’s important to try to be precise, and other key ideas that lead me to look at what relationships mattered in a citation. From there it really seemed to flow together, trying to mimic the way that other citations for books are done, I tried to interweave that with elements like who is their nation, what is the teaching about. I tried to keep it general so it could be flexible—not every nation, person, or teaching would be the same, so some elements became if applicable. This was a part where having the amazing folks in the Indigenous Student Centre was irreplaceable, just talking about how we’d use this piece of the template or maybe this part would be better phrased like this. They also helped to figure out which parts should be included so it really was a group effort that organically formed in some ways. I guess it’s really fitting that citation templates about citing and valuing our words were mostly made through chats!

Q: Undergraduate research assignments often direct students toward published, written information, and students might not consider consulting other sources, like Indigenous oral knowledge. What ways could professors incorporate Indigenous knowledge in research assignments? How can we design assignments that get students to branch out from “traditional” information formats like books and articles?

A: So I’m a strong believer that there are connections to Indigenous knowledge in pretty much every subject BUT the key when it comes to incorporating Indigenous knowledge is really relationships. If instructors want to incorporate Indigenous knowledges, especially oral teachings, I really hope they are looking to invest in long-term mutually respectful relationships with Indigenous knowledge keepers. It’s technically incorporation to get the Elder-in-resident to come to speak in class once or send students to them but it isn’t really a good relationship to me. We only have so many Knowledge Keepers and they only have so much time so using them for one-offs for a class to check some box—well, it doesn’t feel any different from the extractive knowledge processes of many early settlers. Long-term engagement is more work but it’s honestly the kind of investment that has the potential to create real change.

So that’s a long-term thing but that isn’t to say there isn’t something folks could do right now. I think for instructors you’ll want to start by looking at your own syllabus—look at the readings you have and whose voices they are. If you don’t have Indigenous voices, then maybe you should change whose voices you are raising up (this can also apply to other minority voices that may not be represented in your syllabus). 

In both your syllabus and in your assignments, consider why you are putting in requirements about works cited having to be academic articles? There are tons of amazing Indigenous scientists, Knowledge Keepers, language keepers, activists etc that are really active on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok. Now I’m not saying only use Twitter feeds for your readings, but infusing these into your assignments and syllabus is actually also going to teach learners information literacy skills. It’ll teach them how to engage with social media with a critical eye and combine various information formats to get a better picture of something. But a lot of that does depend on instructors and institution policies, just remember—just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way or that it’s still the best way now.

Q: What other ways can academic libraries demonstrate respect for Indigenous ways of knowing? 

A: This can be a bit of a tricky question to answer generally because it really depends on where each institution is at—some have great ties with local Indigenous groups, others have only just started trying out land acknowledgements. But here are some broad ideas:

  • Be honest with yourself, your institution, and your staff about where you really are: if you are still mostly doing virtue-signalling actions but aren’t able to acknowledge that’s what they are, it’s going to be really hard for anyone to be able to plan a realistic path forward. That can also impact the ability and interest of Indigenous communities to partner with you.
  • Who is in your collection and how? Take a look at Indigenous authors in all fields and look at how they are catalogued, what is their metadata. And when do you promote them? Please don’t only bring out the Indigenous authors for Indigenous History Month- they deserve to be highlighted in your STEM displays, your general literature displays, and the same goes for however you promote resources to your faculty.
  • Invest in staff learning: This has to be an ongoing area of learning and commitment with institutional support. Academic institutions have their roots in systems that kept out Indigenous peoples and our knowledges (or appropriated them) so for many professionals, the voices we have today probably weren’t something they learned about in their classes. So if there is a webinar panel of Indigenous scientists coming up then yes—the science liaison librarian should probably be attending.
  • Look at the Calls to Action and the CFLA TRC report: I know, these documents are getting older and are Canadian-centric but that doesn’t mean that all the calls have been met or that they aren’t useful for others. Find actions you need to take and then hold yourself/your institutions accountable to working on them. An important thing to note with this is that process is often viewed as a linear path—in my experience, true respectful actions might take a less direct path. A library might realize that they didn’t have the relationships they thought they had and need to change the plan to develop those—I don’t think that’s a failure. To me, that kind of openness to adapt and change is a reflection of respect, it acknowledges that true respect requires ongoing engagement and the needs of the parties involved naturally will change over time.
  • Have Indigenous knowledges in your library: Yes this, of course, means buying Indigenous books but consider how our knowledges aren’t limited to that format. What about art? What about having storytellers and Knowledge Keepers? What about partnering with your institutions’ Indigenous student centre or local Indigenous groups?

Q: Who are some librarians (or experts in other fields/identities) that inspire and influence you in your work?

A: Aside from those I talked about above, I have to start off with the obvious (and slightly sappy) answer which is that my Dad (Kirk MacLeod) and sister (Kaia MacLeod) are huge inspirations to me. My Dad was in the library field for over a decade before me, so he was one of those Indigenous librarians who helped make space for future generations like me and my sister. The field he entered was very different from when I entered shortly after the release of the TRC report; he has always cheered me on and been a role model on leading change but remaining humble. Kaia just entered librarianship and in addition to being a really awesome librarian in her own right, she motivates me to keep trying to improve the field for all future Indigenous librarians, just like our Dad did for us. Now that we are all in the same field, they give me feedback and their perspectives from other areas in the field too! Plus it’s a constant reminder that the field is full of amazing people to work with, like Jessie Loyer a fantastic Cree-Métis librarian, cousin, and friend who always seemed to know just the right thing to say to empower early-career Indigenous librarians to create change.

Gregory Younging (Opsakwayak Cree Nation): His book Elements of Indigenous Style was a huge inspiration. I’m pretty sure I recommended that read to everyone I knew—it was an amazing guide that somehow managed to walk a fine line between instructional and allowing for space for community engagement. That was a stance that I’ve really tried to emulate in my own work because I think it is a perfect way of tackling Indigenous matters without falling into the pan-Indigenous identity trap.

Eve Tuck (Unangax? ), K. Wayne Yang, Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández: If you haven’t taken a look at The Citation Challenge, I would highly recommend it. This was part of what drove home for me the important role that citation has in respect and power systems.

Dr Jessica Hernandez (Zapotec and Ch’orti’): An amazing Indigenous scientist who I’ve followed for years. Now I’m not a scientist but her work is a great example of the amazing work current Indigenous scholars make that deserves to be considered for syllabus readings. Supporting scholars like her is part of what inspires me! She recently just published a new book too: Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science.

At the risk of creating a ridiculously long list I think I’ll cut myself off there.

Thank you to Lorisia MacLeod for her contributions to scholarly communication, and for sharing her thoughts with us here at ACRLog.

Vulnerability, Connection, and Reflection During a Global Pandemic: Bringing the Personal Back to the Profession During a Strange, Strange Time

This guest post was submitted by Justin Fuhr, University of Manitoba.

Never a forced smile from the sun in the sky

Never the same cloud as it passes by

As the earth takes shape, as so should I

The weary are weary for they always ask, “why?”

Daniel Romano, “Never a Forced Smile”[1]

Introduction

At the beginning of the global pandemic due to COVID-19 when my work moved to working from home, I was in the middle of my five-week parental leave following the birth of my second child. I feel fortunate to have had this time with my family but more than a year later, have a feeling of emptiness that I continue to work from home. Don’t get me wrong, I feel extremely privileged to have a job that I can do from home, as well as an employer that is not rushing their employees back during an extremely volatile, unpredictable, and quite frankly dangerous, time.

My WFH situation also could be much worse: my kids could be home during the day while I try to work, as was the case in Spring 2020. Again, I am privileged to have childcare for both, allowing my wife and I a quiet house in which to work. The isolation, however, is difficult a year into this thing. I have little in-person contact beyond my immediate family and small bubble. I love my family and my friends, but it is difficult to go from seeing your co-workers in-person daily to seeing them solely over video conferencing software. For me, it’s a missing piece of the regularness of life.[2]

This feeling of isolation prompted me to talk and connect with my colleagues. Connection to colleagues, which for me led to vulnerable, authentic, and trusting relationships, is extremely valuable to me, something I have appreciated at a deeper level while working from home. These connections can lead to collaboration, throughout both research and work-related projects, in addition to providing much needed support and community.

Connection

I have been working at the University of Manitoba Libraries (UML) since 2015. I began work as a library technician, before attending grad school in 2016 to get my MLIS. I graduated in 2019 and was hired as a two-year term librarian at UML at the beginning of 2020. I have known many of my colleagues for a long time; there is a stable staff at the Libraries. I switched positions several times as a library technician and later as a librarian, so I have worked with a fair number of library staff and worked closely with quite a few. You naturally get to know your colleagues better the more you work with them.  However, I tried to maintain a work/home balance, which included my relationships with co-workers. Work was work and home was home, the professional and the personal stayed on each side. This changed while working from home, as I simultaneously became comfortable working as a librarian and found I needed more connection with colleagues. I felt isolated from my colleagues without seeing them daily. I wanted to connect with them at a time of isolation, to not only be more engaged in my work and research, but to actively build a community of collaboration and collegiality by bringing the personal back to the profession.

Connections can also be important to get to know more about your colleagues’ work, research, and professional interests. This can lead to collaborative and trusting relationships, extremely valuable and rewarding in any workplace. Connections also build community.  One of UML’s strategic directions is “building community that creates an outstanding learning and working environment.”[3]  One of the goals of this strategic direction is “the Libraries promotes staff success through…developing our internal communication tools and mechanisms for conversations within the UML in order to enhance our ability to provide efficient and effective services and increase satisfaction with our own work.” In this strategic direction, I see clearly two aspects that I really relate to: using unified communication software and conversations between colleagues, both of which are important for building connections and for future collaboration with colleagues.

Online communication

A benefit to everyone working from home was library staff using the same online communication software. I found when working from home, if your colleagues are connected by the same online communication platform — we use Microsoft Teams — it was in some ways easier to connect. Sure, you no longer run into your colleagues before and after meetings or chat at the front desk when you’re passing by, but it connects you to your colleagues in other ways.

Not only does the University of Manitoba have two campuses, separated by almost eleven kilometres, but there are also eleven libraries at UML, ten on the main campus. This separates staff located on different campuses and in different libraries; it can be difficult to connect with colleagues spread all over the place. Having many library staff using the same communication tool connects us in a way that working in-person throughout our eleven libraries and two campuses does not.

However, online communication is often an intentional act. You initiate conversation with others in a way that’s different than in-person communication. Often this is a one-on-one interaction. This can be vulnerable and you will need trust, which I touch on below.

Conversations as an Early-Career Librarian

Another factor for my feeling of isolation is that I am an early-career librarian. I need guidance as I navigate how to become a better librarian and researcher, and my colleagues, who are extremely friendly and supportive, are a fantastic support. As a librarian, I have flexibility and independence in my workload. I am early in my career and I have tons of questions about my work, research, future career plans, and direction to take in academic librarianship. I am eager to ask my colleagues for answers or advice, having an appreciation of perspectives different from mine, especially with their deep and varied experience. My colleagues very graciously share with me their own experiences, which I can apply to my own context, and otherwise provide support and advice relevant to me.

By reaching out to colleagues to get their advice on a wide range of topics, I can shape my direction and outlook on my work and research, now and in the future. With greater independence in my position compared to when I worked as a library technician, this guidance and connection is all the more important for me. Over the past year, I have found three important aspects to connection with my colleagues: vulnerability, authenticity, and trust.

Vulnerability

Connecting with others and bringing the personal to work may mean you are vulnerable. Sharing your fears, doubts, and reservations can be difficult to do (and not necessarily necessary). This is even more difficult to share with your co-workers. I don’t know about you, but I try to cultivate a ‘better me’ at work. Wouldn’t sharing your vulnerabilities run counter to this? You would think so. However, confiding in your colleagues on difficult issues or scenarios can be really rewarding for both you and your co-worker. You would be surprised how putting yourself out there can benefit both you and the person you’re confiding in, in a mutualistic-type of relationship. Also sharing vulnerabilities does not negate the ‘better you,’ in fact it enhances your image by being authentic to present the ‘best you.’

Mentioned earlier, online communication is often intentional. On some level, you have to put yourself out there to contact others. You trust that the person you’re contacting is supportive and collegial. In addition, confidence in your co-workers, in terms of privacy, is key here, which also helps to build trust. Sharing professional vulnerabilities is difficult and immensely personal, so if your confidence is broken that can do long-term damage to you and your colleague’s relationship. Also be cautious about sharing very personal information. Though I advocate for bringing the personal back to the profession, there still should be some sort of line between work and home. Where this line lies, though, is for you to decide.

Authenticity

Being authentic with your colleagues builds a stronger community and deeper connections — authentic connections. I advocate for being authentic in your work relationships, regardless of past experiences or history with your colleagues. Of course, don’t let yourself be taken advantage of, but learn to forgive and forget. Collegiality plays a large role here and should not be forgotten.

I also think honesty begins with yourself; knowing your boundaries, being aware of your work style, and conscious of your personality. Be honest with yourself and you’ll find it easier to be honest with others, especially in the workplace.

Trust

Trust is integral for strengthening connections among co-workers. Wojciechowska (2020) claims trust, when looked at from a social capital context, “strengthens relationships with the neighbourhood, facilitates cooperation with partners and colleagues, reduces fear and conflicts, and may also stimulate development.”[4] Trust is built in different ways. Sometimes it’s built over years of relationship building. Sometimes it’s based on someone’s personality, reputation, or history at the workplace (or your own!). Sometimes you just click with someone and trust comes quickly.

When you trust who you are speaking with, it is so much easier to have honest conversations. There’s also an element of trust where you need to trust that your conversations are honest. I find vulnerability and trust work hand in hand: it is easier to be vulnerable when you can trust your colleague has your back. In addition, trusting that the colleague you are speaking with won’t pass on any conversations held between the two of you is so important, and of course goes hand-in-hand with being authentic. 

Another thing I had to get over was my worry of bothering my co-workers, especially because I have so many questions! I had to learn to trust that my relationships with my colleagues were strong, that my colleagues are eager to chat and help, and that they would let me know if they had to complete time-sensitive work.

In Conclusion

I appreciate the camaraderie and collegiality received from my colleagues over the past year. I’ve said in the past that it takes a village to raise a librarian, which I find is more relevant than ever right now. I am very fortunate to work in a library system that has so many supportive, knowledgeable, and friendly colleagues.

I feel that over the past year, I have connected at a deeper level with a substantial number of my co-workers in vulnerable, authentic, and trusting ways. These connections have provided me with a strong librarian mentor who is encouraging, empathetic, and experienced, colleagues with whom I regularly meet up with to go on walks, and co-workers who I now consider friends. Most of all, I can connect and collaborate with my colleagues on work, research, our future careers, and just life.

Acknowledgements

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the importance of Daniel Romano’s music over the past year, whose lyrics appear at the beginning of this reflection and whose music has brought me comfort during the isolation of working from home.


[1] Romano, D. (2011). Never a forced smile. On Sleep Beneath the Willow [LP]. Welland, ON: You’ve Changed Records.

[2] Unlike Christopher Moltisanti, I love the regularness of life and can’t wait to get back to it.

[3] University of Manitoba Libraries. (2021). Strategic infrastructure. https://www.umanitoba.ca/libraries/administration/strategic-infrastructure

[4]  Wojciechowska, M. (2020). Trust as a factor in building cognitive social capital among library workers and users. Implications for library managers. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 47(1), p. 1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2020.102300

The Inaccessibility of ACRL 2021

This guest post is provided by Katie Quirin Manwiller, MLIS, Instruction & Assessment Librarian at DeSales University.

After the 2019 ACRL Conference, I wrote a guest ACRLog post about conferencing while chronically ill and the challenges I faced attending my first national library conference. At the time, I thought it was my responsibility to adapt to the conference setting if I wanted to be professionally active. After spending the last two years studying disability in librarianship and coming to terms with my own disabled identity, I realized that the accessibility of our national conferences should not be left up to the individual library workers with illness and/or disability. It is the responsibility of those putting on the conference to provide an accessible and inclusive experience. And while some aspects of the ACRL 2021 were indeed more accessible than 2019, it fell far short of providing equitable access to disabled librarians.

On face value, an all virtual conference is much more accessible for me. I live with Hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), fibromyalgia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). I have daily symptoms that include musculoskeletal pain, chronic fatigue, and cognitive difficulties (also called brain fog). These symptoms make the physicality of national conferences almost unbearable: traveling to and from the city, navigating hotels and conference rooms, and being mentally engaged in session content and professional interactions. Not to mention sick time off to recuperate from the experience. Attending a conference from my bed with supportive pillows and a heating pad eliminates most of those concerns. I can easily rest when I get mentally fatigued and do not need to worry about crossing expansive conference spaces in search of the one quiet room.

So when ACRL 2021 was announced as virtual I was excited. Not only would I be presenting my research on academic librarians with invisible illness and/or disability and moderating a panel of librarians with invisible disabilities, I wouldn’t have to navigate the many ways in-person conferences are inaccessible to me. The advent of COVID-19 and shift to virtual seemed like it would make professional involvement more accessible for disabled folks. Virtual attendance and remote work has long been advocated for as a tool for accessibility. But after attending ACRL 2021, I realized there are still many ways to leave behind people with disabilities in the virtual environment.

It became apparent that accessibility was not integral in conference planning when the directions for presenters were released. All presentations were pre-recorded, and some had live Q&A sessions. ACRL directed presenters to use automatic captioning features to caption their sessions, first with Zoom (which they must have figured out doesn’t provide auto-captions for all accounts) and then using Google Slides. Unfortunately, as many people involved in accessibility know, automatic captions do not provide equitable access. They often lack correct grammar, punctuation, differentiation between homonyms, or clarification on technical terms, jargon, or proper nouns. It is not difficult to learn of the inaccessibility of auto-captions, as even a quick Google search – well within the expertise of academic librarians – shows years of criticism for auto-captions on sites like YouTube.

As a disabled presenter, it felt like captions were nothing but an afterthought in planning. Like late in the game someone asked, “Oh yeah shouldn’t we have captions?” and the planning committee threw together the easiest and cheapest option for them to do so. And despite the fact that sessions were required to be submitted almost a month in advance, there was no apparent review of captions. Captioning varied widely throughout the sessions. Some presentations (like mine) had edited, large-text, and easily readable captions that matched the recording. Others followed the directive to use Google Slides auto-captions, which were very small on screen and words appeared and changed as the presenters spoke, making it difficult to follow along. Then there were some sessions with no captions at all. And almost universally, the emoji buttons the platform so helpfully provided to engage with the sessions covered up captions. 

Captions are an essential aspect of recordings because they benefit everyone. They make it possible for Deaf and Hard of Hearing folks to engage with the material, improve concentration for neurodivergent people and those like me who struggle with brain fog, and can help comprehension for non-disabled individuals. They should be the bare minimum for accessible practices, but ACRL’s half-hearted attempt at captions proved more difficult than helpful.

And it wasn’t just the captioning that made this virtual conference hard to navigate as a disabled librarian. The session recordings with a live Q&A played at a scheduled time without the ability to pause the recording. Trying to take notes and follow a condensed session was often overwhelming for my tired brain. I know other librarians with disabilities who stopped watching the live Q&A sessions all together, waiting until the recordings became available with a pause afterwards as it was the only way to stay cognitively engaged with the session. This, of course, meant they missed out on material since the live Q&As were not recorded. The conference platform also proved problematic when trying to use assistive technology. One of the panelists in my session had to turn off a screen reader to be able to appear in the live video Q&A. ACRL did provide live caption for Q&A sessions but only for people who requested accommodations, seeming to do just what was required to meet ADA requirements and no more.

By the end of the week, I was extremely frustrated with a conference I had assumed would be a pleasantly accessible experience. Despite the fact that ACRL included several sessions on disability, they did not appear to include library workers with disability in their planning. So I emailed the Conference Manager, Tory Ondria, expressing disappointment that the remarkably expensive virtual conference (attendance started around $300 for salaried librarians) somehow could not afford captioning services. Interim Executive Director of ACRL Kara Malenfant responded as staff was on furlough. I followed up with a list of specific questions as to the ways accessibility was part of the 2021 Conference planning process: 

  • What specific accessibility concerns did you evaluate when choosing a platform? Was an accessibility audit performed?
  • Was ensuring accessibility largely left up to the chosen platform?
  • Who from ACRL oversaw accessibility concerns and testing for the conference? What experience with accessibility and/or disability do they have?
  • Why was a platform that (presumably) did not include captioning chosen?
  • The auto-caption directive for presenters seemed like an afterthought. How early into planning for the virtual conference were captions considered?
  • What research, if any, was done into captioning options? Why was auto-captioning, despite being far less effective than correct, added captions, chosen?
  • In a broader sense, how are library workers with disabilities included in the planning of ACRL conferences?

I expected to get a response along the lines of accessibility was left up to the platform or maybe which portion of the planning committee addressed accessibility concerns, both of which I considered bare minimums. But unfortunately, I was shocked to find that ACRL could shatter my already low expectations. Here’s the response to the above questions I received, in full, shared with permission from Kara Malenfant: “Thanks, Katie, for your helpful and detailed questions. They can certainly help shape reporting to the ACRL Board and our Conference Committee as well as inform work going forward on improving accessibility for future events.”

That was it. No attempt to answer any of my questions. When I asked if there was anyone else who may be able to answer my questions, I was again told that “[W]e learned a lot from our experiences. Things were not perfect, but we did try.” And yet, I received no details about how they tried beyond live captioning accommodation requests. Nothing about how the conference platform was chosen or the session accessibility standards. Only statements about how they will incorporate my concerns for future conferences.

I went into this conference knowing that library organizations provide virtually no support to library workers with disabilities. After all, my panel was titled “Who’s Missing from EDI Advocacy?” and it highlighted the ways ACRL does not support disabled librarians beyond including them in blanket EDI statements. But ACRL 2021 was not only disappointing, it was demoralizing. I received confirmation that the organization that spouts the importance of an equitable profession addresses accessibility as an afterthought. I feel dubious about the effectiveness of any ACRL EDI efforts because the roots of ableism, like racism, are embedded deep in white supremacy culture. Disability intersects in innumerable ways with other marginalized identities. How can we be growing more inclusive as a profession if part of those identities are completely ignored?

I’m left thinking about a friend’s tweet: “Why do library orgs act like disabled library workers don’t exist?” To go a step farther, why should disabled library workers engage with and give money to professional organizations who do nothing to support, protect, or understand us? How can we ensured our lived experience and knowledge will still be shared outside of an inaccessible professional community?


Dreading Decisions and Making a Change

This guest post is from Abigail Gulya, Metadata Librarian at University of Pittsburgh.

I make a lot of choices throughout the day. Some of them are pretty simple. Will I have coffee today? (Yes. Many times.) Some of them are a little more complex. I have three projects, and all of them are due immediately. Which do I start first? I make a lot of decisions with a lot of choices and a lot of impacts, but one thing remains the same.

I’m so tired.

Decision: I’m tired of being tired. I wanted to find a way to experience life without my brain feeling like a moldy sponge. I needed a change. In my case I was good at my job, but decision fatigue was using up all my focus. Decision fatigue is what happens when you are forced to make decisions for a long period of time. The basic idea is that each of those decisions takes up energy and focus and as humans we have a finite supply of that without rest. So, in theory, if I could remove all the excess decisions around my tasks throughout the day, I would end the workday with energy to spare.

Next Decision: Decide how to fix the cycle of exhaustion. I love organizing. I adore productivity tips and tricks. My YouTube feed is full of people extolling the virtues of the newest thing guaranteed to help put every aspect of life into nicely organized boxes. Unfortunately, I love it a little too much. Sometimes I get trapped in a cycle of trying the fancy new app or method thinking “Yes! This will solve all of my problems! I’ll just redo everything and it’ll be pretty and the prettiness will inspire me to be Superwoman!” Spoiler: pretty color-coding does not magically fix your library’s catalog issues.

Next Decision: Ignore the shiny baubles and focus on getting a system that works. First things first, I had to gather all the tasks/plans/half-developed thoughts I had. After digging through partial bullet journals, online trackers, note-taking apps and not-quite-sticky-anymore notes, I had a metaphorical mountain of stuff to do. Gross. Now what?

Next Decision: Determine how I work best. Instead of forcing myself into someone else’s method, respect my own personality and embrace that. Next, notice where it’s lacking. For me it was priorities and dates. I hate them. They stress me out. My tasks tended to only get a priority when it was super urgent (which was all the time) so it was like having no priority at all.

Next Decision: Actually apply priorities, and add start AND due dates to tasks. It was tedious and applying them to my task tower was a lot of effort. But it was worth it. Something wonderful happened. I’d start my day by opening my project management tool of choice (ClickUp™) and my “to do” list was nicely lined up for me in order of most to least importance. Tasks that took more than one day showed up on their start day and I knew exactly how long I had to finish them. I didn’t have to think and didn’t have to decide which was more important. That work had already been done, I just had to execute the task. When I had to create new tasks, I would quickly put in its priority level and dates, and then go on my way knowing it would show up on my list when needed.

Because I’m not spending all my time deciding what I should do next and weighing the pros and cons, I’m able to devote my energy on the tasks themselves. Which means they actually get completed. That gives me a sense of accomplishment, which makes me happy and therefore safely removed from moldy-sponge-brain status.

Taking care to reduce unnecessary decisions from my daily routines has become a form of emotional and mental self-care for me. I hope that anyone out there who may be experiencing decision fatigue without realizing it can find some help and encouragement from my story. Amelia Earhart once said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” I believe that most librarians are tenacious by nature of the job, so the Next Decision: is up to you.