Answering the Call to Action for Racial Justice- AALL 2020

The most personally and professionally impactful session of the American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) 2020 virtual conference I attended was Responsibility, and Revolution: Difficult Conversations and a Call to Action moderated by Liz Graham and featuring panelists Nichelle Perry, Itunu Sofidiya, and Dawn Smith. The session discussed how the law has consistently been used as an instrument of violence and oppression to deny the value of Black and Brown lives. It called for us as legal information professionals to acknowledge that racism has influenced our legal system, workplaces, and profession. The session aimed for attendees to leave being able to identify potential steps they can take in their workplace to foster a more racially inclusive, diverse, and equitable future for the profession.

The session started with the moderator asking the panelists what #BlackLivesMatter means to them. The panelists were open and vulnerable with their answers, which made the topic much more personal and accessible than talking about racial justice broadly. Dawn Smith, Head of Acquisitions at Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Library, shared that she wears her ID badge at all times while on campus in case she is stopped by campus security. The problem of the phrase #AllLivesMatter was also discussed and explained.

One focus of the impact of racial injustice on our profession was the ability to recruit, support and retain individuals from marginalized communities. As a newly minted Vice-Chair of Reference Instruction & Patron Services’ PR & Recruitment committee, I was very interested in ways that we as a profession can address racism, implicit bias, and equity in recruitment, support and retention. As the panel progressed, the panelists shared tangible ways in which we can do better to support racial justice:
   1. Invest into the profession financially; the caucuses need funding
   2. A critical review of the vendors who sponsor our profession. Did they make an antiracist statement? Are they implementing diverse and equitable         recruitment strategies at their company?
   3. The need for professional development and training for paraprofessionals
   4. Reviewing how AALL membership fees may be a barrier to some people
   5. Identify who is missing from the conversation
  6. Research creating paid fellowships

The action I felt called to take after viewing the session is to review the vendors our library works with. I want to see if they made anti-racist statements and inquire about practices in place to address obstacles that the BIPOC community faces in being recruited, considered for, and hired into open positions at that company. I inquired with a vendor that we don’t currently use, but who was at the conference about those topics and did not receive a satisfactory answer, so I will be following up with that.

My first AALL conference was memorable, and I am grateful that I was able to attend. This session shows that we have a lot of work to do, but that we are stronger together. To learn more about how AALL is working towards racial justice, view the Anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion updates and resources page on their website.

Written by: Jenna Pontious, Public Services Librarian 


By rcll

August 07, 2020

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