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9:00-9:45  Welcome by the ACRL/NY president & 2020 business meeting

10:00-11:00  Session 1

Librarians as Civic Actors: Dedicating Library Skills to Civic Engagement Outside the Workplace
Kristina Williams, Columbia University

Library workers often look for ways to integrate democratic principles into their work. Core concepts such as representation and the open exchange of ideas not only shape civic life, but also inform library practices and policies. Likewise, civil rights campaigns such as voter registration drives are touted as desirable means of engaging communities. Libraries are all the better for these aspects, but what if we asked not what democracy can do for librarians, but instead what librarians can do for democracy? This presentation will help attendees better understand the relationship between librarians and democratic systems by providing examples of how library skills and expertise are being applied to civic engagement outside the workplace.

I will share the results of interviews conducted with library workers who have contributed to or are actively engaging in civic action outside their job duties. Civic action encompasses various interpretations of democratic practice both broad and narrow, formal and informal. In particular, this presentation will focus on how a library worker’s civic engagement outside the limitations of the workplace inform their understanding of the library profession and the library community. For example, what do library outreach and instruction have in common with organizing a political campaign? How does experience with access or technical services help support the coordination of mutual aid efforts?

To promote reflection and engagement, session participants will be encouraged to contribute to a shared online document identifying library skills and their involvement in civic action, if any, in order to build upon the roles of social change. Participants will be encouraged to connect and organize with fellow participants after the session.

Neutral No Longer: A Call for Libraries and Librarians to Push Against the “Safety Net”
Sarah Simms, Louisiana State University and Hayley Johnson, Louisiana State University

Does the broad brushstroke claim of neutrality do a disservice to our profession and the communities that we serve? Two academic librarians in Louisiana have been pushing against the narrative of neutrality for the past seven years through the use of exhibitions, grants, and presentations around their research to elevate and connect historically excluded histories, experiences, and narratives with the academic library, librarians, our local communities and beyond. Building upon their 2019 article “Subtle Activism: Using the Library Exhibit as a Social Justice Tool,” this presentation will cover their initial efforts at a small regional university, as well as their growing body of research into the largely forgotten internment of Japanese “enemy aliens” at an Army installation in central Louisiana during World War II. Additionally, the presentation will highlight the importance of grant-funding for these initiatives and where one can find these opportunities.

Tribal College Librarians: The Power of a Niche Collective in Meeting Individuals Members’ Needs
Mary Anne Hansen, Montana State University

Tribal college librarians are a unique group of library professionals. Often located in geographically isolated reservation communities, these librarians serve the academic needs of students and faculty. However, as these libraries are often the only library located in their remote communities, they also serve as public libraries. In this dual role, they not only provide traditional reference services, library instruction, and collection development; they also provide programming for members of their greater community, offering after school and summer reading programs, intergenerational programming on traditional languages, knowledge, crafts, and more. Tribal college librarians find great networking and professional development value in coming together during an annual gathering to share their projects and best practices, and to engage in group problem solving around their unique challenges. They are empowered to both recommend and provide relevant programming to their peers.

11:30-12:30 Session 2

Citizenship Project: Using Collections to Help Green Card Holders Pass the USCIS Naturalization Test
Jennifer Schantz, NYPL Library of the Performing Arts and Samantha Rijkers, New-York Historical Society

In 2017, the New-York Historical Society launched a major education initiative of free civics and American history workshops designed to prepare green card holders to succeed on the naturalization test, a rigorous oral and written examination that many U.S. citizens by birth would find challenging to pass. Offered free of charge, the multi-session workshops offer immersive history and civics learning, and take place in the evening or on weekends, allowing individuals to choose the class structure that best suits their work and home life. For many immigrants around New York City, finding the time to travel to a Manhattan location—and overcoming the psychological barriers of entering a museum and research library—can be a deterrent to attending classes on site. For this reason and prior to Covid-19, classes were held not only in the galleries of New-York Historical but also in neighborhoods in all five boroughs through partnerships with community organizations. The Citizenship Project accommodates participants of every income level and schedule, and offers bilingual instruction for those students not comfortable or familiar with English and has served thousands of green card holders.

1:00-2:30 Session 3

The Civic Literacy Initiative at the David & Lorraine Cheng Library
Gary Marks, William Paterson University of NJ

We define Civic Literacy as the capacity for individuals to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and discharge their civic responsibilities in a democratic society. Through this understanding, students are equipped with the requisite tools for lifelong civic participation and leadership. Our initiative supports the University’s Core Value of Civic Engagement and seeks to strengthen existing partnerships with the Office of Campus Activities, Service and Leadership, and the American Democracy Project to offer students learning experiences and resources to be informed global citizens and active civic participants. This has been accomplished through collaborative programming, including events and workshops focusing on the University’s WP LEADS student centered Civic Engagement Badge program.

Like many other institutions, the University was forced by the Covid-19 pandemic to shift to virtual learning during the spring 2020 semester and a flexible hybrid model for fall 2020. During this shift, the Library has continued to offer Civic Literacy programs and resources for students with creativity and flexibility.

Participants will be provided with examples of collaborative partnerships, events and programs, resources, and the experiences and challenges faced during the launch and implementation of the Civic Literacy Initiative.

Vivian G. Harsh: A Voice from the Past with Lessons for Today
Martha Kapelewski, Athens Clarke County Library

Vivian G. Harsh was named the Cleveland Hall Library Branch manager when the library opened in 1932 and remained in that role until her retirement in 1958. In her tenure as head librarian, living in an era marked by discrimination and racism, she made the library not only a safe haven, but the cultural center of her community as well. Her accomplishments ranged from implementing programming for adult education, cultural enrichment, and senior needs, to being an archivist and historian. Believing in the importance of preserving African American history and culture, Harsh amassed a collection of books in a corner of the library she coined the “Special Negro Collection”, known today as the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection. Vivian Harsh is the very embodiment of a pioneering librarian who fought for and was able to create a library that focused on its community, promoting the intellectual and personal growth of its members. A leader of great vision whose strong work ethic allowed her to create a space reflective of the democratic and ethical values that we strive for in our profession as librarians today, Vivian G. Harsh was a gifted librarian whose story must be told, and whose voice must be heard.

The Past Is Presence: How Libraries Can Support Community Engagement Around Climate Change
Meredith Mann, New York Public Library

In the spring and summer of 2019, the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division of The New York Public Library collaborated with Melville House Publishing in a series of public discussions known as the Climate Change Reading Group. Each meeting was structured around the themes of the recently-released 2018 Climate Report and featured both a curated display of collection material and a featured speaker from the environmental community.

This presentation will outline the planning, organization, and implementation of the Climate Change Reading Group and reflect on its goals: to foster civic engagement on an issue of public importance, to demonstrate the relevance of library special collections to the lives and concerns of its patrons, and to situate our current climate change efforts on a historical spectrum of environmental activism. By connecting the spheres of publisher, librarian, climate activist, and community member, the Climate Change Reading Group offered a meaningful space for public discourse while also emphasizing the library’s role in documenting human activity for future civic and research engagement.

3:00-4:00 Session 4

Empowering Student Voices Through Dialogic Pedagogy: Civic Engagement in the Virtual Classroom
Alicia Vaandering, University of Rhode Island

For academic librarians who use instruction to explore the intersection of civic and information literacy, COVID-19 and a shift to remote learning have further complicated efforts to engage students in meaningful discussion and reflection regarding civic engagement and participation at local, state, and national levels. These changes have required information literacy instructors to reimagine how to develop and sustain stimulating discussions about civic engagement while providing equitable access and opportunities for all students.

This presentation will address how dialogic pedagogy can be used in the virtual classroom to create spaces for students to explore civic issues through discussion, activism, and engagement with their communities. The presentation will highlight some of the barriers, challenges, and successes I experienced in a credit-bearing course as I endeavored to provide opportunities for meaningful engagement to students who were experiencing the stress, uncertainty, and isolation of the pandemic. By encouraging students to explore civic engagement through action, reflection, and discussion, instructors can help students experience a clearer transference of the civic and information literacy skills taught in the classroom to real-world applications.

Empowering Students with Civic Online Reasoning Skills
Laura Hibbler, Brandeis University and Esther Brandon, Brandeis University

Students often report that the evaluation skills taught for academic research do not translate when it comes to information-seeking in their personal lives (Project Information Literacy Research Institute, 2018 and 2020). In this presentation, we will describe lesson plans, interactive exercises, and reflection activities we have developed to engage students with topics such as the critical evaluation of the news, how to search for underrepresented perspectives in news coverage, personal data collection by private companies, search algorithms and identifying explicit bias in the results, surveillance capitalism, and recommended privacy and security practices.

4:00-5:00 pm Lightning Poster Session

Collective voices heard: Creating and implementing a successful shared governance model
James Rhodes, Old Dominion University

Often library organizations strive to be more inclusive and transparent in governance, yet decision-making does not always seem democratic. In 2017, the professionals at a mid-sized university library embarked upon the development and implementation of a shared governance model with the libraries’ administration.The effort resulted in the creation of an assembly of professionals. This poster/lightning talk will describe how the library professionals instituted change by uniting with a strategic and collective vision to create a new partnership. It will demonstrate conceptual beginnings, structural formation, and practical implementation of the organization. It will highlight the many lessons and challenges experienced in this collective effort to help more voices be heard.

Categorization too is a Power: An Examination of Metadata for the Characteristic of Science Fiction Subgenres and the Expression of Marginalized Groups
Eirini Melena Karoutsos, Pratt Institute

Science fiction is a genre that has always captured the imagination of readers. However, it is also dominated by white, male writers and full of shifting subgenres. My goal for this project was to see if there was a way to take a step back from traditional ways of categorization and find a new method of defining science fiction subgenres through crowdsourcing, technology, and uncontrolled vocabularies. In this project, by using Rosch’s theory of prototypes, I researched characteristics of subgenres of science fiction in order to reveal definitions and to show how minority groups are represented in the subgenres. To do this, I examined five subgenres in LibraryThing and then compared two titles of each subgenre for similarities in their top thirty tags.  The results showed that we need to challenge the publishing world, and indicated how we can include patrons in the future of categorization and new ways of defining old subjects.

Integrating Social Justice into Information Literacy: A Faculty Collaborative
Vikki Terrile, Queensborough Community College 

This poster will describe the creation and implementation of a faculty inquiry group (FIG) at an urban community college that focuses on integrating social justice into information literacy instruction and research and writing assignments. Imagined first in response to the pervasive inequities that COVID-19 made impossible to continue ignoring, and propelled by the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, the need for a way for faculty to come together around prioritizing social justice in the creation and implementation of assignments supported by information literacy was clear. This poster will explore the way the FIG developed with participation from interested faculty and how a reading list was developed and underwritten despite the imposition of austerity budgets across the campus and university, and will detail the efforts of the participating faculty to center social justice in their research and writing assignments during the continuing crises.

“How Can We Do Better?”; Empowering Diverse Voices through an Academic/Public Library Partnership
Annie Tummino, Queens College, CUNY; Jo-Ann Wong, Queens Public Library

Queens Memory is a local community archiving and oral history project, co-administered by Queens Public Library and Queens College, CUNY. During COVID-19, members from both institutions collaborated to create a series of virtual roundtables hosted on Facebook Live, centered on social justice, current events, and creating positive social change. Specific examples include xenophobia towards Asian Americans during COVID-19; the Black Lives Matter movement; student activism and political engagement; and equity/inclusion in archives. In selecting these topics and speakers, we made sure that the diversity and lived experiences of our communities were represented, and that speakers included both scholars and students. Organized as roundtable discussions, these events consisted of dynamic dialogues among the panelists, with time for audience questions. By streaming on Facebook Live, the content was easy to view, share, and re-watch. This allowed us to inform a larger demographic than a closed platform would.  Overall, this public/academic partnership led to a virtual program series that brought much needed discussions to a wider audience, informed our communities about urgent social and civic issues, and provided historical context for this unprecedented moment in time.

What’s On My Ballot?: Meeting Election Information Needs Through Online Voter Education Workshops
Garrett Purchio, Humboldt State

Voting is often framed as making one or two big decisions, while far less consideration is given to the other items on the ballot. In fall 2020, a library offered two voter education workshops three times each in the weeks leading up to the election. These workshops empowered attendees to research ballot measures and candidates running for office at the state and local levels. Using resources including the Secretary of State website and Ballotpedia, a librarian guided attendees through the process of finding information on candidates for elected offices and ballot measures. Each workshop utilized a culminating activity in which small groups used Zoom breakout rooms to research ballot measures and shared with the entire class an overview of a specific measure, along with “for” and “against” arguments. Attended by a mixture of students, staff, and community members, these workshops demonstrated a need for information sources that voters can consult to help make informed decisions. 

Libraries and the Undercommons: Exploring the Role of University Libraries and Research Institutions in Movement-Building and the Dissemination of Radical Politics
Avery Jonas, Pratt Institute 

Universities have historically played a role in the formation of leftist movements in the United States, particularly during the 1960’s and early 70’s as students fought for the establishment and recognition of ethnic and gender studies programs. These sites are often fertile grounds for the incubation of radical politics due to their pertinent locus within the information landscape.

This poster explores how university libraries and knowledge commons have served and continue to serve as spaces of radical potential. Which tools and practices at librarians’ disposal help disseminate radical politics and enable mass movement-building? Additionally, in this age of COVID-19, distanced learning, disinformation, the 2020 elections, and the Movement for Black Lives, what strategies can librarians employ to help guide students and researchers in their learning and organizing? This work draws upon historical analysis as well as the discussions among current library workers and LIS students.

Please note that all attendees are expected to abide by our Code of Conduct.

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