ALA Virtual Conference – Serving the Transgender Community – It’s More than Just Bathrooms

I attended a panel presentation at ALA Virtual Conference 2020 about libraries serving the transgender community. Here are some of the ideas I took away from the session:

How can we make libraries a more welcoming place for LGBTQ people?

Use gender neutral terms.
Wear a pin with your own pronouns. (Little things like that show you are approachable.)
Don’t ask invasive questions.
Be intentional about being welcoming.
Actively build connections with local organizations such as PFLAG, Pride, and more. They can help you bring in speakers, and then they will see the library as a resource.
Don’t silence trans stories.
Put Trans stories on book displays. Let people know they are there and available.
Go over institutional policies that are obstacles. Getting a library card — is it easy to change your name and gender? Are your only options for gender binary?
Do your own research — you don’t have to make the LGBTQ people you know educate you.
We hope the bathroom is a given at this point. It’s a basic starting point and a human right.
Those local organizations that you’ve gotten to know — have them come in and tell you if there are changes you should make.
Make resources more available — such as name change and gender change resources.
Have programs all year round, not only in June.
In an effort to present both sides, don’t give a place to denying trans people’s existence.
Find even small things to show the library is a safe place.

ALA Virtual Conference – Featured Speaker Sophia Thakur

Listening to Sophia Thakur speak for ALA’s Virtual Conference was an inspirational event for me, despite the woodchipper running outside my window here at home.

Sophia Thakur is a performance poet from the United Kingdom. She’s got a lovely voice and a beautiful accent, and much of this session was her performing her poetry, some even with musical accompaniment.

But she was especially inspiring for this youth services librarian listener as she talked about giving young people a voice through writing and reflecting the experiences of young people. The whole talk was poetic and lovely. I’ll list some beautiful quotes I was able to jot down:

Libraries are sacred places. After fasting, it’s a full plate.
They are tools for escape.
They remind us the world is bigger than our own.
The escape she found at the library enriched her reality.
Books deposit the option to re-exist.
Libraries are big maternity wards.
She holds mirrors up for people with her poetry.
Quotes are like holding hands to keep us together.
Poetry in school is taught as a science, but poetry is in everything.
Writing is easy. Living is the hard part.
She wants you to read her poems and see yourself.
Literacy is this profound tool to explore ourselves.

ALA Virtual Conference 2020 – Opening Session

The featured speaker for ALA Virtual Conference’s Opening Session was Misty Copeland, who was the first African American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.

She was talking about her new book, Bunheads, about her own experience starting in ballet at the “late age” of 13. The ballet studio where she began was a “little group of misfits” — not people of privilege, and not necessarily like people you usually see on the stage. She wants children to see that diversity and that everyone can be involved in ballet.

When she was a child, she was extremely introverted and didn’t really speak. Writing was how she expressed herself before movement came into her life. Speaking in front of people was a bigger transition than writing, but she does appreciate having a platform.

As an introverted child, she spent much time in the library, and it was a safe haven in every way.

The book introduces many diverse characters including a boy. She wants to give the message that dancers are athletic and powerful. There’s so much power in the images we see and power in representation.

She wants to bring ballet to a wider variety of people.

ALA Virtual Conference 2020 – Tracie Hall

ALA Virtual Conference kicked off today with an inspirational talk from Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director of ALA, talking before the featured speaker Misty Copeland. As usual at ALA conferences, both speakers got me excited and energized about being a librarian.

I can’t give you pictures of being there among hundreds of other librarians, of people waiting to be let into the Exhibit Hall. Me at my computer isn’t a terribly inspiring image. But I can tell you some highlights from their talks, beginning with Tracy Hall.

Right from the outset, she encouraged us as librarians to let our legacy be Justice.

Libraries play a pivotal role in bringing justice. She came to libraries after working in a homeless shelter. When she would bring folks from the shelter to the library, they would say, “I can’t believe this is free!” The right and access to resources leads to enfranchisement.

She wants ALA to focus on three goals and priorities:

1) Universal Broadband

Libraries have been wonderful in promoting literacy. Now we need to promote access.

2) Diversification of the Library Field

The communities we serve are diverse, so we who serve them need to be diverse as well. Having a mainly white profession limits our reach and credibility.

3) Deepen Investment in Libraries

We need to increase funding at the local and federal levels and from public and private sources. Libraries are first-stop community resources, but our funding doesn’t reflect that priority. We need to highlight the unparalleled work we do.

Embedded in these three calls is the overarching call for Justice.

ALA Virtual Conference Obstacles

I’m attending ALA Virtual Annual Conference and agreed to liveblog the conference for ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children), to make sure that I pay attention and take notes!

I have to say that I wasn’t planning to go to the physical conference, so I hadn’t been paying much attention to virtual conference plans. Then last week I opened an email at 12:45 that said registration for the virtual conference closed at noon Central time – 15 minutes after I started reading the email. But it also said that the registration fee was drastically reduced for ALA members thanks to generous donations from sponsors. (Plus no hotel or flights!) I didn’t have time to think about it – I registered right away!

But today there have been a couple of bumps in the road. I looked at the schedule and saw the opening session was at 10:00. So I made sure I could get into the livestream about 15 minutes early. Oddly, a countdown clock said it was 45 minutes before it would start. I saw something on a different page about technical difficulties, so I thought that was it. I worked on something mindless on my computer so I could jump to the opening session whenever it did begin. I think it was about an hour later that I looked back at the schedule and saw all the times were Central Time. Oops! Oh well — now I know for the rest of the conference.

When the opening session started then it was the perils of working from home — a grounds crew that must have been hired by my condo’s management company began pruning branches off trees right outside my window and running a woodchipper. Seriously. For hours. If you’ve never been right next to a woodchipper, it turns out they are exceedingly loud. My windows are usually pretty good about cutting down on noise outside. But this is extreme.

Anyway, I’m glad I have something positive to listen to, to try not to think about this roaring in my ears! And I don’t have to figure out how to mail books back! Posts about today’s sessions to follow.