There were some really interesting points brought up in this conversation sparked by the lovely @asthedaysgobylifehappenss. I’d like to jump in on the last statement, about the gaps MLS/MLIS/SLIS programs have when it comes to social justice issues:
I think it goes back to the MLIS. We are not learning in our profession how to discuss these issues. We need to go back to the basics. Social justice 101 if you will. And after we have gotten the basics down, learn how to tie these issues into librarianship. And for those who are already in the field it should be mandatory to continue learning as new terms and events come to light. I mean at ALA there was a great panel on race and librarianship but literally 99% of the people who attended were POC leading to the “preaching to the choir” problem. And the same with LGBTQ session. No matter what kind of librarianship you will enter you will encounter POC and LGBTQ and we need to learn how to unpack those isms first. Then we can move onto trying to deconstruct the system. Otherwise good intentions will yield bad results.
I definitely agree with these statements. MLS programs do fail to address really important topics, like social justice and even the role of diversity in our communities. Fortunately for me, I kind of stumbled into the Information and Diverse Populations Concentration at the University of Maryland. Now it’s a specialization, and it’s a really great specialization that focuses on diversity issues and how librarians can address them in their professional lives.
The core classes of this specialization include (links to syllabus):
These classes aim to not only discuss different populations (covering seniors, those with physical and mental disabilities, sexuality and gender, economic and demographic, etc) but to discuss what it is we need to know to serve them, both in the field and through policy. We also learn about the role of social justice in the library and how we can promote it.
Did I mention that this is a great specialization? Or that I learned a lot through it? And, while not required to get my MLS, was part of my MLS education?
Another great thing going on at UMD is iDiversity*. iDiversity is a club that aims to create spaces to learn more about these kinds of issues. iDiversity was started when one student couldn’t find any outlets to learn about these kinds of issues outside of class. One of the professors suggested that she start her very own club so that there would be space to talk about these things. So she did.
iDiversity kind of takes the issues we talk about in the Information and Diverse Populations specialization and gives it more room to breath. We have guest speakers and bloggers contribute content, we have a great web presence**, we’re sponsoring wonderful projects (like an information literacy mentorship program), and last year we even organized this great event called Symposium on Diversity in LIS Education.
"We are not learning in our profession how to discuss these issues." This is true. But we have to remember that we can control our education. Sometimes it just takes one (potentially loud and sassy) person asking the right questions, like "Why is there this gap in my education?" "Why isn’t anyone making any changes?" "What can I do to fill it?” It’s hard, though, when you’re a new student and you don’t know to ask these questions. But that’s what communities like this one is for, right? Helping people learn.
Currently, iDiversity is working towards making a kind of “starter-kit” for other schools to use to create their organization to talk about these issues. I know a lot of people who are probably going to read this have probably already graduated, but we want to support anyone and everyone who is interested in this topic. Watch the archive of our events or read some of our blog posts.
If anyone has any questions or wants to learn more about either of these things, message me. If I can’t answer your question, I probably know who can.
*I am on the excutive board for this.
**I am the webmaster, so like, this website is my baby.