In mid-November, Minitex hosted the second Technical Services Symposium with a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Technical Services. The event was held at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, MN and attended by over 80 participants.
Our keynote speaker Amber Billey started off the morning with a talk based on the idea of Libraries as Permaculture. Permaculture is a holistic way of thinking about gardening in which the social aspects are just as important as the agricultural ones. Billey took the audience through the Core Principles of Permaculture, including Multiple Functions and Functional Interconnection, and the associated Attitudinal Principles, such as The Problem is the Solution and Work Where it Counts. For each principle Billey pointed out a library counterpart; Minitex got a nice mention as an example of Functional Interconnection. Though Billey mentioned some of the current challenges facing technical services, her talk was ultimately hopeful, pointing out that we as library practitioners have the skills and the attitudes to face and work through these challenges.
The morning included a screening of the documentary Change the Subject, which deals with the struggle of several Dartmouth students to get the Library of Congress to change the controversial subject heading "Illegal aliens." The film was eye-opening as to how even incidental parts of our systems can have large and emotional effects on those using the systems. We were also fortunate to have Tina Gross, one of the interviewees in the documentary, present for a brief Q&A session. There was some difficult and lively conversation about some of the topics raised in the film, and attendees largely came away thinking more deeply about these issues.
After lunch the Symposium broke into smaller sessions led by colleagues from near and far (one presenter came all the way from New Orleans). These sessions addressed diversity and social justice in a number of contexts, from library collections themselves to how we describe and collocate them, to the ways we nurture library staff from different backgrounds. There was a theme running through several presentations of the obstacles presented by the systems we use (such as RDA and Library of Congress Subject Headings) and how to work within and around those systems to accomplish culturally sensitive library work.
All in all the 2019 Minitex Technical Services Symposium was a successful day of provocative ideas and thoughtful conversation. Thank you to everyone who participated at any level; the event would not have been the same without all of our colleagues in attendance.
We are looking forward to planning the next Symposium!