That’s What I Thought You Meant, ALA…

A few weeks ago, ALA released a reinterpretation of their Meeting Room Statement within the Library Bill of Rights. The updated language was purportedly included to clarify equitable access to community groups – the problem is that the language posited hate groups as equitable to community groups.

If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms, then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political, or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities. (ALA 2018)

Read more here to understand why this is problematic.

The outcry from the general library world (and some places outside of it) was swift and damning. Soon after the release of the update, the We Here community drafted and sent a petition to ALA, which included asked ALA Council to hold a vote for rescinding the interpretation.

Today, ALA announced that ALA Council voted to rescind the problematic updates. A recap:

Out of 179 Councilors, 146 voted:

  • 140 Yea
  • 4 Nay

As a result, the policy reflecting the 2018 updates will be removed from the ALA website and the Council will continue to work to revise the document. Their new revisions will be presented on October 1, 2018 in preparation of another vote before ALA Midwinter in 2019.

ALA, you are one step further on the Path of Knowing Better. So, let’s Do Better.






Introducing: A Course on Low Morale

[This content was originally published on July 10, 2018 at Renewals]

I’m very pleased to share that I’ve partnered with Library Juice Academy to offer my new course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries.” The four-week intensive, asynchronous course focuses on the study’s outcomes and leverages personal expression channels, community participation, and more to help people dealing with low-morale begin reflection, engage in restorative dialogue, and solidify actions that aid low morale recovery.

During data collection for the original low morale study, participants shared with me how healing the research interview process was for them. In very large part, their feedback about the reflective nature of our discussions spurred me to develop the course.  

“Growth, whether personal or professional is a process and I’ve grown a lot … in both areas. What I haven’t had time to do is reflect back on the process and what I learned and how I got to where I am now, which is a much better place than I was in [during my low-morale experience]. Sharing my experiences for you for your study has helped me to do that reflection.” – A study participant

“Speaking with you was extremely helpful.  I’ve had a few other revelations about the situation, how it affected me, and how much happier I am now.  Even though I’ve talked with [others] about it, it was more helpful to speak with someone from the profession.  So, thank you!” – A study participant   

The original low morale study’s goal was to suss out, outline, and clarify the experience of low morale; thus, it was not prescriptive.  Through

this course is an earnest, authentic effort to help people get to the other side of low morale and regain happiness and confidence in their professional (and probably – maybe – hopefully – personal) lives.

This course offers a unique opportunity to promote and participate in professional development and self-care in the LIS field. I hope you will join me and encourage others to do the same. Let’s work together to improve our profession and promote whole-hearted and whole-self wellness and humane, intentional leadership (regardless of job title) in all American libraries.

Learn more about registration/enrollment.

P.S.: While the “academic libraries” portion of the course title is a nod to the focused library environment in the original study, this webinar is open to employees working in any library environment and who believe they are currently facing (or have dealt with) low morale (i.e., protracted exposure to workplace abuse or neglect).


#hurrayoftheday: 13

I continue to receive messages from folks responding to my low morale study. Today:

“I want to thank you for your work on this topic. Many of the low morale experiences you mention have been my lived experience for the past 6-10 years. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.”

I am so thankful to know that my work offers people a sense of comfort and community in knowing they are not alone.  




#Recognize: J. Brenton Stewart, Ph.D.


Dr. J. Brenton Stewart earned his M.S.L.S. at Clark Atlanta University School of Library and Information Studies and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library & Information Studies.  Currently, he is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University’s School of Library & Information Science, where he primarily teaches graduate courses leading to the MLIS and graduate certificate courses, and develops and publishes work centering his research interests.

Finish this sentence: “A challenge that I face as a [LIS Professor] of color is…”

Being a rare occurrence. 

Share a book that you’re currently reading, have recently read, or would like to read.

I’m currently reading Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants by Igor Josifovic and Slumberland by Paul Betty.

What music/artist/song are you currently into?

I recently discovered a Jamaican musical genre – SKA – in Amsterdam, so these artists are in heavy rotation now, “The Skatalites,” in particular.

Finish the following sentence: “I am happy when I…”

Am riding my bicycle!

Describe a current project or idea that you’re working on or have recently completed.

I’ve recently completed a project on information barriers and LGBT college students and am currently finishing a manuscript on Black Wikipedians’ labour.


Hateration, Holleration…


This is a long one, so I totally understand  – and am completely cool with it – if you jump to the end and sign the petition.

Last year I began working with J. Brenton Stewart and Boryung Ju on a research paper on Black students’ perceived welcomeness in libraries at Historically White Colleges  and Universities  (HWCUs, also known as Predominantly White Institutions – PWIs).  In that study, we tested factors of welcomeness (defined as the feeling of being ‘gladly received’) and learned:

“Library as place” is the most influential factor for Black students’ perceptions of welcomeness. Specifically, other students/users’ behaviors and actions are most likely to affect how Black students perceive the library space/climate. (Kendrick 2018)

Seems Legit…

While writing an essay about the welcomeness study, I came across an American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) blogpost written by Jamie LaRue – the ALA OIF Director. The piece, titled “Documenting Hate Crimes in Libraries,” discusses and justifies the OIF’s work in documenting “hate crimes that take place on library property.” 

Why? Graffiti on library property isn’t new. Nor is it altogether strange that, sometimes, graffiti include what might be called “hate speech,” or derogatory comments that target specific populations. But we began to get reports about an upsurge of these incidents immediately following the 2016 presidential election. In several of these cases, such as the one in Kansas City, the report comes with the observation that “this is the first time this has ever happened here.” (LaRue 2016)

LaRue continues his discussion, making a distinction between “hate speech” and “hate crime.”

An uncomfortable truth is that hate speech is also free speech. It’s not illegal for people to say stupid, ignorant, or even deliberately hurtful things. When an anti-immigrant group, for instance, books a room at the library according to usual policies, and the speakers make some overtly bigoted remarks about Mexicans, that’s the price we pay for democracy. We acknowledge, however, that such speech has real world consequences, sometimes causing great pain, suffering, and even trauma. A hate crime, however, is about more than speech. It is about specific criminal behavior.

I believe that most practicing librarians recognize the difference between the two. Until recently, I thought we also knew there’s a line between recognition and privilege. The latter is what has occurred with ALA’s recent Library Bill of Rights Meeting Room interpretative update, which was approved at this year’s ALA Annual Conference. It includes this extremely questionable language:

If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms, then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political, or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities. (ALA 2018)


Who In The Hell Left the Gate Open?

Since then, there has been significant fallout* concerning this language. Many ALA members are trying to figure out how this particular iteration of the document was approved. April Hathcock, an ALA Councilor, discusses how this language slipped by:

The statement I read and commented on, all the way up until ALA Annual in late June, had no specific mention of hate speech or hate groups. It just reiterated that generally people can’t be turned away from public library spaces for their beliefs. And there was at least one line about none of this having anything to do with regulating behavior to maintain safety. I figured it was the best we could do. And I trusted that the document with the final resolved comments and edits would be the document I’d vote on during the hectic frenzy that is ALA Annual…I was wrong. (2018)

The hilariously broad ALA Code of Ethics (which is also practically useless) has been used to justify the change. Here, I introduce Dr. Amelia N. Gibson’s cogent Twitter thread:

Ok, So…

The ALA re-intepretation is another glaring example of the organization’s inability to align its mission with how conscious library professionals approach their daily service practices. Additionally, it significantly undercuts the EDI work that the organization claims to support and promote (just who do we think will be traumatized the most as this mess gets “implemented?”) Summarily, it is a dangerous missive that continues to posit the abstract notion of libraries (buildings, collections, etc – all things) as more important than the concrete people working in them and the greater number of people who visit them  – who are now deemed – by proxy of ALA BEING SURE TO SAY “Welcome, haters” –  unwelcome.

Historically, ALA been complicit in upholding laws and emulating practices denying the Greater Good – not so long ago, the organization actively marginalized African-American library users and librarians via segregation laws of the day (ironically, at this year’s ALA Annual Conference, the very same group that approved the meeting room document honored African-Americans who resisted library segregation).

But ALA’s same history shows ALA can do better. It has before, as Charles Duhigg recounts in his discussion of the impact of “small wins” in his book The Power of Habit:

In the early 1970s, the American Library Association’s Task Force on Gay Liberation decided to focus on one modest goal: convincing the Library of Congress to reclassify books about the gay liberation movement from HQ 71-471 (“Abnormal Sexual Relations, Including Sexual Crimes”) to another, less pejorative category….In 1972…the Library of Congress agreed to make the shift, reclassifying books into a newly created category, HQ 76.5 (“Homosexuality, Lesbianism – Gay Liberation Movement, Homophile Movement”). It was a minor tweak…but the effect was electrifying…In 1973, the American Psychological Association…rewrote the definition of homosexuality so it was no longer a mental illness – paving the way for the passage of state laws that made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. (p. 113).

Lisa gets it: 

There is a better way for ALA to state its protection of free speech and equitable service to users, and really, the original document was serviceable since it already supported that groups can’t be turned away from space usage. The current document privileges the (extremely) “Lesser Good,” and most importantly, it invokes the most dangerous nexus of vocational awe and resilience narratives: 1) privileging inconsistent professional ethics and values, 2) devaluing the most vulnerable people in the LIS field, while 3) specifically expecting that library workers should *also* – with effort – aid in undermining the work towards a Greater Good and 4) blaming them for the resultant workplace trauma and associated system failures (because conflict-avoidance, low morale, and librarians, anyone?).

When it comes to our users, we know that other users’ behavior impacts welcomeness – so imagine the impact of regular – or even occasional – meetings of any of these groups in a library, compounded by the implication of privilege to such groups given by the library profession.

Casey gets it:

Until ALA’s crafts new language (I really like Dr. Gibson’s suggestion, btw), the current document should be removed from ALA’s website.

Let’s Get it Percolatin’…

Sign the petition to Revise ALA’s Statement on Hate Speech & Hate Crime, crafted by the We Here community. 

Read blogs/items considering the other angles of ALA’s action (on Twitter, you can search #NoHateALA to see dialogue and more resources on this topic):

*at least, in social justice/PoC/EDI communities of LIS practice. On Twitter, @beastlibrarian has noticed “majority of the folks defending ’s meeting room amendment are white 🧐  what does this imply re ? important to pay attention to whose bodies are on the line and whose bodies are not when making decisions in this field.”

Works Cited

American Library Association (2018). Meeting rooms: An interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from

Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Hathcock, A. (2018, July 11). My bought sense, or ALA has done it again. At the Intersection Blog. Retrieved from

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, June 11). Presentation redux: Black students and welcomeness in academic libraries. the Ink On the Page Blog. Retrieved from

LaRue, J. (2016, December 21). Documenting hate crimes in libraries. Intellectual Freedom Blog. Retrieved from


#hurrayoftheday: 12




Enabling Systems of Low Morale in PoC Academic Librarians


If you’re following this blog – or my work in general – you’re aware that I’m currently working on data analysis for my PoC Low Morale study.  After I closed the interview phase, I asked my colleague (and friend) Ione Damasco to join me on this project. 

During the past few months, we’ve been working intensely: reading, re-reading and coding swaths of qualitative data from over a dozen racial and/or ethnic minority librarians working in North American academic libraries.  

We have learned that our results will not change the trajectory of low morale – instead, what is markedly different are the number of Enabling Systems of the experience for this group of LIS professionals. 

The original Enabling Systems (ES) of the low-morale experience (which also affect PoC librarians) are:

  • Uncertainty & Mistrust
  • Leadership
  • Faculty Status/Tenure & Promotion
  • Human Resources Limitations
  • Contagion
  • Staffing & Employment

The data show there are ten(!) more ES that affect this group in addition to the ones listed above. These ES are interconnected, and the five major systems span aspects of racism, Whiteness, diversity, work-life landscapes, and social psychology. You can learn more about the Diversity-related Enabling System here.

At this time, I think our paper will focus on reporting the major (and summarizing the minor) ES, along with associated physical, emotional, and/or career impacts and possibly, implications for recruitment and retention. 

We hope to submit the article for review by the end of this summer or in early fall. Please look forward to it.

[UPDATE 8/9/18: Further data analysis has shifted the number of ES from ten to seven. Some of what were previously analyzed as ES are now categorized as separate impact factors, and others were subsumed into broader ES. In the original study there are two other impact factors besides ES: Insidious Experience Development and Contagion. So, in short, not only are PoC Librarians dealing with additional ES; they are also contending with added other continua during the experience.

Additionally – because the voices of PoC librarians and their experiences are so often de-centered or devalued, we have decided to include a report of the low-morale experience for this group along with a report of all impact factors (including ES) results. The draft is long, but we believe it is imperative to share the commonality and differences of the low-morale experience for this group.]

The draft of the results have been written and will be validated by study participants soon; we are on-course for a Fall 2018 draft submission to our editors. Let me know if you have any questions!