Sandy Rodriguez is Digital Special Collections Coordinator at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who attended the 2017 DLF Forum with support from a Library Juice+DLF Fellowship, which support mid-career professionals.
“You’re not alone. You’ve got this community.” – Cathy Aster, Stanford University, in the session, Service Management – Sharing Experiences and Defining a Community of Practice
I’ve thought a lot about this statement since participating in my first DLF Forum, primarily because it seems an apt response to the situation I find myself in, as my institution struggles to recover from massive cuts in public funding and as my library grapples with the loss of several positions. It’s no surprise, then, that I was drawn to sessions that focused on organizational challenges, particularly considering and confronting labor issues, challenging the status quo to optimize engagement and build trust with our communities, and framing social justice within the bounds of the work that we do.
While the versatility and quality of sessions offered at DLF Forum were excellent, I was most impressed by the forum planners’ commitment to acknowledging diversity by intentionally eliminating barriers. This bore out in everything from providing opportunities to participate in the forum—the many types of fellowships made available, the offering of childcare services, and the variety in session formats; to the physical spaces created—gender-neutral bathrooms and the quiet room. It was demonstrated in the spaces that encouraged open dialogue and relationship-building—longer breaks, planned wellness activities, and allowing time for spontaneously organized group gatherings (we here!). But perhaps most impactful to me as a woman of color, the responsiveness to diversity was exhibited in how session presenters did not hesitate to put social justice to the fore, re-centering the conversation to include perspectives too often marginalized. For once, I felt welcome and comfortable to do something in the forum that had not been the case for me in other professional spaces—unapologetically speak my truth.
When this intentionality is exhibited by those positioned to influence the conference culture the most, it sends a powerful message to everyone: that raising the level of awareness in our systems of privilege and power is integral to our collective mission; that simply recognizing social justice as everyone’s responsibility can move us toward creating more inclusive spaces; and that, in fact, creating spaces where everyone can bring their authentic selves presents a more holistic approach to effectively navigate and change the complex systems that create the barriers we face in our digital scholarship work. Essentially, when we bring intention and action together, we work to remove isolation, and instead, enable community-building that acknowledges difference as strength. We are not alone.
Thank you to Bethany Nowviskie, the CLIR/DLF staff, and the many volunteers on the planning committee, for devoting the time and energy to designing a successful and inclusive forum. I’m excited to see how the forum will evolve to be made even more accessible for future attendees. Many thanks to the forum sponsors, especially the Library Juice Academy, whose generous support eliminated a barrier for me as a mid-career professional, transitioning from music and AV cataloging to digital repositories and stewardship. I look forward to continued engagement as part of this community.