J. Caroline Smith | Movers & Shakers 2020–Innovators

When South Carolina State Library created a new position to focus solely on diversity and inclusion, agency leaders actively recruited J. Caroline Smith, who had learned Spanish using Mango Languages so she could develop partnerships with community members and groups to better serve Spanish speakers in Charleston County, SC.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Inclusive Services Consultant, South Carolina State Library, Columbia

DEGREE

MLIS, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 2011

FAST FACT

Smith says she gained insight into the culture of many first-generation immigrants from Central America during a 2018 trip to Guatemala with Librarians Without Borders

FOLLOW

guides.statelibrary.sc.gov/inclusion; libraryvoices.podbean.com/category/
bibliobservatory
; guides.statelibrary.sc.gov/inclusion/
bibliobservatory

Photo by Gene Smirnov

Inclusion Leader

When South Carolina State Library created a new position to focus solely on diversity and inclusion, agency leaders actively recruited J. Caroline Smith, who had learned Spanish using Mango Languages so she could develop partnerships with community members and groups to better serve Spanish speakers in Charleston County, SC.

Since becoming inclusive services consultant in 2017, Smith has created resources and training for public library staff around the state to improve service to underserved groups, says her nominator, state library Deputy Director Denise Lyons (a 2010 Mover & Shaker). Those groups include immigrants, migrant workers, and LGBTQ+ people as well as those experiencing sight loss or other disabilities or learning English and other languages. "I have always been on the lookout for those who might fall through the cracks," says Smith.

A thoughtful team player who ensures stakeholders’ ideas on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are heard and implemented, Smith helps the state library provide guidance to all South Carolina libraries. Her initiatives will have lasting impact on libraries across the state and nationally, Lyons says. "She is a champion of the underserved [and exemplifies] true strength of character and the power of a quieter voice," Lyons says.

Smith assists library staff and directors statewide with consultations, webinars, regional meetings and trainings, online resources, and circulating supplies. Examples include cohosting (with Ivette Villarreal) the BibliObservatory Podcast episodes that focus on inclusion, and circulating bilingual, English-Spanish storytime kits so libraries can work with community partners to offer bilingual programs.

Smith travels to many of the state’s small, rural libraries to deliver Spanish for Library Staff training. During fiscal year 2018, she coordinated 27 trainings ranging from one-hour webinars to full-day events, as well as an email discussion list to nurture connections made among library staff. She formed a team to increase access for people with disabilities, which resulted in purchasing a print-Braille-on-demand machine and providing transcriptions of audio and video content during trainings. "Public library staff want to do EDI work but are often overwhelmed and lack the time to feel fully equipped to do so," says Smith. "When staff know they are supported, they feel more confident."

Smith’s next challenges include expanding resources on LGBTQ+ inclusion, library service to prisoners, and people experiencing homelessness, as well as reviving the state’s REFORMA chapter. "There is new talent in the state," says Smith, "and I would like to focus on supporting [those] who…work on the front lines and allowing them to develop as leaders," Smith says. 

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