Cultural Proficiencies for Racial Equity Framework Progress Reported | ALA Annual 2021

On June 27, during the American Library Association (ALA) Virtual Annual Meeting, over 100 attendees listened as a panel of experts spoke about an update on the development of a framework of cultural proficiencies for racial equity.

slide reading On June 27, during the American Library Association (ALA) Virtual Annual Meeting, over 100 attendees listened as a panel of experts spoke about an update on the development of a framework of cultural proficiencies for racial equity.

Moderator Christina Fuller-Gregory, assistant director of libraries at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, opened with an acknowledgement of presenting from Tsalaguwetiyi tribal land, as well as acknowledgment of those who could not attend owing to limitations to their digital access.

Mark Puente, associate dean for organizational development, inclusion, and diversity for Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies, IN, defined the project, explaining that it started more than two years ago as a result of conversation between the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services. ARL, as well as the ALA divisions Public Library Association (PLA) and Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), committed to fund the work instead of going through an outside funder such as IMLS due to time constraints and wanting to get started right away.

Puente explained the genesis of the project as an “open call” for applications created with broad diversity of participation in every respect (race, sector, gender, geography, LIS education, etc.) in mind. This resulted in an overwhelming number of applications and a competitive pool of candidates.

Marcela Isuster, liaison librarian at McGill University, Montreal, described the effects of COVID-19 on the project. Isuster mentioned several challenges, including canceling in-person meetings, which hindered the ability to build trust among the task group members. They met the challenges by planning alternative trust building exercises including coffee breaks and icebreaker activities. Additionally, the team extended the project timeline and created working groups.

These working groups included: survey (established in spring 2020), data and competencies (established in spring 2020), glossary (established in summer 2020), and framework (established this spring). The survey group created a fieldwide survey on racial equity addressed to people who work in libraries. Questions included demographics, racial equity knowledge, work environment in regard to racial equity, and what their institutions were doing to address racial equity. The questionnaire was presented for feedback first to the full task force, then to ALA groups and the IRB/REB process at two institutions, before the survey was launched. It was open for 40 days.

The glossary group aimed to define the terms that will be referenced alongside the framework and intermediary questionnaires or public-facing resources.

Puente spoke to the data and competencies groups, which built a dataset of existing frameworks (core principles, training curricula, learning outcomes) to help understand what training, education, and competency methodologies already exist and whether and how these might inform the framework being developed.

The range of organizations included libraries, higher education, government, nonprofits, consultants, and more. The four main “buckets” were forms and impacts of racism, awareness of racial identity/racialized phenomena, analysis of racialized outcomes, and effecting change in racial equity.

Teresa Helena Moreno, undergraduate engagement coordinator + black studies librarian at the University of Illinois, Chicago, spoke about the group that formed to accelerate drafting the framework. She reported that a subset of task force members has been writing and periodically consults with the task force at large for feedback. This group meets once a week to define and refine the project.

Moreno explained that the drafting of the framework led with a mind mapping process that helped determine what must be included, the action items, the critical first steps, and who would “own” these sections. She also explained that the working group wanted to make sure that the project was as inclusive as possible, taking into consideration the intersectionality of various issues that need to be addressed, such as gender or socioeconomic inequities, while keeping the focus on a racial equity lens. Each member of the task force worked on individual areas where they felt the most competent.

Moreno stressed the importance of the conversations that happened among the group members and the need to have as many voices at the table as possible, despite challenges and disagreements. A real-time, iterative outlining and brainstorming process, she said, was led by a cross-sector approach to understanding and addressing the impact of racism on the LIS profession.

To conclude, Puente discussed next steps, which included: beginning the first public comment period with the associations’ respective constituencies in the late summer, finalizing the framework, and having the sponsor organizations adopt and approve the framework. He encouraged participants to keep an eye out for the draft version of the framework coming soon and to provide feedback.

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