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“Diversity and equality”: brief notes from the CILIP Conference workshop discussion, 6 July 2017

Posted By Administration, 06 October 2017

“Diversity and equality”: brief notes from the CILIP Conference workshop discussion, 6 July 2017 

By John Vincent,

The Network

john@nadder.org.uk

What would you like to cover in this workshop?

We began by quickly identifying four areas that participants would like to cover:

  • Increasing inclusion in FE and HE Libraries
  • How to make patient information available for/accessible to everybody
  • How to weave equality & diversity into everything
  • Ensure that we are aware of tokenism.

… and returned to these at the end of the afternoon.

 

Presentations

JV briefly covered the following:

  • Definitions of equality & diversity: we discussed this widely, and broadly agreed with the TUC unionlearn one:

“Diversity is about taking account of the differences between people and groups of people, and placing a positive value on those differences.”[1]

  • Problems with diversity, especially its being seen as primarily referring to disability or BAME people, rather than being more inclusive.
  • The Equality Act 2010 [and there is an outline attached to these notes]
  • The view of Arts Council England of public libraries’ engagement with equality and diversity (and JV’s paper to develop this)
  • CILIP’s re-focus on equality and diversity [paper due out at end of July]

 

Discussion (1)

JV asked the group for some help to look at the question: Why do you think there is less LGBT+ activity in libraries than there was, say, 10 years ago? Yet more in museums, archives and heritage organisations …[2]

There was a very useful discussion. Points raised:

  • Effects of austerity on resources and staff
  • Changing priorities and “following the money” (ie it all depends on budget priorities and/or external funding offers)
  • National campaigns and Government funding
  • Demographic changes
  • Depends on who is leading the work and whether there are LGBT+ champions (especially at senior level)
  • Challenges to service provision
  • Growing complacency (and LGBT+ work being normalised – in the wrong sense!)
  • Has the spotlight on this area of work moved away?

 

Discussion (2)

We then returned to the four key areas listed at the start. There was not a huge amount of time, but we gave examples of what could be done:

  • Increasing inclusion in FE and HE Libraries
    • Ensure that there is more diverse stock
    • Share resources more widely
    • Ensure that good practice is replicated
  • How to make patient information available for/accessible to everybody
    • Ensure that information is available in a wide range of accessible formats
    • Look at language and terminology
    • Target specific communities that are currently under-represented in using/accessing health info
  • How to weave equality & diversity into everything
    • Ensure that equality & diversity are put on the agenda for every single thing we do, not just seen as a separate area of work/one person’s responsibility
  • Ensure that we are aware of tokenism
    • Reassess all our work to ensure that diversity is ‘real’ and not just one person’s responsibility (because s/he represents that particular group)

There was agreement that there were two core ways of working that should run through our equality and diversity work:

  • Working in partnership with other organisation, other libraries, and the community
  • Consultation.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 consolidates all anti-discrimination legislation in Britain in one place.[3]

It includes nine ‘protected characteristics’[4]:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation.

There are three main areas covered:

  • Employment protections
  • Goods, facilities and service protections
  • The public sector Equality Duty.

Employment protections

The law covers all aspects of employment including:

  • Recruitment
  • Promotion
  • Training
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Pay and benefits
  • Dismissals.

The Act outlaws four types of behaviour in the workplace relating to sexual orientation:

  • Direct discrimination is where one person is treated less favourably than another person is treated, has been treated or would be treated in a comparable situation on the grounds of their sexual orientation
  • Indirect discrimination is where a policy or practice is applied which disadvantages people of a particular sexual orientation, unless it can be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim
  • Harassment is where an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive work environment is created for someone because of their sexual orientation
  • Victimisation is where a person is treated unfavourably because of their involvement in a case brought under the Equality Act, whether as a claimant, witness or otherwise.

Positive Action

The Equality Act outlaws positive discrimination, but allows positive action. Understandably, many employers and employees find the two concepts confusing.

  • Positive discrimination is when someone is appointed or promoted solely because, for example, they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Positive discrimination is unlawful.
  • Positive action is where employers undertake work with particular groups to address under-representation of those groups in their workforce. This includes targeted recruitment advertising and leadership programmes. Positive action is lawful.

Goods, facilities and services protections

All aspects of goods and service provision are covered by the Act, including:

  • Providing a service
  • Terminating a service
  • The terms and conditions of a service.

 

The public sector Equality Duty

The public sector Equality Duty[5] is designed to support and guide public bodies to address inequalities experienced by their staff and service users.

There are two parts of the duty: the general duty and the specific duties. Put simply, the general duty sets out the goals that public bodies must aim for, whilst the specific duties are the practical things they must do to help them achieve those goals.

The general duty says that public bodies, in all of their functions, must have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:

  • Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
  • Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
  • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

This general equality duty:

“[…] applies to the public authorities who are named or described (listed) in Schedule 19, which is part of the Equality Act 2010 […] Examples of these include local authorities, education bodies (including schools), health bodies, police, fire and transport authorities, and government departments […]

The general equality duty also applies to other organisations that exercise public functions. This will include private bodies or voluntary organisations that are carrying out public functions on behalf of a public authority.”[6]

In terms of the specific duties:

 

“The specific duties were created by secondary legislation in the form of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 […] The specific duties are different in England, Scotland and Wales.”[7],[8]

However, the specific duties for all three nations do include the following as a minimum:

  1. Public bodies have to set and publish equality objectives, setting out how they intend to meet any of the aims of the general duty. This will enable people to clearly see what public bodies have committed to doing.
  1. Public bodies will need annually to publish data which shows how they are meeting these aims. This will enable people to hold them to account on whether they are addressing inequalities.

Equality Impact Assessments

“An Equality Impact Assessment (“EIA”) is an analysis of a proposed organisational policy, or a change to an existing one, which assesses whether the policy has a disparate impact on persons with protected characteristics. They are carried out primarily by public authorities to assist compliance with equality duties.”[9]

The Equality Act 2010 does not require public authorities to carry out EIAs, but “the courts place significant weight on the existence of some form of documentary evidence of compliance with the PSED when determining judicial review cases.”[10]

 

[1] Taken from: TUC unionlearn “Equality and diversity – what’s the difference?”, https://www.unionlearn.org.uk/equality-and-diversity-whats-difference.

[2] JV is contributing a chapter to an US book on ‘cutting-edge’ LGBT+ librarianship in the UK, and wants to explore this as one of the chapter’s themes.

[3] Much of this handout is based on: Sam Dick. Sexual orientation: the Equality Act made simple. Stonewall, 2012. Available to download from: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/sexual_orientation_equality_act.pdf.

[6] The essential guide to the public sector Equality Duty: England (and Non-Devolved Public Authorities in Scotland and Wales). EHRC, 2015, http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/PSED%20Essential%20Guide%20-%20Guidance%20for%20English%20Public%20Bodies.pdf.

[7] The essential guide to the public sector Equality Duty: England (and non-devolved public authorities in Scotland and Wales). EHRC, 2015, http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/PSED%20Essential%20Guide%20-%20Guidance%20for%20English%20Public%20Bodies.pdf.

[8] Essential guide to the public sector Equality Duty: a guide for public authorities – Scotland. EHRC, 2014, http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/Essential%20guide%20to%20the%20public%20sector%20equality%20duty%20Scotland.pdf.

The essential guide to the public sector Equality Duty: an overview for listed public authorities in Wales. EHRC, 2014, http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/Essential%20guide%20to%20the%20public%20sector%20equality%20duty%20Wales.pdf.

[9] Doug Pyper. The public sector Equality Duty and Equality Impact Assessments. House of Commons Library (Briefing Paper no.06591), January 2015, http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06591/SN06591.pdf.

[10] Doug Pyper. The public sector Equality Duty and Equality Impact Assessments. House of Commons Library (Briefing Paper no.06591), January 2015, http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06591/SN06591.pdf.

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CDEG bursary winners on their experiences at CILIP 2017 Conference Manchester, July 5-6

Posted By Administration, 06 October 2017

CDEG bursary winners on their experiences at CILIP 2017 Conference Manchester, July 5-6

Lynsey Sampson

Information Services Assistant

IS Customer Services department

University of Strathclyde Library

 

I was over-joyed in securing a bursary place through the CILIP Community, Diversity and Equality special interest group to attend the annual CILIP 2017 conference in Manchester. As well as being a city which I had never visited, I was also keen to see the University of Manchester and the Museum of Science and Industry where the conference and the drinks reception were being held respectively.

During the first day I found Ailsa Howlett’s briefing, ‘Homegrown: Engaging new LIS professionals to advance the profession’, to be particularly engaging. Ailsa Howlett, Chairperson of the New Generations Advisory Committee within the Australian Library and Information Association, advocated that for LIS professionals to take a more pro-active approach in the wider profession they need to engage out-with their day job. She termed ‘shoulder tapping’ as a means to network with others in the profession who can help you get to where you want in your career development. She argued that ‘engagement’ is not solely a one-way process, but an exchange of ideas between LIS professionals through conversations and contributions. She drew on examples of both: conversations; blogging, Twitter, discussions at conferences, and volunteering with special interest groups, and contributions; blogging, conducting research, publishing research findings, and presenting at conferences. I felt her briefing was thought provoking as it generated ideas and enthusiasm, which re-kindled my drive for career progression.

Even though I am not working within public libraries and I am not based in England, hearing about CILIP’s new public library skills strategy proved to be interesting. Mandy Powell, Assistant Director of Workforce Development CILIP, briefed us on the nine aims and recommendations in order to place the library and information profession at the heart of a democratic society and to position library and information skills at the centre of service delivery to create a digital, creative, and cultural centre for excellence. It was noteworthy to hear that CILIP are currently working on and plan to implement a UK wide skills strategy that will encompass all library sectors. Mandy drew on evidence from the CILIP workforce mapping project which highlighted the demographic inequalities – the largely white profession with more women in the workforce but men occupying more senior positions, and 45% of the workforce estimated to retire by 2030 – which the skills strategy will help address.

I particularly found the briefings by James Clay from Jisc and Dave Rowe from CartoConsult thought provoking on how keeping abreast with and incorporating certain technologies could help rather than hinder libraries. James termed the research that Jisc are currently doing on examining the university campus space as the ‘smart campus’. For example, utilising facial recognition software could allow LIS professionals to anticipate and approach students looking lost or unsure before they ask for help. Or how using push notifications on smart phones could remind and encourage students to use the library; as they pass the library a message might come up on their phone saying something like ‘do you know that students who get a 1st in this course normally visit the library about 4 times a week’. James suggested tracking student’s library cards to find out the areas most used in the library, resulting in encouraging more use of disused library space. There is also the possibility, James proposes, to track library books that are discharged by students to discover more about their usage background. James emphasised the importance of ethics in obtaining consent from students in their details being used in this way, to gain more insight in how they use the library and how library services can be improved for them.

I found it handy to learn from the talk ‘An insider’s guide to Professional Registration’ of the workings of the CILIP VLE system for working towards either MCLIP (Chartership), ACLIP (Certification), or FCLIP (Fellowship). I was able to understand that I can choose to work towards any of these depending on my own assessment of my professional development meeting the three different criteria levels of personal performance, organisational context, and the wider professional context. I learnt how to improve upon my existing reflective writing skills as well as document evidence that can be used towards the awards.

Overall, I travelled back home to Glasgow with a renewed sense of belonging to a valued profession as well as an impetus to join CILIP and pursue my own professional development in working towards Chartership. Personally, I will take a pro-active approach to reaching out to others within my profession once I am a CILIP member and take any opportunities available to me which may arise. The key messages which I took away from this year’s conference are that partnership working, customer feedback, and embracing new technologies are integral to the success of libraries. I cannot thank the CDEG group enough for the opportunity to attend such a worthwhile conference.

 

Katherine Coussement

Enquiry Team Supervisor (Equality & Accessibility)

Information Services, J. B. Priestley Library

University of Bradford

 

The first challenge [for me] was to choose from among the many interesting workshops and seminars on offer. I chose those which I felt were relevant to my role as a Disability Support Librarian at the University of Bradford, and which would offer the best CPD opportunities. These were the Future of Libraries Briefing, Developing the Workforce Briefing, the Loud Librarians session, the Information Literacy Seminar, and the Equalities Workshop. Once I’d selected these, I knew I was in for a packed couple of days.

Highlights included all three keynote speeches, starting with a very inspirational address from Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. It was encouraging to hear her speak of starting out as a public and children’s librarian before progressing to the lofty heights of the Library of Congress, a role for which she was interviewed by then-president Barack Obama.

Hayden spoke with humanity and wit of the challenges facing librarians and how to promote your resources, particularly to those who may not use libraries; she emphasised the importance of accessibility, and how everything we do in libraries should centre on that.

Second keynote speaker Luciano Floridi gave a thought-provoking and sometimes challenging speech about where the power lies in information societies; his conviction is that libraries can counterbalance the prevailing power structures by giving people the power to ask questions.

On the Thursday the keynote was Neil MacInnes of Manchester City Council, talking about the recent successful refurbishment of Manchester Central Library as well as how Manchester’s libraries have changed with the times over the last ten years. His was a speech full of positive messages and a vision of how public libraries really can engage the whole community. Some delegates wondered how this success story could be conveyed to other parts of the country where the picture for libraries is less rosy.

This was a very full and thought-provoking two days. I welcomed the chance to benefit from the knowledge of others in the library profession and to to meet my fellow delegates with bursaries from the CDEG.

 

Joe Carey

MA Library and Information Management Services student (Year 1)

University of Sheffield

 

This year’s CILIP Conference was my first, as a new LIS student, and although I was unsure about what I should expect, I was definitely not disappointed! The entire event across its two days was absolutely stuffed with enthusiasm, information and activity – the atmosphere was really buzzing!

I chose to attend a session on beginning a LIS career. This was a really valuable opportunity to run through the PKSB with the staff who are responsible for it – we really are lucky to have such an elaborate but clear progression framework.

Neil Potentier of ‘Customer Service Excellence’ inspired us to think of the front-of-house interactions we all make with patrons, because ultimately this is what keeps our image as public services alive. Mark Freeman of Stockton-Tees explained how the libraries he manages are assisting visitors with sight loss, and Julia Robinson of ‘The Word’ showed us the incredible new library building in South Tyneside – a real success story for library popularity.

After a busy day, we all regrouped for a lovely drinks reception, getting the chance to know each other and pool our panoply of LIS-related experiences – an inspiring end to an inspiring first day.

The next morning, again as a student I visited the ‘What I wish I’d learned in library school’ talk, which highlighted some of the potential gaps in LIS courses. For me, the most important lesson from this was to network, and seek assistance for any potential gaps in knowledge – don’t be afraid to ask!

After this, ‘Leapfrog’ of Lancaster University spoke with us about a range of tools for enhancing community engagement, a crucial topic in a world where communities are increasingly splintered.

In Emma Connan’s ‘Bookening HE: supporting transition and transformation at both ends of the curriculum’, she highlighted the importance of focussing on how young adults learn – academic libraries, she argues, should be at the heart of this question.

Finally, John Vincent facilitated a discussion in his ‘Equality and Diversity’ workshop, prompting thoughts about the state of librarianship within the UK and globally, and how it might reflect, despite our best intentions, some of the inequalities seen elsewhere in the modern world – a sobering but absolutely vital reminder that we must work for the betterment of all people, inside and out of the LIS profession.

CILIP Conference 2017 was, in my eyes, an uncompromising success, with vigour and passion everywhere one looked. It’s clear to me, as I take my first steps into Library Land, that I’m in for a wonderful, if at times uncertain, journey.

 

 

 

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Jodie Gray: "The library profession attracts people who have a sense of civic pride and duty"

Posted By Administration, 06 October 2017

Jodie Gray: "The library profession attracts people who have a sense of civic pride and duty"

As shown by recent labour market research reports, librarianship remains a “female” biased profession. Although we see a female majority amongst library employees, there isn’t an equal representation in the highest managerial positions. Over the past few years, a positive shift has become more apparent. One of the keynote speakers at the CILIP 2017 conference, Dr. Carla Hayden, was the first woman to be appointed as Librarian of the United States Congress. She happens to be also the first person of colour to head this library. For quite some time, the former President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Dr. Claudia Lux, has been managing a Qatar Foundation Qatar National Library (QNL) construction project with the support of Dr. Sohair Wastawy, who began her work as Executive Director of the QNL last fall. It seems that the IFLA President’s post has become more open to female candidates (and the same tendency has started to manifest itself in CILIP’s Presidential team too).

We’ve invited another high-profile female appointee Miss Jody Gray – Director of American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services – to answer some topical questions. For her, political and social engagement is one of librarianship’s core values, and neutrality is rather a difficult position to take.

Dear Jody, looking at your portfolio it seems you could be a perfect example of a professional who had a successful career thanks to your early involvement in the work of professional organizations. One of your most recent affiliations is Vice President and President at the American Indian Library Association. What other organizations have played an important role in your professional life?

My first experience with a professional organization was with the American Library Association (ALA). ALA is the organization that introduced me to the American Indian Library Association (AILA). It was as a first-time attendee at an ALA Midwinter Conference that I first heard about AILA.  I think ALA is a common entry for many new librarians. It is where you begin to learn about the complexities of the profession and the difference in the types of libraries and library services that are available. For each area (academic, public, school, or functional specialty), there is a community in ALA. AILA was a great organization for me because I am Lakota and until I went to my first AILA meeting I had never met another American Indian librarian. 

AILA is the only place in the profession where I can be surrounded by other American Indians. All the ethnic caucuses fulfill that role of being a space where you don’t have to be the only person of colour or American Indian at the table. I think that it makes sense that the ethnic caucuses are affiliated with ALA, because they can provide a niche that may not happen organically at ALA. And ALA provides a platform for all library workers to address issues, concerns, and education around the field of information science. You need both. I needed both.

You’ve been one of the Resident Librarians of the Diversity Alliance. Could you tell us more from your personal experience about this residency programme for underrepresented groups of librarians? Are there any similar programmes in other types of libraries (rather than academic)?

Resident Library programs are primarily hosted at academic institutions. I was a library resident at the University of Minnesota from 2003-2005. This program is no longer in existence. The residency program would hire two recent graduates of colour or American Indians with a Masters in Library Science (MLIS). The residency lasted two years and introduced the resident to various departments in an academic library.

We had rotations in different departments for the first year (I was in reference and instruction services, cataloguing, and digital reference) and then chose an area we would like to focus on in the second year. I chose to focus on reference services with a focus on digital reference. Myself and the other resident were professionals who had a support system in each other.  We also had assigned mentors. It was a good way to get a sense of a career in an academic library and a great way to get experience to add to your résumé. Every residency program is a little different, but I think the idea of providing some practical experience and introducing the academic library field are consistent across the programs.

A question on President Trump’s administration policies is inevitable. The first impression that we get looking at a distance from another continent is that American libraries find themselves in quite unprecedented situations; for example, the controversy surrounding the statement released by the President of ALA, Dr. Julie Todaro, right after the US Presidential election, as well as consecutive statements that were either rescinded or supplemented with more statements and even a FAQ sheet to tackle this controversy. Are librarians in US struggling to find common ground? Would you say that the problems and issues covered by your Office are becoming a priority for ALA and the library profession in general?

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are priorities for ALA and they have been in the spotlight quite a bit, but it’s not solely tied to the Trump administration. I became a member of ALA in 2004 and equity, diversity, and inclusion issues have been in discussion that entire time, in one or another.

I started this job in November 2015 and one of my first major tasks was working with the Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This was a group that was created to address issues of diversity at conference. They had been working for 3 years to come up with a list of recommendations and a report that was completed in the summer of 2016. This report and list of recommendations has had a profound impact on the way that different parts of the organization are addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion. I imagine that it will continue to be a major influence in the coming years.

I think what has happened since the election in November [2016] is that there has been a shift in the culture in America. Acts of overt racism and xenophobia are more visible. I don’t think anyone was expecting that shift. As a professional, I know that much of my time was focused on systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and not on overt actions. The work was about dismantling the underlying structures that maintained a culture of oppression. Now, we are moving backwards in terms of talking about teaching tolerance and acceptance. 

I think that the political environment unleashed by the Trump administration is unprecedented to many of us. I think, like most of the country, ALA was caught off guard and we had to work through understanding how this shift impacts the expectations of our organization and its members. 

Equity, diversity, and inclusion were a priority before, but there is a sense of urgency surrounding this work, that was not there before. And there are new issues, like tracking hate crimes in libraries or providing resources to library workers to help understand how to best serve immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in a more hostile environment, that were not needed before.

Over the past several years, librarians have had to face difficult decisions regarding a number of political issues. It is a general expectation here in the UK that a library employee has to remain neutral and uninvolved. Is it always possible to do so? Or rather, is it the correct thing to do no matter what the issue?

The fact that public libraries are spaces for everyone, in and of itself, means that libraries are taking a stand for ALL community members.  That is the issue that I feel gets conflated with neutrality of social issues.

Librarians value access to information and work to level the playing field when it comes to offering information that reflects multiple cultures and viewpoints. All sides of an issue should be accessible to everyone. Library workers value and fight for freedom of speech. We live in a democracy which should provide all of us with the right to freely express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. 

The profession strives to reflect users’ needs and librarians and library staff work diligently to transform lives through education and lifelong learning.  Unfortunately, there are times when standing up for all community members is challenged, or even blocked by local politics.  However, to fulfill our role in providing equal opportunity to all, library workers are on the front lines fighting for access to information that mirrors the demands and needs of all community members.

One of ODLOS’s fields of work is providing training on various issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. Cultural competence is a foundation of modern librarianship. Could you give a rating on how librarians perform in this area? What effective methodologies and tools would you recommend when addressing low cultural awareness among both librarians and library patrons?

That is a hard question to answer, because we don’t really measure that in anyway. What I can say, anecdotally, is that the library profession seems to attract people who have a sense of civic pride and duty. Since most of the work of librarianship is about building a space for communities, it means that there is a strong interest in being equitable, diverse, and inclusive. I think that librarianship, as a profession, values these tenets higher than many other professions. 

Some libraries have been doing this work for a long time and have made it a priority; others are just starting. It’s important to begin this work where a library is at. In terms of tools, there are many ways you can begin. In our office, we use a social justice framework. This means that we focus on talking about power and privilege. Beginning to identify and understand these concepts is the first step in dismantling the systems that exist to perpetuate oppression.

What are the most important events and projects on the ODLOS agenda for year 2017? Any new materials or publications we should be looking out for?

We have been working hard on our ‘Libraries Respond’ pages which we are using as a resource for library workers to use when issues arise quickly that impact their communities. We also have a blog called ‘Intersections’ that was developed for library workers to share their best practices with each other. We are continuing to grow our professional development and educational resources by offering more in person workshops on cultural competence and bringing in more speakers to provide webinars on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. I encourage folks to visit our web page to keep abreast of our projects and resources.

Ineta Krauls-Ward

on behalf of Community, Diversity and Equality Group Committee,

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, United Kingdom

 

 

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Miguel Figueroa: "Collaboration is the future"

Posted By CILIP Webmaster, 06 October 2017

Miguel Figueroa: "Collaboration is the future"

When asked about what the library of the future looks like, Miguel Figueroa, director of “The Centre for the Future of Libraries” of the American Library Association, responds “I really don’t think there’s a prescribed future for libraries so it’s very difficult to point to specific libraries and say this is the library of the future. Instead, it has everything to do with the needs of your community and finding a library that is pursuing one of several futures that aligns with your vision and your community’s needs.”

Formerly a director of the ALA Office for Diversity and the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, M. Figueroa still very much a follower of community-orientated approaches by library services, although his current involvement in library futurology is mainly focused outside the immediate environment of libraries to consider trends and changes from other sectors.

 

How did the idea of “Center for the Future of Libraries“ come to life? Was it a longtime plan developed within ALA? How would you describe your mission, expected outcomes and target audiences of your work?

The Center for the Future of Libraries is modeled on a very successful program created by the American Alliance of Museums. Their Center for the Future of Museums was founded in 2008 and does excellent work. AAM and the Center for the Future of Museums have been very generous in providing guidance and advice through our two plus years of development.

The Center for the Future of Libraries really came together because leadership at the US Institute of Museum and Library Services and at the American Library Association looked at the work of AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums and saw an opportunity for a similar venture for the library world. While there are similarities between our two types of cultural institutions, there are enough differences that it helps to focus on each of them distinctly. ALA received an initial planning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to plan the Center for the Future of Libraries. That grant laid out three very clear goals that we continue to work toward -  identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their futures; and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. This is ongoing work, but we are starting to see some very positive outcomes.

Miguel, how would you identify yourself professionally? What is your educational background, degrees, prior professional experience? And most importantly, how does one become “Chief Oracle of Libraries of the U.S.A”?

So, I’m a librarian by training having received my Master’s in Library Science from the University of Arizona. That said, I often tell people that I have not been a very successful librarian in practice – most of my work has been related to the field, but not working in a library. I worked for a publisher of library science books, as a trainer for a regional library program, and in several roles in library associations. I think these roles have helped me understand what I am good at – synthesizing and sharing the good work and best practices of library professionals for our mutual benefit.

I would strongly push back on the “oracle” title. I think most of what I was originally doing was trying to bring together some of the really excellent futures work already happening in libraries – whether by individuals, by organizations like IFLA or OCLC, or by our partners like the Center for an Urban Future – to help synthesize it and make it accessible to our members. As we have progressed into this work, that role has expanded to also try and sift through emerging information and connect identifiable trends to our library values. That work, like the original work, is part of a partnership with ALA members, the larger library profession, and our allies from other disciplines. My role has mostly been focused on compiling information and making it accessible to the larger community of readers – something very much in line with my essential librarian nature.   

Futurology is quite a tricky deceiving field of science. Those unfamiliar with the subject most likely say that experts might just make educated guesses and hope that no one recalls their predictions. Could you please shed more light on the methodologies, mechanisms and tools that you employ when developing current and future trends in libraries?

So, I think for much of our early work we are trying to focus on committing to relevance rather than perfecting prediction. I usually promote the words of Edward Cornish, one of the founders of the World Future Society, who says “We can learn a great deal about what may happen in the future by looking systematically at what is actually happening now.” The best library directors, managers, and innovators do this already – they constantly look at changes in their community of users and they make incremental adjustments to help the library align with new needs and interests. We want to broaden that excellent work and try to make it more accessible to library professionals.

We also use the Cone of Plausibility or Futures Cone as a tool to illustrate that there are many futures, not just one and that those futures are connected to changes that we experience in the present. This helps reinforce the idea that we study change not so that we can accurately predict any one future, but so that we can be prepared for any one of several futures that might happen. We start to see what’s coming next.

Finally, I think one of the most important pieces that we are trying to add to the process is that we need to consider changes and trends in light of our values. If we blindly follow trends, we will not achieve a beneficial future for our users. We need to look at trends in our world and consider how they align with our professional values – intellectual freedom, access, diversity, preservation, discovery, learning, etc. When these trends support our values, we might be able to leverage them to our advantage. When trends of changes work against our values, we may need to intervene for the benefit of our users. So even as trends and innovations change, the values that have steered libraries for hundreds of years remain – and they remain because they are essential to who we are.

What does behind-the-scenes at the “Center for the Future of Libraries” look like? Could you describe a typical working week at your Center?

I think the work week is very much focused on research and reading. I usually start my week with a very long reading list that helps me scan for trends and changes. I compile that information into a weekly e-newsletter called “Read for Later”. The newsletter is meant to save some time for library professionals and give them a quick digest of some of the changes in our world that might have implications for libraries.

The trends-scanning that feeds into Read for Later eventually feeds into our identification of specific trends. We have a growing collection of trends on our web site. Each trend entry features information about how the trend is developing – usually pulled together from the trend-scanning – and then the more important information about how it might matter for libraries – pulled together through conversations with ALA members and library professionals.

And then a lot of my time is spent out in the field with librarians and library professionals at meetings and events to talk through some of these trends and to think with them about how the trends affect our values. It’s a far more collaborative process than the staff list would indicate.  

Some of the most productive opportunities for libraries arise as part of collective impact actions: new partnerships, unusual collaborations, sharing of the workload when reaching for the same goals, etc. Would you say that libraries form and maintain relationships easily? Are we seen as attractive and equal partners by other institutions in both public and private sectors?

I think somewhere in my travels someone noted that collaboration is the future. I have really started to believe that through this futures work. More and more, from whatever sector you are working in, the future will more than likely come from outside of your immediate environment rather than from within it. In trend-scanning, you are encouraged to scan broadly and to intentionally look across sectors – the Center uses Society, Technology, Education, the Environment, Politics & Government, Economics, and Demographics to define our categories of scanning. As we identify trends and connect them to our values, it becomes easier to find potential partners and to make clear to them how their interests and library interests are connected.

Great libraries and library professionals have always been able to form and keep relationships. Our hope is that by sharing some of this trend-thinking we can help library professionals make new connections with partners around emerging issues. I have yet to find a potential partner that is not interested in working with libraries and libraries – we are valued, trusted, and respected for our work in communities. The new hurdle is in making it clear that our interest lie with their interests, that we are more than just books, that the trends and changes our partners are most interested in are also of interest to our work and our values. 

What do you think are the most worrying trends in politics and government? Are we very wrong to expect that, in the 2017 Post-Brexit and Trump era of shifting towards the far right and extremism, there will be quite a stir in libraries across the globe? Could you point towards the most alarming political tendencies that librarians should be aware of?

This is a timely question and one that our best library leaders are certainly starting to tackle. We need to look at trends and changes in our political environment with an eye toward our values, especially ideals like diversity, access, privacy, intellectual freedom, and civic discourse. If the political climate turns against these values, we will likely need to prepare interventions that might address those changes. And so we have seen several libraries invest in statements, programs, and partnerships that help bolster these values in a changing political climate.

 

Thank you for your answers!

Ineta Krauls-Ward

on behalf of CILIP Community, Diversity & Equality Group

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My Opinion: Faith Schools by Derek Kinrade

Posted By Administration, 06 October 2017

My Opinion:  Faith Schools by Derek Kinrade

There is a real danger that the growth in faith schools today will be blamed in 30 years’ time for the social disharmony then. It is not too late to reverse that trend, if we want a society that has diversity within unity, not at the expense of it.”

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

“...in a climate that is increasingly unfavourable to these [Christian] beliefs, it is a mistake to try to impose them on children, and to make them the basis of moral training. The moral education of children is much too important a matter to be built on such foundations.

Margaret Knight: ‘Morals without religion and other essays’ (1955), from a BBC Home Service broadcast, January 1955.

This is not an attack upon faith, and my feelings are of profound regret rather than antagonism. People are entitled to believe anything they wish, however unlikely. My argument is that the propagation of belief systems has no place in our schools; that education is more properly directed to information that encourages open thought and questioning, not the indoctrination of young minds with narrow, sectarian doctrines. As Francis Westoby put it, some years ago, in a letter to The Guardian: “inhibiting their ability to think clearly about social and ethical problems, and to reach reasoned judgments about the natural world”. I am convinced that the encouragement of faith schools and their growth in this country, though generally seen as an expression of British tolerance and acceptance of diversity is in reality divisive.

I believe that subscribing to and promulgating traditional dogma and thinking within only a closed religious box does nothing for cross-cultural understanding and community cohesion. Moreover, and in particular, that beliefs which identify homosexuality as a sin and relegate women to institutional inferiority are not conducive to social progress. Integration and equality are generally accepted as desirable objectives, but some schools rooted in traditional values, although teaching the national curriculum and often setting good academic standards, appear also to be set on a different course, seeking to avoid what they see as cross-contamination, distancing their scholars from peers outside the faith and by implication encouraging the idea that their religious beliefs set them apart from and superior to the rest of society, in a special relationship with their God.

Of course, faith schools are not necessarily radical or fanatical. I attended a Church of England primary school in Toxteth where my only contact with religious ideas was a very occasional, wholly mysterious service in an adjacent church named after the obscure St. Silas. I cannot recall any classes in religious education. And today I accept that not all schools, although established by people of faith, are primarily bent on religious indoctrination. But the danger is that some faith schools can be breeding grounds for deep-seated prejudice, passing the bigotry, eccentricity and social isolation of one generation to the next. A More4News inquiry, some while ago, found that many faith schools, some of them state funded, still taught creationism!

There is an argument that it is a fundamental human right to be able to choose to educate your child in accordance with your own religious beliefs. But as someone close to me put it: “That supposes a right to pass on any tosh they see fit”. I would have said, less directly, that it ignores the right of children not to be brain-washed with the outlandish views of their parents.

Yet the determination of sectarian leaders to preserve their esoteric faith within families is intense and has indeed been encouraged by government; notwithstanding the challenge it presents to enlightened and broad educational principles: even to the point of tolerating the selection of staff and pupils according to their particular religious affiliations.

Roughly one third of our schools are now faith schools. As Polly Toynbee has commented, while pews empty, faith schools multiply. It is a curious paradox that while surveys and polls indicate that the population of the UK is increasingly secular, there is an inverse growth of schools of a religious character. Our coalition government demonstrated its intention to stoke this contradiction from the outset, announcing that it would “work with faith groups to enable more faith schools”. And the Department for Education announced (22 May 2013) approval of 102 new ‘free’ schools due to open from September 2014. They include 25 new religious schools. According to the British Humanist Society (BHA), in Northern Ireland more than 92 per cent of children attend either a Protestant or Catholic schools and there are no plans for change. In England almost all voluntary schools are said to have a religious character, as are 34 per cent of state schools. Their number has increased in recent years as successive governments have responded to the influence of religious groups in state-funded education, predominantly from the Church of England.

BHA’s aspiration, which I share, is simple. It wants pupils from all different backgrounds educated together in a shared environment, rather than separated according to the religious beliefs of their parents. An ongoing campaign seeks four basic aims:

  • to end religious discrimination in school admissions.
  • to end religious discrimination in school employment.
  • to achieve progressive reform of the school curriculum, including religious, scientific and PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education.
  • to replace mandatory religious collective worship with inclusive assemblies.

At present, faith schools are allowed to discriminate to varying extents in their admissions, recruitment and employment policies. Many give preference to children from families that share their religion, or at the least who otherwise are religious believers. I regard this as discriminatory, inevitably leading to segregation within communities. It has also been asserted that the policies of some faith schools are such as to admit fewer children from poorer families – those entitled to free school meals. An article in The Guardian (5 March 2013), headed ‘Church schools shun poorest pupils’, declared that by shunning the poorest pupils in their area England’s faith schools failed to mirror their local communities. A similar exclusivity can obtain in matters of recruitment and employment: a rejection of applicants of no religion or the ‘wrong’ religion.

Most faith schools are allowed to frame their own syllabus for religious education and, unsurprisingly, often aim to instruct children in the doctrine and practices of a particular religion. Nor is this aspect of the curriculum subject to Ofsted inspection. They are also free to teach PSHE subjects from a religious perspective. This includes sex education. The BHA is particularly concerned that sex and relationship components – if included at all – may be taught in ways that are homophobic and gender discriminatory, violate human rights principles, or are otherwise inadequate (notably in relation to contraception and abortion).

 I am very much in favour of diversity. We should be free to follow different political and cultural traditions – or not. But education is a special case. I believe that our children should be instructed from a broad, factual base, not narrowly and selectively directed along lines of esoteric, exceptional – and personal - beliefs.

 

 

 

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