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Post-Election Statements and Messages that Reaffirm Diversity

These are statements and messages sent out publicly or internally to re-affirm diversity, equity, and inclusion by libraries or higher ed institutions. I have collected these – some myself and many others through my fellow librarians. Some of them were listed on my blog post, “Finding the Right Words in Post-Election Libraries and Higher Ed.” So there are some duplicates.

If you think that your organization is already so much pro-diversity that there is no need to confirm or re-affirm diversity, you can’t be farther from the everyday reality that minorities experience. Sometimes, saying isn’t much. But right now, saying it out loud can mean everything. If you support those who belong to minority groups but don’t say it out loud, how would they know it? Right now, nothing is obvious other than there is a lot of hate and violence towards minorities.

Feel free to use these as your resource to craft a similar message. Feel free to add if you have similar messages you have received or created in the comments section.

If you haven’t heard from the organization you belong to, please ask for a message reaffirming and committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

[UPDATE 11/15/2016: Statements from ALA and LITA have been released. I have added them below.]

I will continue to add additional statements as I find them. If you see anything missing, please add below in the comment or send it via Twitter @bohyunkim. Thanks!

From Librarians

From Library Associations

From Libraries

From Higher Ed Institutions

Drexel University

Moving On as a Community After the Election

Dear Members of the Drexel Community,

It is heartening to me to see the Drexel community come together over the last day to digest the news of the presidential election — and to do so in the spirit of support and caring that is so much a part of this University. We gathered family-style, meeting in small, informal groups in several places across campus, including the Student Center for Inclusion and Culture, our residence halls, and as colleagues over a cup of coffee. Many student leaders, particularly from our multicultural organizations, joined the conversation.

This is not a process that can be completed in just one day, of course. So I hope these conversations will continue as long as students, faculty and professional staff feel they are needed, and I want to assure you that our professional staff in Student Life, Human Resources, Faculty Affairs, as well as our colleagues in the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, will be there for your support.

Without question, many members of our community were deeply concerned by the inflammatory rhetoric and hostility on the campaign trail that too often typified this bitter election season.

As I wrote over the summer, the best response to an uncertain and at times deeply troubling world is to remain true to our values as an academic community. In the context of a presidential election, it is vital that we understand and respect that members of our broadly diverse campus can hold similarly diverse political views. The expression of these views is a fundamental element of the free exchange of ideas and intellectual inquiry that makes Drexel such a vibrant institution.

At the same time, Drexel remains committed to ensuring a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful environment. Those tenets are more important than ever.

While we continue to follow changes on the national scene, it is the responsibility of each of us at Drexel to join together to move ahead, unified in our commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement and inclusion.

I am grateful for all you do to support Drexel as a community that welcomes and encourages all of its members.

Lane Community College

Good Morning, Colleagues,

I am in our nation’s capital today. I’d rather be at home! Like me, I am guessing that many of you were glued to the media last night to find out the results of the election. Though we know who our next President will be, this transition still presents a lot of uncertainty. It is not clear what our future president’s higher education policies will be but we will be working with our national associations to understand and influence where we can.

During times like this there is an opening for us to decide how we want to be with each other. Moods will range from joy to sadness and disbelief. It seems trite but we do need to work together, now more than ever. As educators we have a unique responsibility to create safe learning environments where every student can learn and become empowered workers and informed citizens. This imperative seems even more important today. Our college values of equity and inclusion have not changed and will not change and it is up to each of us to assure that we live out our values in every classroom and in each interaction. Preparing ourselves and our students for contentious discussions sparked by the election is work we must do.

It is quite likely that some of our faculty, staff and students may be feeling particularly vulnerable right now. Can we reach out to each other and let each other know that we all belong at Lane? During my inservice remarks I said that “we must robustly reject the calculated narrative of cynicism, division and despair. Instead of letting this leak into our narratives, together we can bet on hope not fear, respect not hate, unity not division.” At Lane we have the intellect (and proud of it) and wherewithal to do this.

I am attaching a favorite reading from Meg Wheatley which is resonating with me today and will end with Gary Snyder’s words from To The Children …..stay together learn the flowers go light.

Maryland Institute College of Art

Post-Election Community Forums and Support

Dear Campus Community,

No matter how each of us voted yesterday, most of us likely agree that the presidential campaign has been polarizing on multiple fronts. As a result, today is a difficult day for our nation and our campus community. In our nation, regardless of how one has aligned with a candidate, half of our country feels empowered and the other half sad and perhaps angry. Because such dynamics and feelings need to be addressed and supported on campus, this memo outlines immediate resources for our community of students, faculty and staff, and describes opportunities for fashioning dialogues and creative actions going forward.

Before sharing the specifics, let me say unambiguously that MICA will always stand firm in our commitment to diversity and inclusion. This morning’s Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Globalization meeting discussed measures to ensure that, as a creative community, we will continue to build a culture where everyone is honored and supported for success. The impact of exhibitions such as the current Baltimore Rising show remains as critical as ever, and MICA fosters an educational environment that is welcoming of all.

In the short term our focus is to support one another. Whether you are happy or distressed with the results, there has been sufficient feedback to indicate that our campus community is struggling with how to make sense of such a divisive election process. You may find the following services helpful and are encouraged to take advantage of them:

For Students: Student Counseling maintains walk-in hours from 3:00 – 4:00 pm every day. Students are welcome to stop by the Student Counseling Center (1501 Mt. Royal Avenue) during that time or call 410-669-9200 and enter x2367 once the recording begins to schedule an appointment.
For Faculty and Staff: The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to provide free, confidential support 24 hours a day. The EAP can be reached by calling 1-866-799-2728 or visiting HealthAdvocate.com/members and providing the username “Maryland Institute College of Art”.
For all MICA community members: MICA’s chaplain, the Rev, maintains standing hours every Monday and can be reached in the Reflection Room (Meyerhoff House) or by calling the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Development at 443-552-1659.

There are three events this week that can provide a shared space for dialogue; all are welcome:

The “After the Baltimore Uprising: Still Waiting for Change” community forum attached to the Baltimore Rising exhibition takes place tonight from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the Lazarus Center.
An open space for all MICA community members will be hosted by the Black Student Union tonight at 10:00 pm in the Meyerhoff House Underground.
In partnership with our student NAMI group, MICA will host a “Messages of Hope” event for the entire MICA community that will allow for shared space and reflection. This event will be on Friday, November 11th, and will begin at 3:00 pm in Cohen Plaza.

In various upcoming meetings we look forward to exploring with campus members other appropriate activities that can be created to facilitate expressions and dialogues.

A separate communication is coming from Provost David Bogen to the faculty regarding classroom conversations with students regarding the election.

Northwestern University Women’s Center

Dear Northwestern students, faculty, staff and community members:

The Women’s Center is open today. Our staff members are all here and available to talk, to provide resources and tools, or to help however you might need it. Most importantly, the space itself is available for whatever you need, whether that is to gather as a group, to sit alone somewhere comfortable and quiet, or to talk to someone who will listen. We are still here, and we are here for all people as an intentionally intersectional space. You are welcome to drop by physically, make a call to our office, or send an email. Know that this space is open and available to you.

Portland Community College to the PCC Staff

As someone who spent the last several years in Washington D.C. working to advance community colleges, I feel a special poignancy today hearing so many students, colleagues, and friends wonder and worry about the future—and about their futures.

We must acknowledge that this political season has highlighted deep divisions in our society. Today I spent time with Cabinet speaking about how we can assert our shared values and take positive action as a PCC community to deepen our commitment to equity, inclusion and civic engagement.

PCC will always welcome students and colleagues who bring a rich array of perspectives and experiences. That diversity is among our greatest strengths.

Today it is imperative that we stand by faculty, staff and students who may be experiencing fear or uncertainty—affirming with our words and deeds that PCC is about equitable student success and educational opportunity for all. Never has this mission been more powerful or more essential.

I have only been here a few months, but have already learned that PCC is a remarkable and caring community. Much is happening right now in real time, and I appreciate the efforts of all. For my part, I promise to communicate often as we continue to plan for our shared future.

P.S. Today and in the days ahead, we will be holding space for people to be together in community. Here are a few of the opportunities identified so far.

Portland Community College to Students

Dear Students:

As someone who spent the last several years working in Washington D.C., I feel a special poignancy this week hearing many of you express worry and uncertainty about the future.

There is little doubt that this political season has highlighted some deep divisions in our society. Both political candidates have acknowledged as much.

At the same time, people representing the full and diverse spectrum of our country come to our nation’s community colleges in hopes of a better life. PCC is such a place – where every year thousands of students find their path and pursue their dreams. All should find opportunity here, and all should feel safe and welcome.

The rich diversity of PCC offers an amazing opportunity for dialogue across difference, and for developing skills that are the foundation of our democratic society.

Let this moment renew your passion for making a better life for yourself, your community and your country and for becoming the kind of leader you want to follow.

Rutgers University AAUP-AFT
(American Association of University Professors – American Federation of Teachers)

Resisting Donald Trump

We are shocked and horrified that Donald Trump, who ran on a racist, xenophobic, misogynist platform, is now the President of the US. In response to this new political landscape, the administrative heads of several universities have issued statements embracing their diverse student, faculty, and staff bodies and offering support and protection. (See statements from the University of California and the California State University). President Barchi has yet to address the danger to the Rutgers community and its core mission.

This afternoon, our faculty union and the Rutgers One Coalition held an emergency meeting of students, faculty, and community activists in New Brunswick. We discussed means of responding to the attacks that people may experience in the near future. Most immediately, we approved the following statement by acclamation at the 100-strong meeting:

“Rutgers One, a coalition of faculty, staff, students and community members, calls upon the Rutgers administration to join us in condemning all acts of bigotry on this campus and refuse to tolerate any attacks on immigrants, women, Arabs, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ people and all others in our diverse community. We demand that President Barchi and his administration provide sanctuary, support, and protection to those who are already facing attacks on our campuses. We need concrete action that can ensure a safe environment for all. Further, we commit ourselves to take action against all attempts by the Trump administration to target any of our students, staff or faculty. We are united in resistance to bigotry of every kind and welcome all to join us in solidarity.”

We also resolved to take the following steps:

We will be holding weekly Friday meetings at 3pm in our Union office in New Brunswick to bring together students, faculty and staff to organize against the Trump agenda. We hope to expand these to Camden and Newark as well. (If you are willing to help organize this, please email back.)
We will be creating a list serve to coordinate our work. If you want to join this list, please reply to this email.
We are making posters and stickers which declare sanctuaries from racism, xenophobia, sexism, bigotry, religious intolerance, and attacks on unions. Once these materials are ready we will write to you so that you may post them on windows, office doors, cars etc. In the meantime, we urge you to talk to your students and colleagues of color as well as women and offer them your support and solidarity.

As you may recall, the Executive Committee issued a denunciation of Donald Trump on October 10, 2016. Now our slogan, one from the labor movement, is “Don’t mourn. Organize!” That is where we are now – all the more poignantly because of Donald Trump’s appeal to workers. Let us organize, and let us also expand our calling of education. In your classrooms, your communities, and your families, find the words and sentiments that will redeem all of us from Tuesday’s disgrace.

University of Chicago

Message from President and Provost

Early in the fall quarter, we sent a message welcoming each of you to the new academic year and affirming our strong commitment to two foundational values of the University – fostering an environment of free expression and open discourse; and ensuring that diversity and inclusion are essential features of the fabric of our campus community and our interactions beyond campus.

Recent national events have generated waves of disturbing, exclusionary and sometimes threatening behavior around the country, particularly concerning gender and minority status. As a result, many individuals are asking whether the nation and its institutions are entering a period in which supporting the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as free expression and open discourse, will be increasingly challenging. As the president and provost of the University of Chicago, we are writing to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms our unwavering commitment to these values, and to the importance of the University as a community acting on these values every day.

Fulfilling our highest aspirations with respect to these values and their mutual reinforcement will always demand ongoing attention and work on the part of all of us. The current national environment underscores the importance of this work. It means that we need to manifest these values more rather than less, demand more of ourselves as a community, and together be forthright and bold in demonstrating what our community aspires to be. We ask all of you for your help and commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion, free expression, and open discourse and what they mean for each of us working, learning, and living in this University community every day.

University of Illinois, Chicago

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The events of the past week have come with mixed emotions for many of you. We want you to know that UIC remains steadfast in its commitment to creating and sustaining a community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person, while fostering an environment of mutual respect among all members.

Today, we reaffirm the University’s commitment to access, equity, inclusion and nondiscrimination. Critical to this commitment is the work of several offices on campus that provide resources to help you be safe and successful. If you have questions, need someone to talk to, or a place to express yourself, you should consider contacting these offices:

Office for Access and Equity (OAE). OAE is responsible for assuring campus compliance in matters of equal opportunity, affirmative action, and nondiscrimination in the academic and work environment. OAE also offers Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) to assist with conflict in the workplace not involving unlawful discrimination matters.

UIC Counseling Center. The UIC Counseling Center is a primary resource providing comprehensive mental health services that foster personal, interpersonal, academic, and professional thriving for UIC students.
Student Legal Services. UIC’s Student Legal Services (SLS) is a full-service law office dedicated to providing legal solutions for currently enrolled students.

Office of Diversity. The Office of Diversity leads strategic efforts to advance access, equity, and inclusion as fundamental principles underpinning all aspects of university life. It initiates programs that promote an inclusive university climate, partner with campus units to formulate systems of accountability, and develop links with the local community and alumni groups.
Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change. The Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change (CCUSC) are a collaborative group of seven centers with distinct histories, missions, and locations that promote the well-being of and cultural awareness about underrepresented and underserved groups at UIC.

UIC Dialogue Initiative. The UIC Dialogue Initiative seeks to build an inclusive campus community where students, faculty, and staff feel welcomed in their identities, valued for their contributions, and feel their identities can be openly expressed.

Through whatever changes await us, as a learning community we have a special obligation to ensure that our conversations and dialogues over the next weeks and months respect our varied backgrounds and beliefs.

University of Maryland, Baltimore

To the UMB Community:

Last week, we elected a new president for our country. I think most will agree that the campaign season was long and divisive, and has left many feeling separated from their fellow citizens. In the days since the election, I’ve heard from the leaders of UMB and of the University of Maryland Medical Center and of the many programs we operate that serve our neighbors across the city and state. These leaders have relayed stories of students, faculty, staff, families, and children who feel anxious and unsettled, who feel threatened and fearful.

It should be unnecessary to reaffirm UMB’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect — these values are irrevocable — but when I hear that members of our family are afraid, I must reiterate that the University will not tolerate incivility of any kind, and that the differences we celebrate as a diverse community include not just differences of race, religion, nationality, gender, and sexual identity, but also of experience, opinion, and political affiliation and ideology. If you suffer any harassment, please contact your supervisor or your student affairs dean.

In the months ahead, we will come together as a University community to talk about how the incoming administration might influence the issues we care about most: health care access and delivery; education; innovation; social justice and fair treatment for all. We will talk about the opportunities that lay ahead to shape compassionate policy and to join a national dialogue on providing humane care and services that uplift everyone in America. For anyone who despairs, we will talk about building hope.

Should you want to share how you’re feeling post-election, counselors are available. Please contact the Student Counseling Center or the Employee Assistance Program to schedule an appointment.

I look forward to continuing this conversation about how we affirm our fundamental mission to improve the human condition and serve the public good. Like the values we uphold, this mission endures — irrespective of the person or party in political power. It is our binding promise to the leaders of this state and, even more importantly, to the citizens we serve together.

University of West Georgia

Dear Colleagues,

As we head into the weekend concluding a week, really several weeks, of national and local events, I am reminded of the incredible opportunity of reflection and discourse we have as a nation and as an institution of higher learning.

This morning, we held on campus a moving ceremony honoring our Veterans–those who have served and who have given the ultimate sacrifice to uphold and protect our freedoms.  It is those freedoms that provide the opportunity to elect a President and those freedoms that provide an environment of civil discourse and opinion.  Clearly, the discourse of this election cycle has tested the boundaries.

This is an emotional time for many of our faculty, staff, and students.  I ask that as a campus community we hold true to the intended values of our nation and those who sacrificed to protect those values and the core values of our institution–caring, collaboration, inclusiveness, and wisdom.  We must acknowledge and allow the civil discourse and opinion of all within a safe environment.  That is what should set us apart.  It is part of our DNA in higher education to respect and encourage variance and diversity of belief, thought, and culture.

I call on your professionalism during these times and so appreciate your passion and care for each other and our students.

Virginia Commonwealth University to Staff

Election Message

Dear VCU and VCU Health Communities,

Yesterday, we elected new leaders for our city, commonwealth and nation. I am grateful to those of you who made your voice heard during the electoral process, including many of our students who voted for the first time. Whether or not your preferred candidate won, you were a part of history and a part of the process that moves our democracy forward. Thank you. I hope you will always continue to make your voice heard, both as voters and as well-educated leaders in our society.

As with any election, some members of our community are enthusiastic about the winners, others are not.  For many, this election cycle was notably emotional and difficult.

Now is the time, then, to demonstrate the values that make Virginia Commonwealth University such a remarkable place.  We reaffirm our commitment to working together across boundaries of discipline or scholarship, as members of one intellectual community, to achieve what’s difficult.  We reaffirm our commitment to inclusion, to ensuring that every person who comes to VCU is respected and emboldened to succeed.  We reaffirm that we will always be a place of the highest integrity, accountability, and we will offer an unyielding commitment to serving those who need us.

History changes with every election. What does not change are the commitments we share as one community that is relentlessly focused on advancing the human experience for all people.

You continue to inspire me.  And I know you will continue to be a bright light for Richmond, Virginia, our nation and our world.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education to Students

Election Message

Dear students,

On Tuesday we elected new leaders for our city, our commonwealth and our nation. Although leadership will be changing, I echo Dr. Rao’s message below in that our mission outlined by the Quest for Distinction to support student success, advance knowledge and strengthen our communities remains steadfast.

At the VCU School of Education, we work to create safe spaces where innovation, inclusion and collaboration can thrive. We actively work across boundaries and disciplines to address the complex challenges facing our communities, schools and families. The election of new leaders provides new opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to build bridges that help us reach our goal of making an impact in urban and high need environments.

I encourage you to engage in positive dialogues with one another as the city, commonwealth and nation adjust to the change in leadership, vision and strategy.

Virginia Commonwealth University Division of Student Affairs

Dear Students,

We are writing to you, collectively, as leaders in the Division of Student Affairs.  We acknowledge that this election season was stressful for many individuals in our VCU community, culminating with the election of the next president.  Some members of our campus community have felt disrespected, attacked and further marginalized by political rhetoric during the political process.  We want to affirm support of all of our students while also recognizing the unique experiences and concerns of individuals. We want all students to know that we are here to support you, encourage you and contribute to your success.

We now live in a space of uncertainty as we transition leadership in our nation.  Often, with this uncertainty comes a host of thoughts and feelings.  We hope that you will take advantage of some of the following services and programs we offer through our division to support your well-being, including: Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Self-Care Space, University Counseling Services , The Wellness Resource Center, Trans Lives Matter Panel and Survivor Solidarity Support, Recreational Sports, Restorative Yoga and Mind & Body Classes.

We encourage students to express their concerns and engage in conversations that further the core values articulated in Quest, the VCU Strategic Plan. We continue to have an opportunity to make individual and collective choices about how we work to bridge differences in a manner that builds up our community.

Our staff will have a table each day next week on the VCU Compass from noon to 1:00 p.m. ­­­to receive your concerns, suggestions and just listen.  Please stop by to meet us.  We want you to know you have our full support.

Other Organizations

Finding the Right Words in Post-Election Libraries and Higher Ed

** This post was originally published in ACRL TechConnect on Nov. 15, 2016.***

This year’s election result has presented a huge challenge to all of us who work in higher education and libraries. Usually, libraries, universities, and colleges do not comment on presidential election result and we refrain from talking about politics at work. But these are not usual times that we are living in.

A black female student was shoved off the sidewalk and called the ‘N’ word at Baylor University. The Ku Klux Klan is openly holding a rally. West Virginia officials publicly made a racist comment about the first lady. Steve Bannon’s prospective appointment as the chief strategist and senior counsel to the new President is being praised by white nationalist leaders and fiercely opposed by civil rights groups at the same time. Bannon is someone who calls for an ethno-state, openly calls Martin Luther King a fraud, and laments white dispossession and the deconstruction of occidental civilization. There are people drawing a swastika at a park. The ‘Whites only’ and ‘Colored’ signs were put up over water fountains in a Florida school. A Muslim student was threatened with a lighter. Asian-American women are being assaulted. Hostile acts targeting minority students are taking place on college campuses.

Libraries and educational institutions exist because we value knowledge and science. Knowledge and science do not discriminate. They grow across all different races, ethnicities, religions, nationalities, sexual identities, and disabilities. Libraries and educational institutions exist to enable and empower people to freely explore, investigate, and harness different ideas and thoughts. They support, serve, and belong to ‘all’ who seek knowledge. No matter how naive it may sound, they are essential to the betterment of human lives, and they do so by creating strength from all our differences, not likeness. This is why diversity, equity, inclusion are non-negotiable and irrevocable values in libraries and educational institutions.

How do we reconcile these values with the president-elect who openly dismissed and expressed hostility towards them? His campaign made remarks and promises that can be interpreted as nothing but the most blatant expressions of racism, sexism, intolerance, bigotry, harassment, and violence. What will we do to address the concerns of our students, staff, and faculty about their physical safety on campus due to their differences in race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, and sexual identity? How do we assure them that we will continue to uphold these values and support everyone regardless of what they look like, how they identify their gender, what their faiths are, what disabilities they may have, who they love, where they come from, what languages they speak, or where they live? How?

We say it. Explicitly. Clearly. And repeatedly.

If you think that your organization is already very much pro-diversity that there is no need to confirm or reaffirm diversity, you can’t be farther from the everyday life minorities experience. Sometimes, saying isn’t much. But right now, saying it out loud can mean everything. If you support those who belong to minority groups but don’t say it out loud, how would they know it? Right now, nothing is obvious other than there is a lot of hate and violence towards minorities.

The entire week after the election, I agonized about what to say to my small team of IT people whom I supervise at work. As a manager, I felt that it was my responsibility to address the anxiety and uncertainty that some of my staff – particularly those in minority groups – would be experiencing due to the election result. I also needed to ensure that whatever dialogue takes place regarding the differences of opinions between those who were pleased and those who were distressed with the election result, those dialogues remain civil and respectful.

Crafting an appropriate message was much more challenging than I anticipated. I felt very strongly about the need to re-affirm the unwavering support and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion particularly in relation to libraries and higher education, no matter how obvious it may seem. I also felt the need to establish (within the bounds of my limited authority) that we will continue to respect, value, and celebrate diversity in interacting with library users as well as other library and university staff members. Employees are held to the standard expectations of their institutions, such as diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance, civil dialogue, and no harassment or violence towards minorities, even if their private opinions conflict with them. At the same time, I wanted to strike a measured tone and neither scare nor upset anyone, whichever side they were on in the election. As a manager, I have to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their private opinions as long as they do not harm others.

I suspect that many of us – either a manager or not – want to say something similar about the election result. Not so much about who was and should have been as about what we are going to do now in the face of these public incidences of anger, hatred, harassment, violence, and bigotry directed at minority groups, which are coming out at an alarming pace because it affects all of us, not just minorities.

Finding the right words, however, is difficult. You have to carefully consider your role, audience, and the message you want to convey. The official public statement from a university president is going to take a tone vastly different from an informal private message a supervisor sends out to a few members of his or her team. A library director’s message to library patrons assuring the continued service for all groups of users with no discrimination will likely to be quite different from the one she sends to her library staff to assuage their anxiety and fear.

For such difficulty not to delay and stop us from what we have to and want to say to everyone we work with and care for, I am sharing the short message that I sent out to my team last Friday, 3 days after the election. (N.B. ‘CATS’ stands for ‘Computing and Technology Services’ and UMB refers to ‘University of Maryland, Baltimore.’) This is a customized message to address my own team. I am sharing this as a potential template for you to craft your own message. I would like to see more messages that reaffirm diversity, equity, and inclusion as non-negotiable values, explicitly state that we will not step backwards, and make a commitment to continued unwavering support for them.

Dear CATS,

This year’s close and divisive election left a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty in many of us. I am sure that we will hear from President Perman and the university leadership soon.

In the meantime, I want to remind you of something I believe to be very important. We are all here – just as we have been all along – to provide the most excellent service to our users regardless of what they look like, what their faiths are, where they come from, what languages they speak, where they live, and who they love. A library is a powerful place where people transform themselves through learning, critical thinking, and reflection. A library’s doors have been kept open to anyone who wants to freely explore the world of ideas and pursue knowledge. Libraries are here to empower people to create a better future. A library is a place for mutual education through respectful and open-minded dialogues. And, we, the library staff and faculty, make that happen. We get to make sure that people’s ethnicity, race, gender, disability, socio-economic backgrounds, political views, or religious beliefs do not become an obstacle to that pursuit. We have a truly awesome responsibility. And I don’t have to tell you how vital our role is as a CATS member in our library’s fulfilling that responsibility.

Whichever side we stood on in this election, let’s not forget to treat each other with respect and dignity. Let’s use this as an opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity, one of the UMB’s core values. Inclusive excellence is one of the themes of the UMB 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. Each and every one of us has a contribution to make because we are stronger for our differences.

We have much work ahead of us! I am out today, but expect lots of donuts Monday.

Have a great weekend,
Bohyun

 

Monday, I brought in donuts of many different kinds and told everyone they were ‘diversity donuts.’ Try it. I believe it was successful in easing some stress and tension that was palpable in my team after the election.

Photo from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vnysia/4598569232

Photo from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vnysia/4598569232

Before crafting your own message, I recommend re-reading your institution’s core values, mission and vision statements, and the most recent strategic plan. Most universities, colleges, and libraries include diversity, equity, inclusion, or something equivalent to these somewhere. Also review all public statements or internal messages that came from your institution that reaffirms diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can easily incorporate those into your own message. Make sure to clearly state your (and your institution’s) continued commitment to and unwavering support for diversity and inclusion and explicitly oppose bigotry, intolerance, harassment, and acts of violence. Encourage civil discourse and mutual respect. It is very important to reaffirm the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion ‘before’ listing any resources and help that employees or students may seek in case of harassment or assault. Without the assurance from the institution that it indeed upholds those values and will firmly stand by them, those resources and help mean little.

Below I have also listed messages, notes, and statements sent out by library directors, managers, librarians, and university presidents that reaffirm the full support for and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I hope to see more of these come out. If you have already received or sent out such a message, I invite you to share in the comments. If you have not, I suggest doing so as soon as possible. Send out a message if you are in a position where doing so is appropriate. Don’t forget to ask for a message addressing those values if you have not received any from your organization.

 

Management is Not the Decision-Making Team

While reading the post below, this caught my eye.  What do you think? Would this apply to libraries as in software development industry?

“The “management team” isn’t the “decision making” team. It’s a support function. You may want to call them administration instead of management, which will keep them from getting too big for their britches.

Administrators aren’t supposed to make the hard decisions. They don’t know enough. … … … ”

Excerpt from “The Management Team – Guest Post From Joel Spolsky”
– http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/02/the-management-team-guest-post-from-joel-spolsky.html.

Making Years of Service Meaningful – My thought on #hlth

By now, I believe almost everyone in the library-land would have heard about the Harvard Libraries Town Hall meeting debacle. (If not, see this post by Tom Bruno.) Like everyone else, I don’t have an inkling about whether the reorganization going on at Harvard is going to succeed or not.  But the news somehow made me think quite a bit about this :  As the library staff work at the same library for many years, how can ‘____’ make the years or service meaningful as their contribution to the library beyond mere loyalty?

This is a tough question as years of service doesn’t necessarily equate with how much contribution you make to the library you work at.  It’s a tough question because improving on whatever you learned already is almost always more difficult than learning it first time. This is also a tough question whether you are a library employer or an employee (fill the ‘____’ above with either library or the library staff) as this is something both an employer and an employee should work together.

As a library employee, I think about this more and more as I am getting out of the new librarian phase. Being a professional librarian for more than 3 years now, it is hard to argue that I am still new at this point. I try hard not to settle in the everyday work that is familiar to me and not to get comfortable with the status quo. I try to keep taking up on a new project that would improve library’s services and operation even if no one is asking for it. I try to learn new things even if that would not affect the work I do immediately because I know that in the long run, there is a good chance that the stuff I am teaching myself today would be come in handy.

What I am trying to is to meet the challenge of how to make my years of service meaningful. I want it to represent the amount of experience and knowledge I have as a librarian, not the mere number of years I was staying at one place.  That is a tough call.  Many librarians face this challenge in one way or another, as they gain more experience at their workplace unless they are continuously hopping from one job to another for higher rank/salary, which will also make it inevitable to learn some new skills and assume new responsibilities).

Now shifting the focus from employees to employers, even to observers who do not know the internal workings of the Harvard libraries system, what made the librarians and library staff at Harvard most upset about the town hall meeting seems to be the feeling of betrayal, aside from the unclear meeting agenda and the lack of answers to obvious questions. It appears that many Harvard library staff were loyal to their workplace (legitimately perhaps considering its collection size and scale of service) and took pride in working there, which is reflected in many staff’s long years of service (i.e. low rate of staff turnover). However, the unclear messages from the top and the impending layoff announcement seemed to have demoralized them, as shown in one of the comments in this LJ article “After Furor, Harvard Library Spokesperson Says ‘Inaccurate’ That All Staff Will Have to Reapply” :

“I acknowledge that change is inevitable, but what I feel, after yesterday’s meeting, was the unnecessary devaluation of the librarians and library assistants, many of whom have worked at Harvard for decades and are experts in their particular field or have particular skills. I didn’t feel we were valued as employees or as persons. So many of us asked after the meeting yesterday, what was the point of the it? Why call a meeting when there are no answers ready for our biggest questions? Was the purpose of it to instill fear? Because, sadly, that was the main result. Fear for ourselves and for the future of one of the best library systems in the world.”

In her blog post “on #hlth and bearpoking,” Jenica Rogers pointed out why the years of service argument would work against the library staff in the re-organization situation rather than in favor. As she correctly notes, effectiveness, relevance, skills do not correlate to years of service by themselves. To the management, this argument has no real merit.

This is a valid point. In times in which permanent jobs are a joke, asking loyalty for employees is an absurd idea. The flip side of it is, however, that it would be equally silly for employees to think that loyalty itself would have any significant meaning (beyond maybe the fact that the low staff-turnover rate will save operating costs related to hiring replacements), particularly when the employer goes through re-organization (based upon the belief that the ‘past’ operation was not optimal ).

But nothing is ever so black-and-white. As a 100% observer, I would have liked to see what systematic incentives and measures Harvard libraries are creating in order to help its staff to continuously improve their skills and knowledge in their jobs. More so when they are planning a big layoff and asking all their staff to submit a summary of their skills and qualifications. (I am not even going to comment on how bureaucratic and utterly ineffective this sounds like. )

I believe that experienced library staffs are not just employees with the long-years-of-service tag on them. Some of them may be chair warmers. (Yes, we have all seen chair warmers!)  ‘But’ many of them are the precious enablers in library operation and the best deliverers of quality library service.  This is not a ‘sentimental’ argument. Losing these people will cost the organization no matter how hard it is to quantitatively measure its impact.

You may say those people with good performance will be saved one way or another. But what I am saying is that an organization has the responsibility to beclear about what it values in its employees.  As an employer, an organization may ask for and demand whatever qualifications it sees fit for employees to be equipped with. But it would help employees if an organization can state them clearly and, if possible, provide concrete steps to take to actually attain that goal.

So looking forward, I suggest any library that goes through re-organization should ask this question: What kind of system do you have in place to help and enable for your staff to stay relevant, skilled, effective, and efficient over the long period of time? What are the standards you would like to see in your staff in terms of skills and knowledge? Why are those relevant skills and knowledge in your organization in light of its mission and vision? What kinds of initiatives and activities would you like your staff to work on and be engaged in on a daily basis?  Communicating clear answers to these questions alone would greatly alleviate the concern of library staff during any reorganization process.  I hope that Harvard libraries staff would use this reorganization as an opportunity to ask these questions and get satisfactory answers.

Reorganization can be painful. But reorganization without a clear vision and goal and the road-map to achieve the goal would be disastrous. I am worried about the possibility of library re-organization done in the absence of clear vision and strategies. I am concerned about the possibility that libraries may dive into reorganization in lieu of establishing first assessing clearly where they want to go and how they plan to get there.

Sadly, the data from Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from U.S. Academic Library Directors doesn’t make me feel so optimistic. (See this blog post “My peers are not my tribe” by Jenica Rogers and despair. 65 percent of US academic library directors confirmed that their library does NOT have a well-developed strategy to meet changing user needs and research habits!)

I do so hope that this is not the whole story. But are you surprised at this finding?

Library and IT – Synergy or Distrust?

In my previous blog post, I asked why libraries are not actively encouraging those who are novice coders among library staff to further develop their coding skills.

I was surprised to see so many comments. I was even more surprised to see that the question was sometimes completely misunderstood. For example, I never argued that ‘all’ librarians should learn how to code (!).  Those who I had in mind were the novice coders/librarians who already know one or two programming languages and struggle to teach themselves to build something simple but useful for practical purposes.

On the other hand, all comments were very illuminating particularly in showing the contrasts between librarians’ and programmers/IT professionals’ thoughts on my question. Below are some of the most interesting contrasts I saw. (All have been paraphrased.)

Librarian (L)
– I am interested in learning how to code but I lack time. Most of all, it is hard to find guidance.

Programmer/IT professional (P)
– There are lots of resources online. Don’t make excuses and plunge in.

L is lost in learning how to code while P thinks everything needed can be found online! Interesting, isn’t it? Ls and Ps are likely to be coming from two completely opposite backgrounds (humanities vs. sciences) and cultures (committee and consensus-driven vs. meritocratic and competitive).

Librarian (L)
– IT distrusts the library staff and doesn’t even allow admin privileges to the staff PCs.
– IT people are overprotective over their knowledge. Not all but many IT tasks are relatively straightforward and can be learned by librarians.

Programmer/IT professional (P)
– Librarians require an MLS for even technology positions. That is crazy!
– You are arguing that librarians can learn how to properly program in their spare time without gaining the proper theoretical understanding of computer science and training in software engineering. That is crazy!

L thinks P should recognize that library staff do work in technology just as IT does and wants P to be more open and sharing instead of being mysterious.  On the other hand, P wants to see L value programmers and IT for their expertise and thinks that an MLS is an unreasonable requirement for a technology position at libraries. I think both parties make excellent points. About the over-protectiveness, I think perhaps it is half true but half likely to be a communication issue.

And here are some of the most valuable comments:

  • Librarians tend to miss that there can be an overlap in the role of IT and that of librarians and regard them as completely separate ones.
  • The management buy-in is important in promoting technology in a library. A nurturing environment for staff development can be quite helpful for the library staff.

I think these two comments are very close to answering my question of why libraries don’t actively encourage and support those among the library staff who know how to code albeit in a rudimentary manner to further develop their skills and apply them to the library context. Although almost all libraries today emphasize the importance of technology, the role of librarians and that of IT, librarianship and technology are often viewed as completely separate from each other. Even when there is an interest in incorporating technology into librarianship, both libraries and LIS schools seem to be puzzled over how to do so.

It is no doubt a tough problem to crack. But it explains up to a certain degree why there is not much collaboration found between librarians and programmers (or IT in a wider sense) at most libraries. Why don’t the library and the IT at a college/university, for example, form a closely-knit educational/instructional technology center?  While reading the comments, I kept thinking about the story I heard from my friend.

My friend works at a large academic library, and the university s/he works at decided to merge the university IT and the university library into one organization to foster collaboration and make the two departments’ operation more efficient. Two departments came to reside in the same building as a result. However, there was so much difference in culture that the expected collaboration did not occur. Instead, the library and the IT worked as they had done before as completely separate entities.

The university administrators may have had the insight that there is an overlapping role between the library and the IT and seen the potential synergy from merging the two units together. But without the library and the IT buying into that vision, the experiment cannot succeed. Even where a library has its own IT department, the cultural difference may hinder the collaboration between the library IT and the rest of the library staff.

How can the gap between librarianship and IT be bridged? As I have already said, I don’t think that the problem is to be solved by ‘all’ librarians becoming coders or IT professionals. That would be implausible, unnecessary, and downright strange.

However, I believe that all libraries would significantly benefit by having ‘some’ library staff who understand how programming works and so all libraries should support and encourage their staff who are already pursuing their interests in coding to further develop their skills and deepen their knowledge. (This is no different than what libraries are already doing regarding their paraprofessionals who want to pursue a MLS degree!)  Even when those staff are not themselves capable of developing a complicated, production-ready software system, they can easily automate simple processes at libraries, solve certain problems, and collaborate with professional programmers in troubleshooting and developing better library systems.

So, my question was not so much about librarians as individuals as about the strategic direction of libraries whose primary concern is providing, packaging, disseminating, and maintaining information, resources, and data. And I am glad I asked my half-baked question. You never know what you will learn until you ask.

What is your management style?

Jenica Rogers wrote a thoughtful post today about management at her blog, Attempting Elegance. In her post, “Lessons Learned: Micromanaging,” she reflects on her management style as a new library director. She talks about how her personal strength and talent at project maangement has unexpectedly become a problem in her work as an administrator.

I think it would be a good practice to reflect upon one’s own management style whether one is a manager or not as we all have to manage at least our own time and work. Furthermore, as professional librarians, we are also often put in a position to manage temporary, hourly, and student employees or even volunteers.

My own management style is actually a complete opposite to Jenica’s. I love delegating and long to delegate more of my work, so that I can focus on and spend more time on certain projects that really need me. Just unfortunately, right now I don’t have many people to whom I can delegate some of my tasks.

I confess when I was in library school, I didn’t pay great attention in my management class. I figured I would be a lay librarian and I wouldn’t have much need for management sorts of things. I soon realized that that was a pretty wrong assumption. I recruited a couple of students in my first year as a professional librarian after I realized that I could not keep up with all the tasks by myself. Since I worked with students before and it worked so well at my previous workplaces where I was a paraprofessional, I thought it would be a piece of cake. How wrong I was! (And also that made me realize how great a manager my boss was.)

A Very Young Dancer

"25/365 from 'A Very Young Dancer' by Jill Krementz" Photo from Dream Diary in Flickr

The problem I had was that, unlike Jenica, I didn’t do enough micro-managing. For example, I expected my students to read up stuff that I gave them and then to apply what they learned to work, which I showed how to do just a few times in front of them. Of course, I supposed that they would ask me any questions as they arose, work and behave professionally, and appreciate the freedom and trust I gave them. And by all means, the tasks that I assigned them were the simplest ones, at least in my mind.

What I was doing wrong was to treat my student assistants in the way I like to be treated. Not that there is anything wrong with the Golden Rule, the mistake I made was to think that my student assistants would have the same kinds of needs and work styles as I do. I love working independently and excel at setting up projects and getting things done without much direction or guidance. Whenever I spot a problem, I am happy to do my own research, solicit feedback without being prompted,  make decisions to fix the problem, and accomplish goals that I see as my responsibilities. On the other hand, I do not enjoy spot-checking others’ work or writing reports about things that have been done.

Now this tendency of mine would work great if I were to supervise someone exactly like me. However, you can guess this wasn’t the case with my student assistants. Now that I think about it, the freedom and the trust that I placed upon them could have been baffling and confusing to them. They may not have fully understood exactly what the tasks were and, more importantly, how meticulous their work had to be for it to be useful to others. A lot of things that I expected my student assistants to be able to do themselves and apply to their tasks may well have been simply beyond their capabilities. In retrospect, they would have benefited from personal attention and lots of directions and guidance as well as frequent check-ups to ensure that they were on the right track. But as a complete newbie manager with the natural tendency of macro-managing (if that is a word), I completely missed all of this for a while. The result was, well, not quite great. Some of the work that was done by student assistants had to be redone by me, and some of the projects didn’t get finished.

It took a while for me to realize that the failure came from me just as much as from my student assistants. I wasn’t managing them in the way that they needed me to. I treated them as if they were just like me. While this may well be a good rule in ethics, it certainly is not so for a manger.

I read somewhere that treating everyone equally is not a strength of a manger. A good manager treats everyone differently because everyone is different (with different strengths, needs, and work styles). I would probably never be a micro-manager as I believe that everyone should achieve a certain level of expertise (i.e. independence) in their areas by learning their work and doing it well through practice and that all of us do our best work when we are internally motivated, not externally. However, we all need different things at different times in different projects. A good manager is someone who can see the needs of those who s/he manages and can offer what is needed for each individual at a given time. And there, the distinction between micro-managing and macro-managing may well be irrelevant. That I now know from my mistakes. What is your management style?