Saturday, August 29, 2015

Short Review of Between the World and Me

I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates in one sitting.  It was a decent book.

Photo of Book: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Get this book for your library!

So many people have already praised it for its great writing and incredible erudition.  I felt really let down after reading his book because I was expecting so much more.

Mr. Coates is a good writer, but he is not a great writer.  His prose flows and I believe he has found his own voice.  However, the writing is not beautiful, nor is it creative or innovative in any manner.

In my opinion the most important aspects of this book are his insights on the black body.   African Americans, after all, were considered products to be exploited for their value as slaves.  Their (and latino) bodies are still used in such a way in the prison industry as explicated so brilliantly in Michelle Alexander's seminal work, The New Jim Crow.

He COMPLETELY neglects the fact that other ethnicities (besides black people) have race issues in the US as well.  I wouldn't expect him to explicate on these issues, but to mention them at least would give his writing a much more well rounded analytic style.

I found Coates' story about his friend's death at the hands of the police to be distant and not too empathetic, except that the writer realized he was not safe. from the hands of the police either.

His article on Prince's death is a good piece of work:

He doesn't get into the fact that he was extremely lucky to have a family background that valued education.  He has multiple generations of college graduates in his ancestry.  This is a great thing, but not addressing educational disparities in the milieu that is the US today is a mistake and will lead to bad analysis.

He also makes France sound like an escape from colonialism--which it can't be--as it is and was one of the world's colonial powers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I believe Coates is primarily a journalist, and that is good.  This book is a good example of journalist non-fiction writing.    However, I don't go looking for James Baldwin when I read nonfiction books by journalists.

I'm going to say that you should read this book and also buy it for your library though.  It is an important book, and it is written in a journalistically accessible style.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

The number one issue I encounter when dealing with racism on an organizational/institutional level is the lack of ability to put the organization's resources toward ending racism and the lack of diversity in the institution.

Old Glory
Many US Organizations state they value "diversity."  What does that mean?

Diversity, inclusion and equity aren't seen as an issue of sustainability for our organizations and institutions.   These issues are looked at like pinstriping on a sports car.  It seems they are not as important to our organizations as the engine, or even the tires of the car...

Our nation will not survive if we do not deal with the issues of race that exist in our culture.

Unconscious bias is built into most education, entertainment and other forms of information.

We need teams of analysts to investigate these biases, analyze them, describe them for laypeople, and prescribe fixes for them.  We need these teams within our organizations and in general society.

In the organization, these teams need autonomy in order to properly do the job of analyzing as objectively as possible.   They also need power in order to properly execute the changes they find are needed within an organization.

Organizations need to create such teams and give them the full support of the instead of just giving this subject lip service and keeping actions at the "cultural petting zoo" level.

Educating a diverse workforce and attaining the mission of almost any organization will entail that the organization work to meet the needs of a diverse membership and makeup.

Is it about money, or is it about fixing a broken system?

Indeed, if diversity, equity and inclusion were desirable goals for institutions from the US government down to our local community colleges and school districts, then these organizations would allocate and use their resources at the same level as other "crucial" goals and 'outcomes' of these institutions.

The thing is--these organizations almost NEVER allocate proper resources,  nor processes to achieve these goals.

These resources range in type from the will to create change (and deal with the consequences of those who are upset by said change), to spending money to train, and educate the members of the organization.

In the US our culture shows that it values something by how much money, or how much 'integrity' an issue, or thing has to us.

Don't tread on me flag
People are willing to stand up for their guns, but when it comes to POC--they don't seem to care.
This integrity, in the sense I am speaking about, is the will to deal with those of the dominant culture who might become upset by the appointment, or the recruitment of ethnic minority faculty, staff and membership.

I see people stand up firmly for their gun rights, for the right to fly their confederate flags, for the right to shoot someone if they feel their lives are in danger--yet when it comes to standing up for the lives of their fellow countrymen--all of the sudden--they are worried about offending people.

Denial is the current mental health state in the US.
"Why should I suffer!  I never discriminated against anyone, I never owned slaves!"

"Some people might get mad if we were to appoint POC faculty, or staff members!"  

I hear again and again.  

However,  they don't understand that POC are already upset.  That we deal with microaggressions on a daily basis, that we deal with fear and the knowledge that discrimination exists in our culture.

"Will it be us this time? " 

"Was that discrimination?"

"Did they really just say that?"

"Maybe they didn't mean it."

The hell POC live when it comes to race  in this culture.  The hell of sending your child out to school and not knowing if they will be judged according to what they do and who they are instead of the color of their skin, or by their accent is never acknowledged, nor is it even a reality to those with privilege.

Those in power don't care about the hell POC exist within when it comes to race and employment in the US.

They are more concerned with upsetting someone from the dominant culture.

They don't care one iota if we are upset...

That should send us ALL a really clear and strong message when it comes to rectifying the racial situation in the US today.
plural noun: methods
  1. a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one.
    "a method for software maintenance"

We need new methods and we need not be afraid of approaching our organizations with this knowledge in mind.

We need to stress that our organizations put their resources, both financial and spiritual toward ending racism in our organizations, toward achieving those lofty mission outcomes and toward achieving equity.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say!

Our organizations and institutions will benefit from this and we will achieve a return on investment that will be staggering--if only we have the courage to make our organizations put their money where their mouths are.

We must create some change with direct action and stop repeating the same things we have been doing for the past 30 years.

I know and understand that diversity is more than race, but I submit that within race exists a rich diversity.   That is to say, if one recruits a rich and large pool of faculty of color, then one will have a richly diverse pool in more than just race, but also of class, gender, abilities, and other measures of diversity that organizations use.  We need to work on race at the moment.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Crowdsourcing Great Teaching @ the NW Great Teaching Seminar

I attended the NW Great Teaching Seminar this week and it was life changing. This seminar is part of the National Great Teachers Seminar Series. It lasted five days and was held at the amazingly serene and picturesque Menucha retreat in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.  There were over 30 other seminar participants!

Scenic views were readily available
All attendees teach at community colleges, but come from various disciplines. Based on the premise that the real experts on teaching are those who teach, the seminar was led by five amazing individuals: Linda Gerber, Phil Corliss, April Fong, Doug Dickson and Jan Woodcock. Following a "flexibly rigid" format, meals were held at 8 am, 12 and 6 pm daily; the rest of the schedule revolved around these times.

Jan Woodcock
Humor, experience, practical knowledge, active engagement, integrated learning and game-centered teaching made this seminar a life-changing experience for me.

Mingling of ideas
The format also included each of us writing an Innovation paper (first day activities) -- a one-page paper outlining a successful teaching innovation the teacher has implemented and a Problem paper (second day activities) -- describing an ongoing issue the teacher experiences.

Exchanging these writings, we broke up into smaller groups and discussed the innovations and problems, using a Socratic questioning method designed to help the individual sort it out on their own. These papers create a great pool of knowledge, solutions and inspiration.


Emerging themes (throughout the rest of the seminar) -- themes that arose the first two days as we went over the Innovation and Problem papers.

And finally:

Large group discussions: giving teachers a chance to obtain crowd-sourced answers to questions.

Large group discussion
I learned something, literally every two minutes, i.e., teaching students to nod their heads, maintaining student boundaries when it comes to classwork and the importance of trying new things and not being afraid to change it up. Many common solutions, tips, and other techniques carried over from one discipline to the next.
Outdoor discussion in perfect weather
I was struck by the common love and passion for teaching and helping others held by the entire cohort. It was a positive, supportive, and stretching event for all involved.
Opportunities for exchange abounded

Learning opportunities also consisted of small and large group communication and crowd-sourcing answers, games, interpretive dance along with time for recreation and building rapport. Recreation included hikes at Multnomah Falls and surrounding area, bike riding, reading and writing, etc. The meals were fabulous. All in all, this was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, which in turn, created fallow ground for greater learning.

I highly recommend this seminar for educators. The Great Teacher Seminars are available throughout the country. 

Class of 2015

From the GTM website:

“The National Great Teachers Movement is called a ‘movement’ because it is not associated with, nor does it constitute a corporation or an organization of any kind. Thus, it serves no institutional or commercial interests. There is no headquarters or address, and there are no officials, owners, employees or politics. There are no manuals or handbooks, only a few simple guidelines [Editor’s Note: This web connection created by Steve Smith after the 2nd GT colloquium in 2001].

Everything is passed on by oral tradition in order to prevent the development of any form of true believership or fixed procedure, which might come to be followed to the letter and of which the educational profession would soon tire. The many annual Great Teachers Seminars throughout North America, and now in several foreign countries, exist and persist only because of the initiative and selfless ambition of people who want to share the experience with teachers in their own geographic area.”

Saturday, June 13, 2015

An Introduction to Library Technical Services

An introduction to Library Technical Services slideshow that went with a job interview teaching session I had to give.

It was for a basic introduction to library services class.   The scenario was that we had already covered circulation.

The presentation was very short--like 20 mins.

 Here is a link to the notes for this session:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It isn't just getting people the MLS, or MLIS

It isn't just getting people the MLS, or MLIS.  I've had mine since 2009 and it hasn't done me much good.  Libraries, the ALA and Education is not really interested in equity, inclusion or diversity,  If they were, then they would put their money where there mouths are and make it a priority.  I have been working in libraries since 1987 and personally have not seen a change in representation.  I also have numbers that prove the field has become less diverse.  

I think working together is the way to go, but I also think acknowledging "whiteness" and the privileges that go with it is an important step toward working together.  I'm not even White and I benefit from these privileges because of my lighter skin. I know I have more opportunities (generally) than my darker brothers and sisters. And god forbid they have an accent.  It isn't that hard to acknowledge the privilege--yet people constantly fight this acknowledgement.  

We all benefit from the slavery, land-theft and genocide that occured and continues to occur in the Americas.  Even the poorest people in our culture have a higher standard of living because of the slavery, land-theft and genocide that has happened and is still ongoing.  It isn't hard to see this and acknowledgement is the answer.  Nobody wants anybody to feel bad, but we want acknowledgement.  I liken it to an alcoholic who is in deep denial.  Things won't ever get better until one can acknowledge one has a problem.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Free Speech Should be for Librarians Too

Librarians and Self-censorship
Free Speech Mural
Free speech for librarians comes with unspoken conditions

I encounter many (often young) librarians in real life and online.  One of the most frequent things people tell me is, "How come you are so free with your speech?  I could never talk about those things--I would get fired." or more often, "...I would never land a job!"  

It is striking that librarians consider themselves defenders of free speech and intellectual freedom, but that the above sentiment is held by so many librarians.  

Why are librarians scared to speak about important issues?

I understand about library constituencies, but I'm not talking about library directors here--I'm speaking about regular librarians, or librarians searching for a job.

Last month, I had a session at the Oregon Library Association Conference.  My session was on cannabis resources for librarians.  The session consisted of a panel.  I had invited another knowledgeable librarian to be on the panel.  However, the librarian's director told them that they could not be part of the session.  I found this interesting--especially since the state of Oregon has legalized cannabis for recreational and medical consumption.

Censored and Self-censored 

Anyway, the fact the librarians are scared to speak about certain issues, or to let their staff speak about certain issues because if might offend their constituencies is incredibly offensive to the notion of free speech AND intellectual freedom.  It would be wiser to create a campaign on intellectual freedom and free speech than to censor librarians, or to self-censor--which is the most usual case.  

Librarians should never be scared to talk about issues.  We should never be wary of pointing users to legitimate information sources, not matter what the subject and we should never self-censor.

It is chilling to me to hear so many people who are fearful of speaking out, speaking up or bringing up topics that might make others feel uncomfortable.  One of the main issues with our country is that it avoids issues that are uncomfortable.  This leads to anger, violence and other social issues.  

As librarians, we should feel free to speak our minds, be ready to defend our free speech rights and use, be ready to defend free speech for others and access to information that some may feel should be restricted.  

I have suffered the ramifications of free speech.  In fact, one of the heads of an academic diversity in libraries program recently told me to,  "Never contact me again.  Your rhetoric is weak, and your arguments are unconvincing."

If he doesn't like my arguments, then attack the arguments--don't cut me off from you and your program.  

When things like this happen, and even worse--when they happen in public, these ramifications serve as a model of punishment.  This model informs others of what can happen to them if they speak out, or don't reinforce the status quo.

If we self-censor, how can we ever hope to achieve promote free access to materials, and the free speech of ourselves and others?


How to solve the illegal immigration problem