by Candise Branum, ACRL-Oregon President
As a first-time Board member and first-time President, the past year has been quite a handful. Even with the tremendous challenges that 2020 has thrown our way, I have really and truly enjoyed my time as your ACRL-Oregon President. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to collaborate with a group of compassionate and engaged individuals, people who are dedicated to making libraries more equitable. So with my Presidential term coming to a close, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the bright spots from ACRL-Oregon leadership over the past year.
One of the primary goals of ACRL-Oregon is advocacy work. This past year, our first major challenge came in the face of academic libraries being asked to remain open during the first major wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, ACRL-OR created a public statement in support of academic libraries protecting our staff by closing our doors, including writing a letter to HECC. One thing that the Board has recently been pondering is how we can best support library staff who are experiencing COVID-19 related setbacks, and what that support system could look like. We started a Slack channel for academic librarians to share resources and ideas, and published the “How We Work During the Pandemic” series for the blog, but if people have other ideas about what this support could look like, please email me!
In addition to ad-hoc advocacy work, ACRL-Oregon also expanded our webinar offerings to one free webinar every other month. With the cancellation of the Joint Conference at Menucha, we decided to extend our online educational opportunities this summer and into fall, including reaching out to people who were slated to present at the cancelled OLA Conference. We’ve also updated our website to include a space dedicated to ACRL National webinars, with explicit instructions for local members on how to take advantage of viewing these webinars for free.
(Speaking of our website, we’ve also been working on some critical updates. We know: it is ugly as sin. It’s also not accessible, and that is a serious problem. We are putting the finishing touches on our updated template, and are hoping to debut our new website this fall.)
Finally, the Board developed a few new coordinator positions. We now have a membership coordinator (focused on recruiting new members as well as retaining and engaging current members), a blog content lead (who collaborates with the Communications Coordinator to ensure create an editorial process for blog content), and a representative to the newly created OLA Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce. We are hoping these positions will help us to build a framework in ACRL-OR that will ensure that our policies are equitable, and that our group is moving towards being actively anti-racist.
So… yeah. Even though this year has been challenging, we are still getting it done. We are all figuring out how to work safely, and trying to support one another during COVID-19. While surviving a pandemic, we are also doing the uncomfortable and necessary work of investigating and dismantling White supremacy at our organizations. All of this work is exhausting, and we all have to think carefully how to best balance our mental and physical health with this necessary work. But I’m also excited about the possibilities, as we are starting to see real changes. Many schools are either disarming campus security or removing police presence completely, and there is a momentum for organizations to move beyond lip-service and to commit to creating systemic changes that benefit not just our White and cisgendered staff and community members. With remote learning, COVID safety, and budget cuts, it is easy for people (especially White people) to deprioritize racial and social justice work, but now is absolutely the time to keep your foot on the gas.
As I enter my term as the Past President, I want to thank Meredith Farkas for both her leadership and friendship — she has served as both a mentor and a facilitator during my time on the Board, and I truly appreciate her passion for making the profession better. I am so excited to work with Rachel Bridgewater as the incoming President, Emily Ford as our Vice President, and the rest of our new and existing Board members in continuing to serve the academic library community and move forward in making our field more equitable.
ACRL-OR President (2019-2020)