Six Months In, a DEI Progress Check

The deadly (and resurgent) COVID-19 pandemic has forced every segment of society—from national governments and multinational businesses to local communities and schools—to change their routines and alter their plans for the future. Conversely, the other major social upheaval of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement, has inspired those same entities to rethink their practices, chart different directions, and engage new ideas and audiences.

The Special Libraries Association exemplifies the latter trend. On June 2, one week after the death of George Floyd at the the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, SLA issued a statement pledging to reflect on the association’s role in perpetuating institutional racism and identify opportunities to instill greater respect for the ideas and voices of those who have been excluded because of racism.

“As an association committed to equity—in access to information, in availability of opportunities, and in the treatment of our members, our industry partners, and all with whom we engage and interact—SLA is adding its voice to the growing chorus of calls for an end to racism and the unequal treatment and violence it fosters toward Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC),” the statement read. “We urge those who share our commitment to use this tragic event as an inflection point, a moment where we change the trajectory of our mission and vision and seek a higher calling.”

Since releasing that statement, SLA has presented several online learning programs that address racism and foster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), including “What Would You Do: Strategies for Dealing with Implicit Bias in the Workplace” and “Social Justice and Bringing Change.” SLA’s 2020 Annual Conference in October featured a two-day DEI workshop, a keynote presentation on belonging, and several sessions on DEI topics, such as the following:

  • Fostering Diversity in Science: Physics Roundtable;
  • Fighting Bias, One Search at a Time; and
  • Witnessing Whiteness in LIS.

Now, almost six months to the day after releasing the statement against racism, SLA is conducting a virtual roundtable that will look at DEI initiatives at the Medical Library Association (MLA). The roundtable—a follow-up to a similar presentation on September 17 featuring the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), a U.K. group—will allow SLA to learn about DEI initiatives in, and “measure” its progress and programs against, another organization that represents specialized librarians.

The virtual roundtable, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives at Library Associations II,” will be held Thursday, December 3, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. Led by Tom Nielsen on behalf of SLA’s Diversity, Inclusion, Community, and Equity community (DICE), the roundtable will feature 2018-2019 MLA President Beverly Murphy and Executive Director Kevin Baliozian and will include a discussion about SLA’s DEI initiatives.

“The main goal of the roundtable is for our members who are interested in DEI to hear what other similar organizations are doing and maybe get ideas for how we could move forward on this track at SLA,” Tom says. “Acknowledging the issue and discussing solutions are important ways we show our commitment to DEI within SLA. I also think it’s beneficial for SLA to proactively reach out to other library organizations as a way of saying we’re committed to this at our organization and we want to inform our work with ideas and policies they have implemented, but also to keep the door open for more dialogue across organizations on this and/or other topics.”

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