Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Case Study No. 0934: "The 21st Century Black Librarian in America"

The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges
The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges (http://aalbc .it/ blacklibrarian). Two of the book's editors Andrew P Jackson and Akilah S. Nosakhere Editors discuss the book's project. Recorded on April 20, 2013 at the Queens Library's Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center (http://aalbc .it/ lhclcc). Recorded by
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The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges

Editors and contributors discuss the project and read an excerpt from the book, on April 20, 2013 at the Queen's Library Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center

Recorded by AALBC dot com

[scene opens with a man ("Coeditor, Andrew P. Jackson, Executive Director, Queen's Library's Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center") standing at a podium and speaking to the audience]
ANDREW: Editors and many of the contributors to our book, that was published a year ago this April, 2012. "The Twenty-First Century Black Librarian in America, Issues and Challenges." We are happy to have you with us this afternoon, and happy to have so many of the contributors here, many of who come from outta state. My co-editor, I'm really happy to see. We usually see each other at library conferences, is here from New Mexico.
[the audience laughs, as he motions to someone off camera]
ANDREW: She wanted to come to New York anyway, this is just a good enough reason to come.
[the audience laughs]
ANDREW: And we have several of the contributors here, at least nine that I've counted so far. Um, many of them here in this city, several outside the city, and we're glad to have them join us as well. And we're glad to have you, our audience, here ... Uh, here comes another contributor. Margaret, please come up front.
[he looks at someone off camera]
ANDREW: After you get mom settled ... This was a, in its first initial stages, a challenge that was presented to us in a setting not unlike this one. We were speaking at a library conference, and I was challenging the young librarians, that they had a responsibility to follow our mentor, Doctor E. J. Josey.
[he turns and points to something off camera]
ANDREW: The founder of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and an activist librarian, educator, mentor ...
[the camera pans over to show Doctor Josey's portrait being projected on a screen]
ANDREW: Uh, journalist, author, in that he wrote the first book "The Black Librarian in America" in 1970, and then repeated "The Black Librarian in America Revisited" in 1994.
[the camera pans back to Andrew]
ANDREW: And it was my challenge that, when he had finished other books like "What Black Librarians are Saying," that it has now been some sixteen years ... at that point sixteen years, since Doctor Josey had written his work. Uh, Doctor Josey had just passed, uh, earlier that year, and my challenge to the young "newbies" as I called them, was that you have responsibility to stand on Doctor Josey's shoulders. And all of the other librarian ancestors and elders who had written and documented the issues that black librarians had faced in a profession that was somewhere around five percent represented by African American librarians, male and female.
[he moves some books around on the podium]
ANDREW: Uh, and that our issues ... whether it's the issues that sister Thomas faces representing Brooklyn Public Library as an African American woman and Board of Trustees, or whether it's at the reference desk or in academia. Public libraries, school libraries, too often we're just ignored. Overlooked. Uh, we may be at the table, but they just act like we're not there. We're invisible, in many cases.
[he looks down]
ANDREW: And, as many accomplishments and contributions that we've made to the profession, there's still challenges that we find today, and that they needed to be documented as well, and that my challenge to the new librarians was that they should step up and fulfill the responsibility of telling their story, and stories, because we wanted to make sure they represented across the library profession. And before I finished my sentence, somebody from the audience said, "Well, you're like our modern day E.J. Josey! You should do it!"
[the audience laughs]
ANDREW: And Akilah and Julius Jefferson, who works with the Library of Congress in Washington DC, both chimed out ... "Yeah, we'll help you! We'll help you!" So the challenge was thrown back on me, and that's not one of the best things for somebody to do, is to challenge me about something, 'cause then I gotta prove I can do it.
[the audience laughs]
ANDREW: So, the end result is ...
[he holds up a copy of the book]
ANDREW: "The Twenty-First Century Black Librarian in America, Issues and Challenges," published last year by Scarecrow Press. I wrote a letter to Scarecrow Press, documenting the works that Doctor Josey had done and the legacy he'd left us, and the challenge that we would like to issue a new work, and they thought it was a great idea. Uh, we started back and forth negotiating with the publishing company, and started a path that led us for a little over a year, which we're finding out was not a long time in terms of getting a book published, but it was a very good year for us because--
[he looks down]
ANDREW: One, we found out that there were many people who felt that they had something to say, that they wanted to contribute to the book. And that they too wanted to stand on Doctor Josey's shoulders. Uh, we looked at the format that Doctor Josey had taken with his books, and we followed the format that he had followed. Uh, and then added to it, because things had changed with technology and other things in terms of recognition of the profession. But we started to put the book together, we put a call out in late December Two Thousand ... This is "Thirteen," so I gotta remember back now.
[the audience laughs]
ANDREW: Guess it was 2011?
[someone off camera says "Eleven"]
ANDREW: And by early spring, we had over sixty responses. Uh, we selected outta that sixty, which we thought was a great number, a lotta well-written work, we selected ... we wanted to keep it within the framework of what the page numbers that they'd given us for the book, we carved it down to about forty eight--
[cut to two women ("One of the 48 contributors, Sandra Michele Echols and Linda Bannerman-Martin from the Queens Library") standing on the podium and speaking to the audience]
SANDRA: Okay, the title of our essay is "What Does Black Librarianship Look Like in the Proverbial Information Age?" ... And really, for us, the information age is the digital divide. The more you look at what's happening in public schools, what's happening with people having to receive their documents. Just here in New York City, working in a public library, we spend more time helping people navigate the governmental websites than we do introducing them to a book.
[the audience murmurs in agreement]
SANDRA: They will walk through the doors now, "My worker told me I need to go down to the public library to print out my childcare benefit history so I can recertify for public housing" ... and this is real! And a lotta traditional librarians, um, take offense to that. They don't wanna help.
[the other woman nods her head]
SANDRA: But what is information? What is service in the community? It's all about the community, and if this is what the community needs, how do we meet those needs? So, in our book, it's the second paragraph on page fifty three ...
[she looks down and begins reading]
SANDRA: We wrote, "Today's public libraries are changing as a result of the era of new technology and knowledge, combined with the legislation enacted in 2002, resulting in the public library as a community information center. In addition, tough economic times today have been proven pivotal. As evident in the days of Vivian Harsh's work, the role of the black librarian has always encompassed the traditional roles of all librarians. Collection development, acquisitions, cataloguing, classification, circulation, reference work, preservation, conservation. However, throughout history, black librarians have maintained close cultural ties to their community, protected historically cultural information from the loss and damage, and hence, we have added the newly coined term 'cultural keeper' to the responsibilities of black librarianship."
[she stops reading and looks back up at the audience]
SANDRA: So we are cultural keepers, and we have to keep our culture together. We have to enlighten, and then when people come into our branches from the community, and they want the information that they need, we have to keep that and keep giving out the information. Because if we stop giving out the information, where else will ... our people go?
LINDA: Our customers ...
SANDRA: Our customers, constituency base, go? They have no place else to go, but the public library. And, I don't know about anybody else, but I kicked that habit in New York City where I couldn't afford to give them two hundred dollars a month and keep making the billionaires rich, so I only have internet, I don't have cable. And that's because the rates are really really high, and most families today can't afford internet.
LINDA: Mm hmm.
SANDRA: Y'know, the average price for internet is like fifty dollars a month, so how ... where else would they come for their access? The public library.
LINDA: Absolutely.
SANDRA: So, let's keep doing what we're doing ...
LINDA: Thank you.
SANDRA: Thank you.
[the audience applauds, then cut to an image of another woman ("Coeditor Akilah S. Nosakhere, Director of Library Services for New Mexico State University") standing at the podium]



"The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges"
Edited by Andrew P. Jackson, Julius C. Jefferson Jr., and Akilah S. Nosakhere

Publication Date: April 12, 2012 | ISBN-10: 0810882450 | ISBN-13: 978-0810882454

How much have things changed since the publication of E. J. Josey's seminal work, The Black Librarian in America (Scarecrow Press, 1970) and The Black Librarian Revisited (2d ed.; Scarecrow Press, 1994)? Judging by some of the anecdotes and data found throughout the 48 essays in this collection, racism remains a challenge to the profession. The mostly brief (four to five pages) essays cover the professional gamut from school librarianship to special libraries work, and the authors range from library school students to retired individuals, with three excellent editors helming the project. Naturally with such breadth and variety the quality will vary, but the immediacy of the personal stories are most striking and thought provoking, even though their individuality raises questions of just how prevalent racism is. The matter of diversity and relatively low number of black professional librarians runs through many of the essays, but all too often some basic questions are not addressed. Are blacks not entering the profession because of white attitudes, or is it a matter of higher pay and more opportunity in other fields? Is librarianship itself as attractive a profession as it was 40 years ago, or is it seen as a going the way of buggywhip salesmanship to new generations? Overall, this is a fine work that could open up discussion in the field, much in the way that Josey's work did in the twentieth century. This work is recommended for all library science collections.



The 1970 and 1994 editions of The Black Librarian in America by E.J. Josey singled out racism as an important issue to be addressed within the library profession. Although much has changed since then, this latest collection of 48 essays by Black librarians and library supporters again identifies racism as one of many challenges of the new century.

Essays are written by library educators, library graduate students, retired librarians, public library trustees, veteran librarians, and new librarians fresh out of school with great ideas and wholesome energies. They cover such topics as poorly equipped school libraries and the need to preserve the school library, a call to action to all librarians to make the shift to new and innovative models of public education, the advancement in information technology and library operations, special libraries, recruitment and the Indiana State Library program, racism in the history of library and information science, and challenges that have plagued librarianship for decades.

This collection of poignant essays covers a multiplicity of concerns for the 21st-century Black librarian and embodies compassion and respect for the provision of information, an act that defines librarianship. The essays are personable, inspiring, and thought provoking for all library professionals, regardless of race, class, or gender.

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