Saturday, January 5, 2008

Message from BWS Johnson, Guest Librarian

We've been waiting for you to join us.

We share your oppression, but we share your strength. It is safe here to voice all those things that we know are very right, but society tells us are very dangerous.

You are free here.

You are equal here.

These at long last are not the lies you have heard your whole life or since you discovered you were not like everyone else.

We want to come together.

None of us are perfect, but if we all share the good, we can be.

We can learn.

We really don't want those barriers anymore.

When you choose to be a Librarian, you are choosing to really serve and genuinely give back to the community.

Yes, most of any given day, you will just do your job. You will get people the hard information they are looking for. But every now and then, someone will share something of themselves with you. Or you will share something of yourself with them. We are all us. When it happens, it is magic.

You are choosing to teach. You are choosing to share yourself. You are brave. This is not easy.

You are deciding that you want to leave ignorance behind, and that you alone are not the only one that wants to. You are deciding to tear down those gates, to get rid of those fences of separation, to smash that glass ceiling.

You want to believe that anyone at anytime can learn anything, and the more you see it unfold in front of your eyes, the more you will come to accept it.

That anyone really can recognize their potential and act on it.

We know more than anyone else how lofty those goals are, but if we take a Patron by the hand and take the time to walk with them, they will see the good in us and they will share their good in turn.

These things take time to have. Pain takes time to mend.

But if you want to take this up, you can. We want to help. If you do, too, then join us.

Talk with us. Listen to us. We are all related, and we know it.

Contributed by BWS Johnson
University of Illinois
MLS, Class of 2003
E-mail: mhelman(at)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Highlights of the December 2007 ILA "Reporter"

Find out about five of tomorrow's library leaders by reading the article "2007 Recipients of the Sylvia Murphy Williams Scholarship Fund" in the December 2007 issue of the Illinois Library Association's Reporter. The full text of the article can be found in the archive at: Committee Members able to attend the event at the Springfield Conference at the Rib Shack described below had the honor and privilege of meeting Scholarship recipient Robert L. Jones.

Front Row: Sharon Higher, Director of the Shorewood-Troy Public Library and 2007 Chair of I-CARD; Harrish Bhatt, India Association of Greater Springfield
Back Row: Ali Khan, Executive Director of the American Muslim Council, Chicago; Vandella Brown, Illinois State Library Diversity Program and DiversiTea! Moderator; Kay Shelton, Doctoral Student, Northern Illinois University and 2008 Chair of I-CARD; Asra Yousufuddin, Adult Services Librarian, Itasca Community Library

December 2007 Reporter Forum & Committee News
Cultural and Racial Diversity Committee

Kay Shelton
Northern Illinois University

The Cultural and Racial Diversity Committee members engaged in a flurry of activities during the ILA Conference. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of ILA members buying raffle tickets in hopes of winning teapots drawn at the DiversiTea! and the generosity of librarian and recording artist Tracy Worth, we raised over $900 for the Sylvia Murphy Williams Fund! The fund provides additional scholarship money for students who earn the ALA Spectrum scholarship. Thanks to all who bought raffle tickets and to those of you who donate to the fund throughout the year!

This year’s annual DiversiTea! featured three guest speakers on Islam. Harrish Bhatt of the India Association of Greater Springfield began with a beautiful song. Asra Yousufuddin of the Itasca Community Library provided an overview of Islam through
a presentation titled “Muslims 101.” Her presentation included selections of music and stunning images of calligraphy. She is available as a guest speaker. Ali Khan, the Executive Director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago, began by talking about doing his homework in libraries in Poplar Creek and Schaumburg when he was growing up. He regularly speaks at interfaith events and described how Muslims, Jews, and Christians are “all children of Adam and Eve” and Abraham. His talk focused on the interconnectedness of the religions. [He recommended the books on Islam listed at the bottom of this blog.]

In addition to hosting the DiversiTea!, some of the committee members met ALA President Loriene Roy, who graciously found time in her busy schedule to join members for lunch. Vandella Brown, Manager of the Diversity Program at the Illinois State Library, gave an engaging workshop on diversity with audience participation. The African American Librarians of Springfield invited members to their event, “Cultural Awareness: Enhancing Libraries,” held at the Rib Shack. Tracie Hall, Assistant Dean at Dominican University, related stories from her recent trip to South Africa and reminded all who attended that what is important in life are the things we do for others, not the job titles we have. She met a group of women in South Africa who helped each other become business leaders . . . we all could do more to help others, too.

Highlights of the October 2007 ILA "Reporter"

In the October 2007 edition of the Illinois Library Association publication Reporter, Committee Member Barbara Adrianopoli of the Schaumburg Township District Library wrote an excellent summary of why your library needs to hire a diverse staff, which is found below. She is also interviewed along with Committee Member Vandella Brown in an article by Suzanne Arist entitled "Success in Diversity: How Three Illinois Libraries Embrace Multiculturalism." The full text of the article by Arist can be found in the October 2007 issue archived at:

October 2007 Reporter Forum & Committee News
Cultural and Racial Diversity Committee

Barbara Adrianopoli
Schaumburg Township District Library


Diversity is not only a buzzword now but also a reality. We are a nation and a state where in many counties the “minority is now the majority.” That should be reason enough to have a diverse staff. But, there are many other advantages. I spoke with staff who are the picture of this new society. Their responses are included in this “ten reasons for hiring a diverse staff.”

1) Claudia Manriquez Baranowski gives this feedback: “A cultural and diverse staff would benefit policy decision makers in deciding on services and materials needed to benefit specific groups who use the library.”

2) Claudia and others, like Sangeeta Bhargava and Kathy Tourtelot, all said that staff that speak their native language along with English can help non-English speakers who are limited in their verbal English skills with all the services of the library.

3) The staff member who wears the hijab (Muslim woman’s scarf ) offers a comfort level to fellow Muslim women.

4) Hiring staff who reflect the community often brings in an increase of users. It is often good for staff to test this statement by walking into a completely different community’s
business establishment or public building and feel the hesitancy that comes over you.

5) Helen Stewart, a British national, says, “It’s hard to get taken seriously in reference interviews when you aren’t American.”

6) Helen adds that “diverse hiring practices allow you to think outside the box.”

7) The staff and the public both benefit from hiring people from various ethnicities, nationalities, personalities, and ages. We learn from each other. A teen who is into the 2.0 era teaches us the virtual world. The teen is next year’s referendum voter.

8) Some of the older staff members probably marched in the civil rights movement or anti-war marches or fought in the war or fought for breaks in the glass ceilings. This
time it is just a different march, but one for freedom and equality.

9) “Different cultures and races have different mannerisms and different ways of conducting themselves in a given situation,” says Sangeeta. Learning these differences helps us in our interaction and expectations.

10) And on a lighter note, Sangeeta says, “If you are fortunate, you may get to sample ethnic food and receive gifts from a foreign country.”

At the end of each day, the only important matter is that we have helped bring the library’s mission to those we met. The library is truly the place everyone should find refuge, knowledge, and enrichment.