Interview with the Editors: Practicing Social Justice in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

January 17, 2023

Alyssa Brissett and Diana Moronta co-edited Practicing Social Justice in Libraries published in September 2022 by Routledge. My interview with them about the book is below. 

1. Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

Alyssa: Hi, my name is Alyssa Brissett. I’m currently the Head of Reference at Bobst Library with the NYU Division of Libraries. 

Diana: Hi, my name is Diana Moronta. I am currently the Instruction and Technology Librarian at New York Institute of Technology-Manhattan library. 

2. Briefly summarize Practicing Social Justice in Libraries.

Our book provides strategies, resources, and tools for library workers who are interested in creating more just and equitable spaces for their students, colleagues, and communities. It’s a collection of chapters written by library and information workers from various backgrounds, levels of experience, and cultures. To summarize, Practicing Social Justice in Libraries provides practical strategies, tools, and resources to library and information workers and students who wish to drive change in their classrooms, institutions, and communities and incorporate social justice into their everyday practice. It explores how and why library workers are incorporating anti-racist and anti-oppressive work within their everyday roles. 

3. What led you to edit this book?

Alyssa: For me, a big part of it was being able to have more input into research and work being published and promoted. I also wanted to hear from voices that are maybe new or not highlighted enough in the LIS scholarship. Diana and I would often have these conversations about what diversity actually means in our profession and noticed that it was often used as a buzzword and there wasn’t really anything concrete and actionable. We wanted to see and hear from people who were incorporating this work into their day-to-day. It didn’t have to be innovative or flashy, but something that made sense, that worked and that others could adapt. 

Diana: For me, it was to provide clear examples to library students, early career librarians, and any information worker looking to find ways to integrate social justice pillars into their everyday work, through practical initiatives in collection development, instruction, outreach, reference, and many other branches of librarianship, from library practitioners. And to highlight the work and experiences of librarians creating these projects. 

4. How do you hope the book is read?

Alyssa: I hope the book is used in classes for LIS students, and for new librarians who are struggling with how to stay true to their passions and ideals without compromising them for the institution. The chapters all provide manageable, adaptable ideas and strategies. There is also a sense of community in that a lot of these experiences are similar which I hope is helpful to a reader who might be struggling with how to create more inclusive spaces for the students they work with.  

Diana: I hope the book is read as an example of the work librarians are doing to create change in their organizations for their communities and LIS in general. As Alyssa said, the chapters provide strategies, collaborations, and adaptable ideas, and I hope that readers feel inspired to create and move their ideals forward. 

As you read the chapters the authors submitted, is there anything that surprised you?

Alyssa: I think I was most surprised by the vast range of ideas. Nothing felt overdone or unmanageable for the average librarian to do in their daily work. I loved seeing all the expertise and ideas ranging from programming, instruction, libguides to organizational change and self-care and community-building. I knew people were already doing these things but it was really inspiring to me to read these chapters and see the effort that folks put into creating a more equitable society even though they might feel discouraged or setback by their institution and what’s going on in the world. 

Diana: I was surprised to discover the community each of the contributors created while writing the chapters and the similarities in their experiences. It was refreshing to see concrete and successful projects as opposed to theory in these topics. 

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

Alyssa: I hope that readers will get inspired, will feel encouraged and validated. We really wanted to curate a collection of chapters that were not just about the theoretical aspects of doing work in these areas of diversity, equity and inclusion but provided practical strategies and tips and examples of ways that this work can be done everyday. 

Diana: Our aim was to provide a practical guide and blueprint for library workers and students, in addition to highlighting the work that librarians are doing in their communities, and I believe we reached that goal with these chapters. My hope is that readers feel inspired to create their own programs, initiate their own conferences, revamp their collection development policies, and feel guided by the examples presented, and confident in the knowledge that there is a community of people that are successfully moving social justice initiatives forward. 

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her expertise includes information literacy, educational technology, and library and information science education.  Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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