At SLA 2020, Lucidea hosted a panel titled LAMS: More Alike Than Different, with panelists Margot Note, Sonya Fogg, and Rachael Woody (myself). The discussion offered much to dig into; this is Part 4 of the miniseries wherein I present the four main issues we covered and my response to them.
Those issues are: disaster preparedness, precarious labor, the physical versus digital nature of the work, and generational change.
When the Libraries Archives Museums (LAM) panel was initially planned it was pre-COVID and we already had several large issues we wanted to tackle. While the onset of the pandemic didn’t change the entirety of our focus, it did lend an additional lens to view the challenges and opportunities LAMs face together.
You can review the previous posts here:
This post will focus on the last of the four issues: Generational Change.
What does it look like to have LAMs “entrenched in history”? What are we doing or not doing to make these places welcoming to users and employees? What do we do to make these places more open to people of all races, ages, cultural backgrounds, etc.? What does inclusive and welcoming look like?
First, I’m in an active learning phase with this topic. What I provide here are my thoughts as of this moment, and are by no means complete or exhaustive.
What We Are Doing
Here’s what I believe the majority of LAMs are doing and pursuing in order to help achieve a welcoming environment:
- There’s interest in creating a welcoming environment
- LAMs are seeking education and resources to understand DEAI
- LAMs have crafted DEAI statements
And, What We’re Not Doing
And there are things we’re not doing, but should be doing:
- LAMs aren’t valuing staff in our neglect to offer appropriate compensation
- LAMS aren’t prioritizing staff safety and well-being during this pandemic
- LAMs aren’t deconstructing hiring practices and reconstructing them with DEAI in mind
- LAMs aren’t changing quickly enough. People who hold leadership positions must represent the actual population demographics being served.
What Do We Need to Do Better for the Community?
Here are the areas that I believe should be prioritized for LAM staff when serving the community:
- Create demographically appropriate content and spaces
- Include the very demographics in content and space creation that have traditionally been ignored
What Can Being Inclusive Look Like?
Here are just a few thoughts on how to get started on real change:
- Change the face of leadership and staff to accurately represent the community you serve.
- Offer appropriately compensated jobs and apply DEAI to your hiring practices—to do this hire an outside firm led by a BIPOC person.
- Create physical and virtual spaces that are accessible and adaptable to differently abled persons and learning modalities.
Breaking with Tradition: Creating Connections in the Archives with New Types of Access (webinar)
Specific to creating a welcoming environment for our community, I recently teamed up with Bridgett Kathryn Pride to deliver a webinar focused on how we can break down our intimidating façade and achieve a welcoming (to all audiences) environment. While the webinar is focused on archive collections to suit Pride’s experience, the strategies shared in the webinar are applicable to any types of LAM organizations that makes collections available to the community.
Abstract: When the general public is introduced to the archives it’s often an intimidating experience. Our ceremony of white gloves, use of expensive boxes, and enforcement of heavily restricted collections access all serve to intimidate and dissuade new users. Whether we intend to or not, archivists are sending the message that they are the gatekeepers of the collection and only “serious business” can be conducted with the collections. So, how do we break that messaging down? How can we serve up the collections in a way that is not only inviting, but inspirational? Rachael Woody is teaming up with Bridgett Kathryn Pride to talk about breaking down archival barriers, empowering novice users, and creating points of access to collections through artful guidance.
Co-Presenter: Rachael Woody is the owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC. After a successful tenure at the Smithsonian Institution and the Oregon Wine History Archive, Woody established her consultancy to teach archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations how to take care of their collections and share them with their audiences in new and exciting ways. Woody has extensive experience in archival outreach and advocacy and serves on SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness. She also created and co-sponsored the Archivist-in-Residence (paid internship) program at Northwest Archivists, and serves on several salary advocacy committees.
Co-Presenter: Bridgett Kathryn Pride, the Reference Librarian of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division and Art and Artifacts Division within the New York Public Library. Bridgett is a part of the inaugural class of Rare Book School fellows for Cultural Heritage, focusing on multicultural collections in libraries and archives. Bridgett received her MLIS, and a MA in History from Simmons University in 2018. She was a part of the Diversity, Equity, Race, Accessibility, and Identity in LIS (DERAIL) forum, and served as the 2018 project manager. Bridgett was awarded the 2018 Kenneth Shaffer Outstanding Student Award for student leadership. She studies American women and their intersectional identities with gender, race, and class in the 19th and 20th centuries; and activism documented through zine making.
For more information and resources on museums navigating generational change please see these posts from Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:
We touched on a lot of issues in this four-part miniseries and while COVID-19 added a new dimension to them, we can honestly say that the challenges presented to us weren’t new. As awful as the pandemic has been—and it has been awful—it’s forced us to rethink our set of challenges in a new way, and we hopefully we’ll find the fortitude to solve for them.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to following the links in this post, learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for virtual presentation of collections, visitor engagement, and museum staff productivity and impact.
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