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ARL Membership Convenes Online for Fall 2021 Association Meeting, “The Big Pivot Continues”

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Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member representatives, committee members, guests, and staff convened for the 179th Association Meeting via videoconference September 28–October 6, 2021. Meeting participants discussed the ongoing “big pivot” required by the COVID-19 pandemic and the concurrent epidemic of racist violence. The program featured sessions on activating the physical spaces of research libraries; pursuing truth, reconciliation, and transformation; and leading through disruption and change.

Prior to the program sessions, the Association Committees met September 28–30, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors met on October 1, and the full Board met on October 4 and 6. On October 5, then ARL President John Culshaw, the Jack B. King University Librarian at The University of Iowa, convened the Business Meeting. The membership ratified the election of the new vice president/president-elect and the treasurer, elected four new Board members, and voted to invite the University of California, Santa Cruz to become an ARL member, effective January 1, 2022.

Culshaw convened the programmatic portion of the Association Meeting on October 6. Claire Stewart, chair of the Association Meeting Program Planning Task Force and dean of University Libraries at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, introduced the program. The first program session focused on “Library as Place” as people return to campus during the pandemic. Joan Lippincott, associate executive director emerita of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), introduced the session and its three speakers: Justin Garrett Moore, program officer, Humanities in Place, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Shrey Majmudar, senior at Duke University and Duke Student Government’s chief of staff; and Kornelia Tancheva, The Hillman University Librarian and Director, University of Pittsburgh. Moore discussed examples from his background of evaluating libraries for New York City, noting that community context is key to understanding the best way to make a space accessible and inclusive. (See Moore’s slides.) Majmudar presented the student perspective on library as place during the pandemic and predicted that partnerships—for example with campus IT and offices of institutional equity—will become even more vital for ensuring safe, welcoming, accessible places for all to study and learn. (See Majmudar’s slides.) Tancheva discussed the recent renovation of Hillman Library, which includes many new lab spaces that enable hands-on learning through technology unavailable to everyone elsewhere on campus. (See Tancheva’s slides.)

Joy Kirchner, dean of libraries for York University, moderated the second session on “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation in the US and Canada.” Kirchner led a discussion with the two speakers, Sheila Cote-Meek, vice-president, Equity, People and Culture, York University, and Bryan Brayboy, President’s Professor, School of Social Transformation and director of the Center for Indian Education, Arizona State University. Kirchner opened with an acknowledgement of the recent first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada (September 30). Cote-Meek reflected on the meaning of the day, noting it was a stark reminder of the intentional burying of ugly truths and a reminder of the need to ask who decides which knowledge is collected, saved, and used. Brayboy asked, “What does it mean when the realization of someone else’s hopes and dreams means the erasure of those of another?” and said, “Truth is hard particularly when it has been erased by generations of myth that have become ‘truth.’ ” Both speakers urged librarians to ask whose voice is missing, what knowledge is absent. Brayboy said, “Librarians can push the boundaries of what kinds of knowledge matter…[and] imbue the silence with meaning.”

Mark A. Puente, associate dean for organizational development, inclusion, and diversity, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies, moderated the third and final session of the day. This session was a conversation with members of the 2020–2021 Leadership and Career Development Program (LCDP) Fellows Cohort, who first met in person on March 4, 2020, and have only met virtually since then due to the pandemic. (The cohort named itself the Pandemons.) Puente asked the fellows to discuss the greatest takeaways from participating in the LCDP, observations about cultivating organizational culture during this time of disruption, what current and future leaders of color need from the library and archives profession, reactions to WOC + LIB’s “Statement against White Appropriation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’s Labor,” and how ARL can be accountable to the LCDP and this cohort. The fellows’ most-valued aspect of the LCDP was the cohort itself and the professional community it has given them. Kindness and compassion were the key things cited for leading an organization through this time when the personal and professional became so intertwined. There was a spirited discussion of the need for established leaders to intentionally create pathways and opportunities for new leaders of color, to make room for and listen to people of color, and to consciously work to change their organizational cultures so people of color can thrive in them. Puente ended the session with a note of encouragement by quoting Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy: “When we engage in this work, in spite of being exposed to the brutal facts, we have to maintain hope.”

At the conclusion of the meeting on October 6, Culshaw recognized the member representatives who will retire or step down before the Spring 2022 Association Meeting. Culshaw welcomed K. Matthew Dames, the ​​Edward H. Arnold University Librarian at the University of Notre Dame, to his one-year term as ARL president. Dames adjourned the meeting.

A video recording of the October 6 program of the meeting [login required] is available for ARL member representatives through Monday, November 8.

ARL will hold its Spring 2022 Association Meeting on April 26–28 in Toronto, Ontario, with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

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