Fall is my favorite time of the year. The air turns crisp; holy days and holidays—both religious and secular—come in quick succession; hope for the school year abounds; and heritage, awareness, and history months are in full swing. Embracing these celebrations, identities, and hopes is foundational to our shared core values of diversity, lifelong learning, and social responsibility. The importance of representation resonates across these values. Helping people feel seen and heard—and assisting them in solidifying their place in our society’s fabric—are roles that libraries play in building community. Our values are essential to our future as institutions, library workers, and library lovers.
The library ecosystem encompasses the life cycles of both our users (to provide representation and touchstones at each stage of a person’s life) and library workers (to assist at each stage of our careers). Seasons come and go, but libraries are always present: creating community, ensuring representation, and upholding our values. Here are some roles in the library ecosystem and the potential each one holds:
- As library workers. When we bring our whole selves to work and make connections with our users, we do our best work. Our personal identities allow patrons to see themselves in those who have power and authority in an institution, and our openness fosters partnership, empowering patrons in a world that often strips them of autonomy.
- As library supporters and lovers. When we are represented and full partners with the library, we become the best advocates; we fight to ensure they remain for generations to come.
- As institutions. When we use an equity lens and remember we serve our communities and library workers in all their identities, we become community centers and places of connection.
- As an association. When we understand the complexities that make up the ecosystem and the cycles that go along with it, we harness the strength of these networks to focus on our mission and advocate on the local and national levels to ensure information access.
At the American Library Association (ALA), members of the library ecosystem come together to ensure information access for all. Our divisions, round tables, and affiliates create spaces for representation around our varied identities to do this essential work. As leaders in embracing intersectionality, ALA is home to the Rainbow Round Table, the oldest LGBTQ+ professional organization in the country. We have awards celebrating authors of color like the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and the Pura Belpré Award, given in conjunction with Reforma, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.
We also partner with our affiliates to embrace representation, collaborating on projects and highlighting awards from the National Associations of Librarians of Color and the Association of Jewish Libraries, among others. Our divisions advocate for representation of our members, like the American Association of School Librarians supporting legislation that acknowledges the vital role of certified school librarians. And of course, we support library workers of all backgrounds with the tools needed to support their journeys in the library ecosystem.
This fall, as we celebrate our intersectionalities through events like Library Card Sign-Up Month and Banned Books Week, remember that both representation and our core values root us in what matters: creating community and ensuring information access for all.