Get on the list people….

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a blog.  That minute has now passed.  All I have to say is:

GET ON THE LIST!!!!

CIVIL SERVICE LIST THAT IS…..

Believe it or not, many of the Librarians of color working in Brooklyn, Queens and the New York Public Library have Nassau/Suffolk County addresses.

Take the civil service test, and see what happens.  We need diversity out here in suburbia.

SKS

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Celebrate YOUR Black History Moment…seriously, it’s ok

Love this picture!

Love this picture!

So February has arrived!  How can we make the most of the month designated to honor the contributions of the various rays of the African Diaspora?  I’ve chosen two ways to commemorate this month.  One is personal and the other is a reflection on my work as a Librarian.
Personal Celebration
Each of us who happen to find our roots springing out of Africa have a celebratory moment found within our family tree.  Actually the fact that our ancestors survived and we were born is a celebration in itself.  The odds were against those stolen Africans sent to North and South America, but their beautiful descendants are here to testify to the ancestral strength of the first comers DNA.  That being said, each of us can look to someone in our family tree and meditate upon their accomplishments.  For me I’ve chosen two such people.  The first is my maternal grandfather, Guy Van Hackworth Sr.  Looking back this Alabama born and raised farmer could have easily found himself cast as a character in a contemporary Coe Booth novel.

His older siblings father was lynched, depending on which story you believe he was killed because he passed for white or he was killed because a mentally disturbed white girl accused him of bad behavior; perhaps it was a combination of both.  My great grandmother gave birth to my grandfather after two years of widowhood.  Unfortunately, my grandfather was an “outside” child and his already married father did not lay claim to him.  Eventually his biological father moved his legitimate family to Birmingham including my grandfather’s younger sister (born months a part) where he was killed in the Marvel mines in 1926.  Wouldn’t you agree that this is the makings for a sad story perhaps the cause for my grandfather’s heavy drinking, wife beating, promiscuous ways?

I’m proud to say that Guy Hackworth chose not to become his own tragedy.  He married Mary Lucy, my grandmother and raised 10 children.  After 10 years he saved up enough money to purchase his own land.  He was his own man.  More importantly he did not indulge in drink and followed the Bible’s admonition to treat his wife as himself which resulted in a loving marriage.  For his children he gave each the option to pursue higher education, which is monumental for Black people living in the Jim Crow south in Alabama.  My mother earned her teaching certificate from Selma University as well as one of her younger sisters.  Grandfather also lived to see his eldest grandson (whom he raised), my oldest brother accepted to Troy State ( the same school that rejected Congressman John Lewis before integration).
ArthurineI also want to celebrate my cousin Arthurine Juanita Lucy, the first black student to attend the University of Alabama.

So who will you celebrate from your family history this glorious month?

Professional Celebration

I could rant and rant about the lack of diversity in literature, especially YA literature.  I could write essay upon essay about the irony of how the masses will read anything deemed worthy by Queen Oprah (a black woman straight out of Mississippi) but heaven help us if they choose to read for themselves a book with a person of color on the cover. I’ll save that rant for another day.

I choose to celebrate the successful author’s visit that the teens I serve had with Ayala Dawn Johnson, author of The Summer Prince.  This celebration isn’t about the book, which in itself is unique in today’s offering of YA titles.  You can find only one or two white minor characters in the story. What?!!?  Oh snap!  All I’m saying is that it’s refreshing to see a brown, brown world sometimes.

I’m celebrating the teens reaction to Johnson and the message she conveyed to them.  I’m paraphrasing, but she told the audience that she made a conscious  decision NOT to include white characters in her story.  She wanted to write about characters who looked like her and the people in her world.  It was a gutsy gamble that paid off.  She created a science fiction novel that embraced people of color and Arthur Levine published it.  The novel became a finalist for 2013 Book Award.  Writing about people of color did not lessen her work, nor did it ghettoize it.  Johnson made a connection that night and one of the most reluctant male readers I’ve ever encountered purchased a copy of the book after her program.  His mother was almost hysterical with joy when she learned of his purchase.

Black History1

The author Ayala Dawn Johnson (center) and some of the teen patrons from my library.

                                                                                  This I celebrate.

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We’re (Black people, African Americans) not as paranoid as you think!

Yes!  Brothers and Sisters it has been confirmed.  “It” something that we all know… has been confirmed by someone of the “majority” and a fellow librarian!

We are not paranoid!

At this point you may be asking yourself, “what is she talking about?”  Racism dear friends, racist notions, ideas, perceptions for the purpose of practicality, hiring practices!

A few months ago in a popular Facebook Librarian group page, the topic of the “lack of diversity” came up in a discussion thread.  One brave Librarian on the thread admitted the following:

“I have been on more than one hiring committee that has rejected the African American female candidate because she is “aggressive” or some other racist stereotype. When I have brought it up I have more than once been accused of being racist for noticing color. These are urban library systems and “good” liberal white people. In other words, this stuff runs incredibly deep, it is structural, if is not about individual white people and men although it also is. We need hiring guidelines that mandate diversity or we just won’t get it.”

Reading the above statement was a powerful moment for me.  I’ve had other African American librarians complain to me that when we take the initiative, or try to assume leadership roles, we’re perceived (by the white majority) as being aggressive or negative. 

Brothers and Sisters! Listen up!  It’s not us, it’s not us. 

Can we do anything about it?  I believe so. 

We can:
Recruit young people of color into the profession.
Always bring our A game to work, don’t be afraid to be perceived as that angry black person, when all your doing is taking a leadership role.
Network with other professionals of all colors don’t segregate yourself.
Don’t segregate ourselves, but continue to support and take an active role in “our” organizations such as the BCALA; we need to encourage and support one another. 

Ending on the positive: Have you joined the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) yet?  If not, click on the link below.

http://www.bcala.org/

 

 

 

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Librarian’s Brew (Thank you Miles Davis)

The cover art from Bitch's Brew - Miles Davis

The cover art from Bitch’s Brew – Miles Davis

This is an article that was published by ALA/APA in Library Worklife back in 2009.  I hope that you enjoy:

That Librarians are socially handicapped individuals—whose lives revolve around dusty books, tweed skirts, orthopedic shoes and their six or seven cats—is a misconception that needs to go the way of the Dodo bird. Reality presents a different portrait of the local neighborhood public librarian. In my experience, the vast majority of librarians are modern, social people who wear many hats in both their professional and personal lives. I’m the Young Adult librarian at a busy suburban library in Nassau County, NY. A typical work day for me includes collection development, working the reference desk in the Youth Services room, weeding my existing collection, preparing for a book discussion and supervising the library’s teen volunteers. I’m responsible for all aspects of young adult programming and at times you may catch me writing a grant proposal. I also work part-time as a librarian at another library one Saturday & Sunday per month.

In addition to my professional responsibilities, I’m enrolled in a Post-Masters Public Library Management course offered by a nearby university. I’m the mother of a busy toddler and, as of 2008, I wear the title “Army Wife” (my husband is a member of the NY National Guard, and he ships off in May 2010 to begin his basic training). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining, I enjoy my work, and I’m fortunate not to be micromanaged by my supervisor or Director. With so many things going on in my life, and from my conversations with my equally busy coworkers, I can attest that many librarians are in danger of burning out. It is essential to find balance especially if one is starting to feel overwhelmed. How, then, can one find balance? The answer depends on whom you question.

For me, my balance comes from my family and my religion. The family values and religious teachings on which I was raised with help me keep work in its proper place with the knowledge that it’s okay to let the mundane things of your life (including work) take a respite while you devote time to spiritual things. My husband and I have goals that we’re working hard to obtain (he also works a fulltime and a part time job in addition to his National Guard duties), but we also make time for ourselves and our little family. Reading and listening to books on CD are also ingredients that I add to my balance stew. Others might find balance in hobbies like hiking, knitting, or socializing. The important thing is to take a moment and decide what will help YOU to continue walking the line between YOU the librarian and YOU the private person. The cats are optional.

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Should we “pass” professionally if we want to get ahead?

Image

Black people have always had to walk the fine line of the black world and the white world.  This fact has been our people’s reality going back to slavery; the behavior of the slaves in the quarters among themselves wasn’t the same as the slaves in the presence of Massa or the Overseer.  Some black people due to the gamble of genetics made the choice to forsake their blackness and passed for white and thus were relieved of the stress and burden of walking that balancing line.  It’s my opinion that as a black librarian I too can make that choice to forsake my blackness and offer the same programming as everyone else OR commit myself to culturally significant programs for the community I serve.

I must admit that my situation is unique, I work in a black and latino community.  If I worked in a predominantly white community then I don’t think that I could do what I do.  As a result I’ve purposely offered programs that are custom tailored to the cultural, educational, and racial needs of the teens that I serve.  I feel that it is my duty as an African American adult to give back to my community and focusing on programs that empower the Black and Latino teens that I serve is my way of giving back.  Of course I offer traditional library programs including seasonal crafts or food workshops, but what really excites me are the programs that incite the teens to speak about topics such as self hatred, ethnic tensions, the media etc.

Am I pigeonholing myself?

Some of my “majority” colleagues have expressed dismay because I’m “overstepping” my boundaries as a Librarian.  I should focus on disseminating information, on just giving back what the patrons have specifically requested.  Really?   Am I hurting my career development by basically trying to have an impact on the lives of the teens that I work with on daily basis?  I’ve received national recognition for some of the programs I’ve planned and implemented.  But does this only make me a good librarian for minorities?  I like to think that I’m a good Librarian future administrator, period.  My conscience choice to focus on empowering teens of color can only make me a stronger professional because I’ve created my own patterns, nothing I do is not from a YA programming “cookie cutter pattern.”

For my other black public librarians, as you walk that line and possibly have to make a choice about the type of programming you offer, don’t be afraid to make your own patterns.  Even if you work in an all white community, can you still find a way to enlighten your patrons about your race or maybe even their own ethnic heritage.

Don’t be afraid to stand out from the pack by offering book discussions, workshops, crafts, etc that have a cultural impact on your patrons.

Speaking of Passing: 
One of my favorite works of literature by an often unsung literary master storyteller, Nella Larsen.
Image

So what do you think about “professional passing?”

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Black Librarians: We’re a nuturing sort of folk.

BlackLibrarian

Did you know that black folks have a history of supporting one another?  Segregation, institutional racism, Jim Crow and the Klan forced black people to form their own communities where they nurtured and supporting their neighbors.  We still can find vestiges of this today.  Black librarians are not the majority in the profession and at times this is very obvious when you walk into your local public library.  As a result I truly believe that when we see another one in the mix we try to help that person…think of the “racial nod” or the “knowing gaze” when two black people see each other in room filled with white faces.

BCALA

I encourage all black library students and librarians to join the Black Caucus of the ALA.  Why?  You need that knowing “nod” or that pat on the back from someone with a similar cultural experience.  It’s healthy and reaffirming to you as the Librarian.  Recently I posted the following on the BCALA FB group page:

“For some reason the professionals in this group respect each other and I haven’t seen any signs of cyber bullying.  Do folks have any suggestions as to why this is the case and perhaps how it can be promoted in other groups?”

One seasoned African American Librarian left a thoughtful response:

“Could it be that we are doers who contribute, accomplish, support, mentor, celebrate ourselves and each other? The adult bullies I know, in the profession and elsewhere, are lacking in most of these attributes.”

Truth!

Are you an African American Librarian who may feel isolated, ignored, or attacked?  Don’t give up, seek out positive like minded mature colleagues who will nurture not tear you down.  You’re a doer or a potential doer who can make a difference in the lives of the patrons you serve and the librarian community.

This little known “Black Librarian Fact” has been brought to you today by the “Sable Voice in Library Land.”

Check out this link:

www.Librarianwardrobe.com send in your pic.  We need more sepia faces on that page.

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Professional Librarian Attire. Does ethnic/racial culture play a role?

Disclaimer:  This is just my opinion on why professional attire is my preference I’m not attacking anyone and I’m definitely not speaking for ALL black librarians

Building a Professional Wardrobe___The Basics

What’s pictured above is my professional style taste, mind you I have my off days (there’s a cellphone picture of me in a “what the he.. was she thinking”  summer jump suit floating in somebody’s icloud); but the majority of time I try to keep it professional looking.  Recently I posted a thought similar to this on a VERY popular librarian FB group page.  I’m a YA librarian and I  was trying to express my desire for a more professional look to pop into people’s head when my the title Teen or YA librarian is mentioned.  I had the audacity to mention pink haired librarians as a common image for YA librarians.  The Kraken was unleashed!  Some viewed my comments as a personal attack, yada, yada.  If you’re team “Rainbow Brite is my inspiration” cool. If you’re team “Lumberjack Diva” or “I like to rock what the folks are wearing in assisted living” cool.  We’re all different with different opinions, I had to be “I may not like her choices in her love life but Olivia Pope’s fashion sense is my inspiration.

I must admit….I despise leggings on anyone beyond the age of 10, yeah I said it…two tears in a bucket…What?

This past summer at ALA, I noticed that most of the black librarians didn’t really go for the more “relaxed” look.  I saw summer suits, smart dresses, professional mixing and matching.  Is it a cultural thing, perhaps?

Some of our ancestors, no matter how poor always put on their Sunday Best when out of the fields.  Perhaps it’s been programmed into our cultural and social DNA to put a little extra into our outward appearance at work.

Southern Sharecroppers may have lived in poverty but they pulled out their best for Sunday Worship.

Southern Sharecroppers may have lived in poverty but they pulled out their best for Sunday Worship.

What’s your taste in a professional wardrobe?

Do your self a favor, watch this tomorrow night, the latest Dr. Henry Louis Gates documentary:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/arts/television/the-african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross-on-pbs.html

 

 

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