Understand global perspectives on effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being.
A Passion for Ensuring that
Information Practices Support and Heal Communities
Section 1 of 4:
An Introduction to What Competency O Means to Me and to Library and Information Science
Why Competency O is Important to Me as a Professional:
This is a big one for me. I want to talk about narrative. Specifically, I want to let you look through a window I have learned many people never see through. Why are effective information practices that are supportive of cultural and social well-being important to me? I have learned, as I’ve aged and as I’ve travelled, that the geographic region I inhabited for much of my life was not a world that those not from there recognized or understood. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana. I no longer live in the south, and living in other areas of the U.S. has felt like a large enough cultural adjustment to me that I liken it to living in a different country that does not understand the places I am from and my experiences there. I have constantly struggled with being able to explain to others what I have seen and experienced growing up in a region that struggles with intense racism, sexism, homophobia, and inequity. I have learned that I can best express this to you in stories.
I identify as, and am perceived as, white in a culture that has been built for whiteness. I was raised in a city that legally segregated itself in 2018 without officially using the word "segregation" (Clark, 2019). I encourage you to read up on Baton Rouge vs. St. George. It's horrifying.
In this same city, in that same year, I was walking to work when I found a bloody, unconscious, man who was Black, in the middle of the sidewalk. I was not the only person around. No one had acknowledged that there was a visibly injured and unconscious person lying on the ground and not moving. Only once I had stopped to help, did other people seem to pop out of the woodwork, all expressing concern...for me. They were worried I might get hurt. The fact that no one else stopped, or even expressed concern for this man, and that people only reacted once I had already called for help, and that they were mainly concerned for me, was incredibly horrifying. The more I think about it, the more it upsets me. The day that this occurred had been a rare day where I had put effort into my appearance. I was a (somewhat) well dressed, white, small, womxn. People were reacting for my safety, but there was a visibly injured, older, Black, unconscious, man lying on the ground, unresponsive, and twitching, and no one stopped. No one else tried to help him. This is an example of white privilege. There was a human being who needed immediate help and people who could have helped looked the other way.
The next month, in that same city, I saw a march made up of 99% white men, shirtless, carrying American flags and what looked like assault rifles slung casually across their bare shoulders, wrists dangling over the barrels as they walked down the street towards me. They were being escorted down a highway by ambulances with flashing lights as they marched with their guns. This was less than two years after, only 2.5 miles away, Alton Sterling, a man who was Black, was shot and killed by police for selling CDs at a local food mart. These white marchers had signs like "don't fuck with our guns", and were all wearing something (be it strictly underwear, bandanas, or gym shorts) in army green. It made me feel sick and hopeless to see this.
This brings us to the concept of narrative. The above examples from my life are also examples of what happens when information practices - when the narratives that people are provided and believe - completely fail at supporting cultural and social well-being. The people who voted to segregate Baton Rouge, LA, as far as I am aware, do not consider themselves racist. The people who turned away from a man bleeding on the ground were my coworkers, were neighbors, were social work professionals and first responders. The people marching down the road with rifles and being supported by government first responders did not see the disconnect between their treatment and Alton Sterling’s. Are these all bad people? I don't have an answer for that. I don’t know the narratives they believe about themselves or about their own actions. But I do have my own observations and an extensive knowledge of information practices and of the importance of narrative.
Until the nationwide movement for racial justice took hold in 2020, when I would tell people who were not from the south about my experiences like these, I was often not believed, or treated like I was making things up, or that maybe I did not understand the situation. I have learned that many do not understand or believe that things like this happen everyday in the U.S. I believe that this ignorance is due to information practices that have not only failed to support cultural and social wellbeing, but have actively worked to undermine it. Why are effective information practices that are supportive of cultural and social well-being important to me? Because I have seen the utter devastation that is mistaken for normalcy when they fail.
Why Competency O is Important to the Profession as a Whole:
The information professions are well positioned to fight destructive information practices by modeling what information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being look like. This is a very important and very serious responsibility. Understanding what effective and supportive information practices may look like in different parts of the world is imperative to being able to serve communities and patrons effectively. Information professionals must consistently provide information that is accurate and unbiased, and do so in a welcoming and inclusive way. In Pakistan, that may be understanding the nuances and social norms related to eye-contact. In the U.S., it may be womxn librarians asserting confidence and autonomy by maining eye contact, thus modeling that behavior to their younger and more influential patrons or coworkers.
What Excellence in Competency O Looks Like to Me:
When I see effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being, I see many things. I see librarians who understand the social norms, biases, social justice issues, and demographics of the communities in which they serve. I see Canadian libraries shuttering their doors to protect their communities from further Covid-19 spread, and working to provide as many services to their community as possible through virtual or pandemic-safe practices. I see libraries in Scotland rising up to meet the need for medical information and services in their communities. I see libraries in New Zealand striving to incorporate Maori language, traditions, and customs into library practice. I see libraries in the southern U.S. publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and working to dismantle systems of systemic oppression.
Section 2 of 4:
The Discussion of My Evidence
As my “Evidence A”, I am presenting a paper that I wrote titled, Libraries Worldwide Are Solving Threats to Library Access for At-Risk Groups.
How and Why I Created Evidence A:
For my “Information 232: Issues in Public Libraries” course, I was tasked with examining solutions that libraries outside of the U.S. have enacted when addressing social conditions in their communities. The assignment also specifically wanted personal reflections and my own perspectives to be a central focus of the paper. I then wrote a paper about public library efforts around the world which are transforming cultures, communities, civic rights, and responsibilities in order to solve real threats to library access for at-risk groups.
The Process of Creating Evidence A:
When I was deciding how to approach creating Evidence A, I knew I wanted to examine library practices in countries I found particularly intriguing. I therefore chose to examine library solutions in Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Canada. I have always heard of Iceland having a very book-centric culture, so I was especially excited to explore how that manifested in their libraries.
In Evidence A, I provide relevant photos to each country within the paper to add a visual element and to help break up the text for the reader. I found this practice helpful as when I’m reading about cultural practices and norms of a country not my own, seeing visual aids helps me to better understand and relate to diverse practices. I also included links in the paper to fun or interesting information I found while doing my research. In the paper, I start with a brief piece of information about book culture in each of the four selected countries.
I then proceed to discuss what I found in New Zealand libraries: libraries reaching out to immigrant communities, libraries working to incorporate Maori culture, and attempting to bridge digital divides (especially in light of environmental setbacks for physical services). I discuss my findings in Canada, which included adapting services for Covid-19 precautions and mandates and reaching out to vulnerable populations. I explain that in Scotland, libraries are stepping up to provide mental and physical health services to communities that lack access to medical care. I move on to Iceland next, presenting surprising findings about their concerns. In Iceland, there is a large focus and amount of national anxiety about the lack of literature in the Icelandic language. Language preservation and access to a wide array of literature are often competing elements of library services. I made sure to include my thought process in the paper, such as my surprise at Iceland’s libraries not being as popular as libraries in other countries, as well as an overall focus on libraries working to bring specific services communities need to those patrons.
Why I Chose to Feature Evidence A and How Evidence A Shows Competency:
I chose to feature Evidence A as it demonstrates my ability to consider issues from a global perspective. The issue of language preservation is generally not as dire in the U.S. as it is in Iceland. Iceland fears for the dilution and eventual irrelevancy of their unique language. Their language is an important element of their culture and a lack of literature written in that language, as well as a lack of reliable translations, creates serious issues for library collections and forces more and more patrons to seek works elsewhere. Yet the issue of language preservation does present globally. The languages of peoples Indigenous to Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., and all countries generally do not have equal representation in literature to dominant languages in the countries, such as English or French. My discussion of the specific global issues of language preservation in relation to literacy and information services also demonstrates my appreciation for the diversity of language and culture.
Evidence A also shows my appreciation for the relationship between the information sciences and professional traditions across the globe. Libraries can act as centers of equity to their communities and this is seen when Canadian libraries reach out to vulnerable populations, when New Zealand libraries work to incorporate Maori culture, and when Scottish libraries bring medical services to their communities.
As my “Evidence B”, I am presenting a section of my equity, diversity, inclusion and white privilege in children's books study called, World Views on Diversity and Inclusion in Children's Books.
How and Why I Created Evidence B:
In my “Information 263: Materials for Children” course, I did a study on equity, diversity, inclusion and white privilege in children's books and presented it in the form of a website. Within the site, I have a specific section devoted to different world views on diversity and inclusion in children's books (Evidence B).
The Process of Creating Evidence B:
When I was deciding how to create Evidence B, I knew I did not want “world views” to be a part of my study just mentioned briefly within another section. I wanted to pay attention to specific issues in specific countries across the globe. I decided to create a section of the study for this purpose. I also decided to direct viewers to this section by giving it its own feature on the study’s homepage.
In Evidence B, I showcase ways that different countries perceive and address issues of diversity and inclusion in children's books. I chose to feature information from the U.K., Pakistan, and Canada. The UK focused on diversity statistics regarding the ethnicity of characters in children’s books (4% of characters in 2018 were defined as “ethnic minority”). Their statistics used terms like “ethnic minority”, which seems to be their grab bag way of saying “not white”. Do these statistics mean Black characters? Hispanic? Latinx? Indian? Greek? Indigenous? Their unfortunate lack of specificity correlates with their dismal statistics. I chose to include a statistic from Canada as it provided a contrast to the statistic I included from the UK. In 2019, almost 30% of children’s book characters in Canada were specifically either Black, Indigenous, East Asian or South Asian. While this statistic still uses an unfortunate “grab bag” approach, it does at least recognize specific groups. The percentage is also significantly higher than the U.K. In Pakistan, there is a heartbreaking issue of militant values that do not tolerate multiculturalism or tolerance being distributed through children’s books. Until I completed this research, I had been unaware that this was a prevalent issue. I wanted to feature it in Evidence B to draw attention to this problem as well as to highlight the different ways that information practices can be misused to harm social and cultural wellbeing. I also provide a contrasting framework to the information from various countries in Evidence B by providing a different section of my study that examines the US.’s views on diversity and inclusion.
Why I Chose to Feature Evidence B and How Evidence B Shows Competency:
Evidence B demonstrates my ability to consider issues in library and information science from a global perspective. Evidence B achieves this by demonstrating how diversity and inclusion in children’s books are perceived and addressed differently in the U.K., Canada, and Pakistan, as well as providing similar background information for the U.S..
Evidence B also shows my ability to apply international standards and practices (such as the global focus on fighting for representation of historically excluded peoples) within the realm of libraries and publishing (such as showing how diversity statistics are kept and how those statistics are presented). Evidence B demonstrates my appreciation of the relationship between information science and how supportive and inclusive information practices manifest across the globe.
Section 3 of 4:
How Creating the Evidence Helped Me Gain Expertise in Competency O
How Creating Evidence A Helped Me Gain Competency in the Area of O:
While doing the research to create Evidence A, I was impressed by the swiftness with which libraries in Canada (and across the globe) worked to protect their staff and patrons during a pandemic by adapting their services to largely virtual models. Libraries have been devoutly working to keep their communities safe while still providing important services. With this in mind, during the pandemic I have been able to use my experience in providing storytimes and my knowledge of early childhood literacy gained in this MLIS program to assist in the development of early childhood literacy skills by volunteering as a virtual storytime performer for a small community library. I planned virtual storytimes that were engaging, fun, and full of early literacy elements as well as interesting information on inclusivity and library science. I met with the library’s designated staff in a covid-safe environment to record virtual storytime performances that the library provided to their community digitally. This experience allowed me to contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of the community.
How Creating Evidence A Changed My Way of Thinking on Competency O:
Creating Evidence A helped me to appreciate the many different issues that information professionals experience and deal with across the globe. It also helped put into focus the issues faced here at home. I had not fully understood the concerns of Iceland’s information professionals regarding language preservation before creating Evidence A. Researching why this was an issue there, as well as what made their language important to them, helped me to think about how this same issue may manifest in other countries. I thought about the regional dialects in the U.S., in Indigenous communities in the U.S. and globally, and in other places I explored for Evidence A, like New Zealand’s Maori peoples.
How Creating Evidence B Helped Me Gain Competency in the Area of O:
Creating Evidence B helped me to analyze the different ways in which information practices are presented in different countries. The UK presented one of the most dismal statistics regarding the diversity of characters in children's books. The way in which the statistics was presented coincides with a national problem regarding diversity. The statistic divided characters into only two groups: white, and not white. This is a harmful practice that continues to “other” historically excluded peoples and removes their agency by not even providing them with an identity other than the assignation of “non white”. Canada improved upon this slightly with their identification of specific groups of people in their statistic, but still lumped the specific identities together in a “not white” category. Pakistan was struggling with a different facet of diversity and inclusion which manifested as militant, non-inclusive, values that preached intolerance being distributed through children's books. Creating Evidence B really helped me to expand my knowledge and viewpoint on how different information practices relating to social and cultural well being can manifest across the globe.
How Creating Evidence B Changed My Way of Thinking on Competency O:
Creating Evidence B changed how I organized the concept of “information practices” in my own mind. Something that had been more of a categorical concept before (inclusion, diversity, representation, education, true, not true, etc.) had now become multifaceted. Yes, an issue in information practices can be that of representation: is it there, yes or no? But now, I realize that representation can manifest in very different ways. The UK struggles with including diverse peoples in their picture books. Pakistan struggles with teaching children that differences are not ok and should be persecuted, shown by militant values presented in picture books.
Coursework That Has Prepared Me for Competency O:
In my “Information 200: Information Communities” course, I studied global information communities as a large part of the course. I then completed a research paper that examined the information needs and behaviors of hikers, with a particular focus on issues faced by the hiking community worldwide and how information professionals can help to address these issues. In my “Information 260A: Programming and Services for Children” course, I created a 12 month programming plan for a children’s librarian, but I also included an extra section full of free, publicly accessible, storytime videos that I planned and performed myself. I did this because in-person storytimes are rare and risky in the pandemic, but these virtual storytimes provide early literacy skills to anyone in the world with open internet/computer access. On this same site, I added a section that demonstrates my own commitment to transparency of information and shows that I will protest, march, and work to provide information to my patrons and community. In my “Information 286: Interpersonal Communication Skills for Librarians” course, I examined the nuances of nonverbal communication skills such as eye contact in different areas of the globe.
I also spent a semester living and studying in Budapest, Hungary when I was completing my Bachelor degree. Being able to observe and participate in another country’s cultural and information practices was an important learning experience for me. As a foreign student, I was required to take a course on Hungarian history taught by Hungarian professors. I witnessed that there is still a deep and pervasive pain in Hungary stemming from their experiences of being invaded and occupied by Soviet forces in the 1950s. There is also a deep pride in the country’s Magyar roots and heritage. I was shown these elements of Hungary’s culture because my professors could show me. In a different time, in a different era, they may not have been able to. Hungary still struggles deeply with issues of inclusivity and acceptance, especially regarding the LGBTQ+ community, but they are a country whose people value the ability to resist oppression. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, this gives me hope.
How I Have Changed From the Person I Was Before These Courses, to the Person After, to the Person I Am Now:
Before I took these course and created these deliverables, I knew what I wanted to achieve by working in the information professions: I wanted to provide safe, joy filled, inclusive, accepting, diverse, and equitable library spaces, services, and programming to everyone in the community, especially those who have historically been excluded. Yet sometimes I felt that I was feeling my way around in the dark as to how to achieve this, or wondering if the methods I was using were effective. Taking these courses and completing these assignments has provided me with scientific, academic, quantitative and qualitative studies and information that support my goals and how I approach them. Being able to think about how effective information practices can manifest in a global, multifaceted, way has opened so many doors to me in my pursuit to provide effective global information practices.
What I Have Learned:
I have learned that communication and learning styles are important parts in understanding global perspectives on information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being. I have learned that it's important to speak up when you see an information practice being used to mislead or cause harm. I’ve learned that it's important to model to your community what effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being look like. It is important to model this behavior even if it is hard, even if no one else speaks up, even if you receive pushback from those who would subvert information practices to cause harm. Maybe especially then.
Section 4 of 4:
How the Knowledge I Have Gained Will Influence Me in the Future, as an Information Professional
What I Bring to the Position, in Terms of Competency O:
I bring with me a fierce passion for using information practices to effectively support my patrons, clients, coworkers, and community. I bring a comprehensive understanding of how information practices can be used to provide supportive, growth-centered narratives, as well as how information practices can be misused to warp narratives in order to cause harm. Understanding the difference between the two practices (supportive and subversive) is crucial to ensuring that my own information practices are constantly being evaluated for supportive efficiency.
How My Learning in Competency O Will Contribute to My Professional Competence in the Future:
I am an outstanding information professional because I understand global perspectives on effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being. I have learned how to apply this understanding to benefit the profession by writing a paper about public library efforts around the world which are transforming cultures, communities, civic rights, and responsibilities in order to solve real threats to library access for at-risk groups (Evidence A). Doing the research for Evidence A taught me that effective information practices can appear different in various countries, (such as the pressing issue of language preservation in Iceland) but can often be found in many different countries (such as the issues of language preservation for the languages of Indigenous communities worldwide). I have learned how to think of effective information practices in a multifaceted and complex manner. I learned how to apply this way of thinking through designating a section of my study on equity, diversity, inclusion and white privilege in children's books to different world views on diversity and inclusion in children's books (Evidence B). Doing the research for Evidence B taught me that effective information practices can manifest differently across the globe. My understanding of global information practices and my ability to think abstractly regarding their application make me an excellent addition to teams of information professionals working to provide supportive services.
Clark, J. (2019, October 11). In diverse East Baton Rouge, an affluent white area seeks its own city, school district. New Orleans Public Radio. https://www.wwno.org/post/diverse-east-baton-rouge-affluent-white-area-seeks-its-own-city-school-district?fbclid=IwAR2_u2wN3KC9UsgpwfR-__b0WXpaIc2ea07A5gEKp1T4k0s6CalaYuXUgbU
Kunzelman, M. (2018, March 30). Baton Rouge Police fire officer who fatally shot Alton Sterling in 2016. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/baton-rouge-police-fire-officer-who-fatally-shot-alton-sterling-in-2016
Point Park University. (2021, May 24). Top 8 Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication. https://online.pointpark.edu/business/cultural-differences-in-nonverbal-communication/