Representing more than 9,000 individuals and libraries, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the largest division of the American Library Association, develops programs, products, and services to help those working in academic and research libraries learn, innovate, and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning, transforming scholarship, and creating diverse and inclusive communities.
In the winter of 2019, the ACRL were looking to partner in the development of a public talk for their 2020 President’s Program. They wanted this specific talk to focus on the theme of accountability through a lens of social and racial justice. In their own words:
“We understand that the inequitable systems governing our institutions are not broken, but are functioning as they were designed to do. To rebuild these institutions, people with power and privilege must pay close attention to the voices and needs of people experiencing inequity, and enact change according to what we hear…Reimagining accountability as growth gives us a way to act, to create change, and to work towards justice in our libraries, relationships, and communities.”
We developed a 90-minute program focused on helping participants to ground themselves in the histories of racist librarianship in America. This 90-minute program presented frameworks for contextualizing racial justice through the lens of libraries, knowledge equity, and interpersonal and institutional transformation. The program also broached the current moment in which the program was held and displayed viral imagery of global protests against police brutality and white supremacy. These images were presented with the following question: Who are you accountable to?
The program welcomed over 600 live participants and was one of the ACRL’s most well attended programs ever. In the words of Associate Dean of Libraries, Learning, and Research Services at Simon Fraser University, Karen Munro: