Diversity and Inclusion in LIS

I started this post almost two years ago, before I found my current job. So excuse the bitterness that is so often the hallmark of the “unemployment blues” here. The points I make are still relevant and valid. 

As a librarian/archivist still looking for a permanent, full time position, I think about this a lot. After having just ended a contract at a small academic library where I was literally thee first every Black librarian in the history of the place. The school opened in 1853. I was the first. EVER. And, mine was only a temporary position.

Marinate on that a minute…

Anyway, I was the first ever. And it was microaggression central with staff, colleagues, and general faculty members.* There were even incidents with students and a male staff member. Both blindsided me and both were intentional. I was pretty much left hanging in all cases, and while none of it made me give up hope or plunged me into depression or bitterness or anything, it all put a slight damper on my enthusiasm for the place (library and institution in general) and for my colleagues in the library.

Reflecting on all that happened makes me think about something I read recently (and now I don’t remember where exactly) that

diversity = getting people in the door, raising the numbers of members of traditionally underrepresented groups (i.e., racial, cultural, gender, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, etc. [yes I’m spelling it out for the folks in the cheap seats])

and 

inclusion = creating and maintaining a safe environment where those newly included people feel safe and supported so that they can actually thrive, contribute, and stick around. 

I am a tough cookie and I’ve lived and worked in predominately white areas and institutions my whole life. Also, I am not new to the work world –librarian/archivist is my second career, third if you count freelance writing– but it’s still tough and you always needs support. I have had three experiences working in openly hostile environments. There would have been a fourth except the diversity part of the initiative at that particular place worked and we created our own support system and helped each other navigate while doing our best to force the institution to do the same. The institution ended up shutting the initiative down and several members of the cohort left because…SURPRISE!!! The institution didn’t really want diversity and inclusion to work, they just wanted a range of Black and brown faces to put in their development and promotional materials, and on the website. This is a reality of most institution and, of course, it shouldn’t be that way.

Fast forward to now.

I am a librarian at an historic, exclusively prestigious liberal arts college in the North East and I it really is the same isht different day, though I’ve had an experience the old folks worn us all about. For the moment, I’ll just borrow from Zora Neale Hurston until I’m ready to expound further and say “skin folk [really] ain’t always kinfolk!” Oooh wee. I’ve got more well-meaning (but little-doing) white folk in my life than I can shake a stick at and a couple that really are about that life. That’s actually a first for me. Anyway, I have little faith that all of the committees, conferences, workshops, initiatives, and other related mess will steer LIS in the direction of inclusion or openness as a profession. Should it ever happen, it’s most definitely going to be institution-based, it’s going to depend on the quality of the leadership at a particular place and the willingness of the people to work and push themselves past their comfort zones. It’s going to require vision and for leaders in particular to be secure enough to trust visionaries in their midst when they themselves may not be equipped to lead the charge. 

And, well, we know how that shit goes.  

 

 

 

 

LOC Classifications for African Diaspora Foodways Collections (& general foodways collections)

I’ve been thinking about and pulling together what I consider to be useful classifications for materials related to the study of food. African American and general African Diaspora foodways and related history always frame these types of things for me, because that’s just my bag. Anyway, I’ve been dropping these LOC numbers into one spot for awhile now and I’m finally pulling it all together. I know I’ll revisit and refine but this is the first step. From here I can start to think more about where to go with underrepresented collections. 

My strongest interests in food are African Diaspora foodways and related culture and Middle Eastern foodways. And I’m really interested in the idea of adapting archival documentation strategy to collection building. For food in particular, I think this means applying that multi-disciplinary nature of food studies to the creation of library collections that focus on non-European culinary history and culture. Because I’ll tell you, no matter what y’all food studies academicians may think, some of y’all can’t see beyond Europe to save y’alls lives. I’ve been to many a lecture, panel, gathering of food folks only to see people deemed experts with books and articles published, etc. say the most asinine, neocolonial, bullshit you can imagine. But that is another post.

I have this dream of people thinking beyond cookbooks (and Europe or China or Japan or tacos when they want to get “ethnic”)* when they think about food. I want to help users in a range of institutions view food beyond cake pop recipes, The Food Network, or worse, racist foolishness such as this. I guess I dream of people wanting to understand or at least think about, or at the very least maybe vaguely recognize the historical, sociological, and economic contexts of what they eat. This is maybe a tall order without a well-constructed plan of attack, but honestly, foodways is a great way to teach and learn about the world, so by offering patrons information that places food within these contexts, maybe it is a possibility.

These classifications can be used for all types of food-related materials, I think they’re particularly useful for building collections that document non-European foodways of any sort. They are also useful for filling in the gaps of Euro-focused collections. What I’m saying here is that a good, strong foodways or food studies collection should have something relevant that fills each slot represented by the classification numbers below.

Anyway, on to the numbers, I am going to break this up into two or three posts because I realized that there’s a lot. I’m going to start with Anthropology and Folklore classifications. In cases where things don’t seem obvious, I’m highlighting what I consider relevant to documenting African Diaspora foodways in a library or archival collection.

* [seriously so much to say about this bull, but this is not the time or place]

Anthropology

GN301-674 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology
GN357-367 Culture and cultural processes
Including social change, structuralism, diffusion,
Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology – Continued
GN378-396 Collected ethnographies
GN397-397.7 Applied anthropology
GN406-517 Cultural traits, customs, and institutions
GN406-442 Technology. Material culture
Including food, shelter, fire, tools, etc.

Folklore

GR700-860 Animals, plants, and minerals
GR880 Medicine. Folk medicine 

Customs

GT2400-3390.5 Customs relative to private life Including children, marriage, eating and drinking, funeral customs, etc.
GT3400-5090 Customs relative to public and social life Including town life, court life, festivals
GT5320-6737 Customs relative to special classes (social)

 

 

Desert Island Cookbooks

Lately I’ve been thinking about being settled and stable. I’ve also recently ended library school and I have been halfheartedly job searching. There are so many things swirling around my head as I’ve ended what will be my last go round in anyone’s graduate program. I’m thinking about library work and food librarianship and knowing that it’s a real possibility if I’m patient and dedicated to the process. I mean even three years ago there was a Publishers Weekly article stating that cookbooks were the top circulating materials in public libraries, so hey what have I got to worry about? 

As much as being settled now means finding a fulfilling library gig in special collections and/or archives (with a focus on food and/or Afrodescendent history and culture [hey, I am not too picky!]) it also means being surrounded by my stuff (which is currently in a storage unit in Chicago) and being able to cook with my own pots, pans, and tools…in my own kitchen, using my own dishes, etc. This also means having access once again to my cookbook and recipe collection. And this brings me to thinking about my favorite cookbooks. Here are a few to start…

The New Book of Middle Eastern Food – Claudia Roden

  • This is just a great book. If you like Middle Eastern food this is something you have to have. The original Book of Middle Eastern Food (1974) is great too, this is just updated and has a few more recipes and is a bit lighter on the butter, etc.  

The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage – Rachel Laudan

  • I will admit I haven’t cooked from this one yet but I love to read it. It’s beautifully written and so informative. A hybrid personal essay, food history, and recipe book. Plus the author is a friend of mine!

The Taste of Country Cooking – Edna Lewis

  • Originally published in 1976, it is, much like Rachel Laudan’s work, a personal story chronicled by menus and recipes. It’s a glimpse of not only Lewis’s own family history but of regional African American history through food. The 30th anniversary edition, was published in 2006 and is the one you’ll find unless you’re on the hunt for rare or older books, or you know, the first edition, at a dealer or used book store. 

Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You’ll Make Over and Over Again – Ina Garten

  • Hey BC, pretty much all of her stuff is great. The one popular/Food TV type author whose stuff I can’t get enough of.

The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine – John Folse

  • This is a great comprehensive work full of recipes. It has a weird index but is surprisingly all-encompassing. Though there is a hefty dose of self promotion of the Folse brand and products, there is acknowledgement of African influence in this book and that makes me happy though I’d love for there to be more nuance and less fairy-tale-style-rose-colored-glass-we’re-one-big-happy-family-style storytelling that so often characterizes books (& a few organizations OOP!) on Southern food and cooking. It’s also a little romantic in the picture it paints of Louisiana and its food traditions but cooking through this book is a good way to get a feel of the place and the recipes really work.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One – Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck and Sidonie Coryn

  • This is no best kept secret anymore. It’s a good set to learn and I particularly like volume one. Definitely helps with technique on some things because the process is meticulously described and in some cases, illustrated. You get to work your way through classic French dishes, which is always delicious.