Taiga Forum 2017 at DLF / Pittsburgh – Activism and Social Justice

**Update: Patricia Hswe will facilitate the discussions and Mark Puente will provide closing remarks.

Issues of activism and social justice are currently on the minds of many library and archives leaders. Many in the profession see advocacy for diversity, inclusion, and social justice as part and parcel of the library’s mission to provide access to information and knowledge. Others in the profession, however, believe that explicit attempts at advocacy violate professional values of service and neutrality. And while we as a profession generally agree that libraries are public goods for everyone, how those ideas play out in practice is not without controversy. There are wide differences in interpretation of how we advance these values and first principles, and many in the profession perceive that our professional ethics and the political landscape around us are increasingly at odds.

This Taiga Forum will be a group exploration of what these tensions mean for library leaders in higher education. Through facilitated discussion, participants will share their own stories navigating institutional and personal ideologies, examine situations where they are at odds, and help each other think through these difficult yet essential issues. We invite library leaders at any level to attend, participate, and learn from one another.

What we want participants to leave with:

  • More comfort/skill with balancing multiple viewpoints, being able to talk about when there are and are not reasonable opposing sides
  • How activism and professionalism tie together, how to navigate this as a leader
  • Increased comfort with bringing an activist perspective to your work
  • Comfort with our personal aspirations and how they fit with our professional context
  • Strategies from difficult, “rubber meets the road” conversations, about navigating your socio-political context that might not match your own ideals
  • Strategies for having these conversations in the first place, including how to mentor your staff about this

Possible discussion topics include:

  • How do we act as truly inclusive organizations when our staff and our patrons have a variety of political views?
  • What is the impact on funding for public institutions such as universities when representatives of these institutions are engaging in activism?
  • To what degree is it possible or desirable to separate the professional from the personal? (Especially in light of ALA Code of Ethics VII. “We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.”)
  • What does it mean to embody a social justice mindset in libraries and archives? Does such a posture contribute to an unwelcoming and partisan organizational environment?

Registration fee: $75. Enroll during or after registering for the DLF Forum or DigiPres.


Date & Time: Wednesday, October 25, 2-5:30 pm and Thursday, October 26, 9 am-noon

Location: University of Pittsburgh, Hillman Library, Digital Scholarship Commons. 3960 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. (Directions and Map for University of Pittsburgh Libraries)

Facilitator: Patricia Hswe

Wednesday, October 25 – 2:00 to 5:30 PM

2:00 – 2:15: Welcome/Framing/Ground Rules 

2:15 – 2:45: Introductions

2:45 – 4:00: Sharing Our Stories, Affirming Our Voices (full group)

4:00 – 4:30: BREAK

4:30 – 5:30: Scenarios: Where the Rubber Hits the Road (small groups)

Please join us for informal happy hour at  Porch at Schenley (located at 225 Schenley Drive) after the last session.

Thursday 9-noon

9:00 – 9:15: Summary of the First Day 

9:15 – 10:15: Reflections on Readings (full group)

10:15 – 10:30: BREAK

10:30 – 11:15: Closing remarks: Mark Puente

11:15 – 11:30: Wind-Up / Further Framing 

11:30 – 12:00: Final Reflections and Discussion (everyone)

About “Gentle Disturbances”

The title of our new blog, “Gentle Disturbances”, is a tribute and a reference to the husband and wife artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art consists of vast, temporary outdoor installations, such as the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin, the 24-mile Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties in California, and The Gates in New York City's Central Park. Christo has asserted that their art creates “gentle disturbances," designed to challenge traditional perceptions of the spaces and landscapes they inhabit. By encouraging viewers to see familiar landscapes in new ways, their art disrupts assumptions about permanence, ownership, and categorization.

While we claim none of the artistic or political impact of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, we hope that this blog and its many contributors will challenge us all to look at the landscape of academic libraries and higher education in new ways. We aspire to “gentle disturbances” of the kind that will lead to productive conversations and creative approaches to our common challenges.