Building Community and Creating Brave Spaces: 2023 POC in LIS Summit

The William H. Hannon Library held its third People of Color in Library and Information Science (POC in LIS) Summit on July 21, 2023. The summit was a collaborative planning effort by librarians Nataly Blas (LMU), Aisha Conner-Gaten (Glendale Community College), Jennifer Masunaga (Cal State LA), Marisa Ramirez (LMU), and Jessea Young (LMU) to create a productive and brave space for people of color working in the information sector.

attendee smiling while listening to presentaitonWhile there are many conferences for information workers, very few highlight the voices of marginalized identities and provide a platform for discussion for their research interests. In 2018, the summit organizers convened to address this issue by hosting the inaugural POC in LIS Summit at Loyola Marymount University. From its inception, the mission of the summit was to create a productive and brave space for people of color to have the opportunity to explore their work in LIS as POC and their intersecting identities as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The summit invites participants to challenge and interrogate their roles and actions as information workers. The summit also aims to collectively establish rules of engagement and discourse, acknowledging that dominant narratives may be disrupted. The space was created to support the research of BIPOC librarians and create a network of BIPOC information workers for future collaboration and self-care.

In our vision for the 2023 summit, we encouraged the representation of diverse topics and perspectives and as a part of this work acknowledged the racial disparities we see in the library and information science (LIS) field. These discrepancies challenge our ability to empathize, converse, and collaborate. The theme “Thank You for Being a Friend” invited submissions that challenge what is acceptable to present upon in LIS. As BIPOC moving through the pandemic and returning to work, we are being called upon to accomplish a lot, often with very little time to reflect and develop our practice. We asked participants to think of the summit as a supportive counterspace for reflection, exploration, commiseration, and experimentation among trusted colleagues.

The 2023 POC in LIS Summit welcomed 105 information workers from over 45 institutions to LMU’s campus. Attendees explored honest and open conversations on racial and systemic injustices in LIS. The summit program included themes around recruitment and retention of POC in LIS, collegiality as self-care, critical analysis of diversity and inclusion work in LIS, and beyond. Keynote speakers Lalitha Nataraj, Jennifer Ho, and Torie Quiñonez from California State University, San Marcos kicked off the summit with their keynote, entitled “You’re a Pal and a Confidant”: Challenging Bureaucracy in Libraries and Inclusive Collegial Practices” which provided a grounding in theories that inform our relational approaches and further explore how to create supportive and collegial environments. Presenters and attendees felt empowered to contribute their experience and expertise to a growing community of LIS professionals looking to change the field for the better.

A recurring sentiment among attendees was the appreciation for the summit and the recognition that this type of space is needed to support BIPOC information workers: “This was a healing experience. Please do it again!”; “Thank you for providing this space. It is so needed.”; and “Thank you for the safe space to learn and grow personally and professionally.” The 2023 POC in LIS Summit was a space to support the research of BIPOC librarians and created a network of information workers for future collaboration and self-care. For more information about the summit, see the POC in LIS Summit 2023 Impact Report.

This post was written by Nataly Blas, Aisha Conner-Gaten, Jennifer Masunaga, Marisa Ramirez, and Jessea Young.

the conference organizers smiling and wearing matching light teal shirts
(from left to right: Aisha Conner-Gaten. Jessea Young, Jennifer Masunaga, Nataly Blas, and Marisa Ramirez)