Dear CARL conference presenters and attendees,

We are reaching out to you with incredible sadness over the murder of Black Americans by the hands of the police. We, like many of you, have felt anguish as the protests have been met with violence, the President has fomented this violence, and the systemic racism so entrenched in our country seems impossible to uproot. We have felt dismay when sitting down at our computers to work, when it seems so insignificant and unimportant compared to the upheaval around us. However, as library workers, we have an important role to play in supporting our communities, protecting information access, and shifting the narrative to one that values BIPOC voices. As a library organization, we must commit to unlearning what has been taught to us regarding what information has value and how information is created, which have systematically devalued the contributions and perspectives of BIPOC. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor deserve this, and it is our responsibility to carry it out.

To our Black presenters and attendees, we know (but can never truly understand) how incredibly painful this last week has been and that showing up in a professional capacity requires immense amounts of emotional energy. We hope you are able to care for yourself in the way that makes sense for you in this moment, and stand here with you in solidarity.

To our non-Black presenters and attendees of color, we recognize how this last month has been hard on you as well. We hope to work with you on fighting anti-Blackness in our communities and within librarianship. Thank you for showing up and for making space for people who have traditionally been left out of librarianship.

To our white presenters and attendees, it’s time for us to work together to dismantle anti-Blackness in libraries and in communities. Over 80% of librarians in higher education are white*, making our workplaces fraught for our colleagues of color, particularly our Black and Indigenous colleagues. We need you (ourselves included) to show up and take real action, starting with ourselves. The Anti-Racism Resources document created by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein is a good place to start. During the conference, how can we work to ensure that we do not dominate the conversation, and leave space for our BIPOC colleagues to shape and contribute to the discussion?

For all of our presenters and attendees, particularly our white presenters and attendees, we encourage you to read through Dr. Eve Tuck’s description of how she facilitates Q&A sessions at academic conferences. Although due to the virtual nature of CARL 2020, it may not be possible to “peer review” our questions prior to asking them, the encouragement to reflect upon what we’re asking and the true intention of why we want to ask it is necessary and good. She asks people to consider the following before they pose a question during Q&A:

  1. Make sure it’s really a question;
  2. Make sure you aren’t actually trying to say that [you] should have given the presentation;
  3. Figure out if the question needs to be posed and answered in front of everyone;
  4. The speaker has just done a lot of work, so you should figure out if your question is asking the speaker to do work that really the question-asker should do.

As a reminder, CARL has a Code of Conduct that all presenters and attendees have agreed to uphold. We expect all participants in CARL-related spaces, including guests and vendors, to behave in ways that support the dignity and well-being of everyone present. We acknowledge that mistakes will be made, but we also expect all participants in CARL-related spaces to be humble, be comfortable with being uncomfortable, acknowledge the mistake, and commit to continuous learning and improvement. We encourage you to read the full Code of Conduct, which includes a link to the form to report a problem, on the CARL conference website.

We look forward to seeing all of you later on this week at the conference. This year’s conference theme is “Embracing courage, candor, and authenticity in academic libraries” – we hope that each of us is able to embody the theme in a way that is true to us and works to root out racism in libraries, especially if it feels uncomfortable.

With gratitude from the CARL Conference Committee,
Allison Carr
Lee Adams
Talitha Matlin