One of the issues I’ve focused on as a library board trustee is looking at how our library approaches diversity. As a queer brown woman, I have to think that part of why I was elected was because my constituents wanted me to be paying attention to that issue.
Last night as part of the board packet, there was a detailed report on diversity initiatives from various of our librarians, addressing different aspects of the issue. Generally, I think our librarians are doing a pretty stellar job of working on this problem, and could serve as a model for other institutions.
But I’m mostly writing here because I wanted to take a moment to point out just how difficult a problem it is, and how, despite years of effort on our librarians’ part, our collection of books, in particular, still skews very white. That is entirely because American publishing still skews very white — the vast majority of books published, including children’s books, still feature white protagonists.
Our librarians try to balance the general audience’s desire for popular books (which is influenced / limited by what major publishers actually put out, what readers see on the bookstore shelves, or at their friends’ houses, or reviewed in major news sources), with the librarians’ own attempts at increasing diverse representation.
(A tremendous tool for librarians in the latter efforts, by the way, are the various blogs and booklists maintained by various communities and reviewers of color, so keep that up, people, please! It’s made it much easier for our librarians to find brilliant, fabulous #ownvoices titles, often from small presses that would otherwise fly under the radar.)
But we’re still quite far from even reflecting the community around us in Oak Park (which is currently around 68% white). Our librarians are going to keep working the problem, and they’re making improvements every week. To really fix it, though, we need big changes in publishing.
Publishers, editors — get on that, please. I know I’m preaching to the choir a bit here, for the publishing folks I’m friends with, who are likely to see this, but maybe this will add a note of urgency to your efforts.
We can’t read the books that show our diverse world in its complex truth if those books aren’t even being published. Our kids can’t read them either.
We passed our library board budget last night, the second budget since I’ve been a trustee. I have to say, there’s a steep learning curve on this job. I’ve managed organizational budgets before, for DesiLit and the SLF, but this is an 8 to 9 million budget, managing three different libraries, and it’s another thing altogether.
The first time we passed one, about five months after I took office, there was a lot of the document that I only partially understood; I had to rely on the more experienced board members for guidance and explanation. A LOT of explanation. “Can we go over that bit again, please?” Passing that budget was slow, with three new members on the board; I, at least, needed a lot of handholding.
This time around, in my second year as trustee, it was much more efficient; we all understood what we were voting for, and how the things we’d requested as a board (in terms of equity and access as budgeting priorities) had been effectively implemented by staff, and what the cost implications were per household across the village.
I particularly want to shout out to Jim Madigan, our deputy director, who has been infinitely patient with me — I was just in his office for an extra half hour yesterday before the board meeting, asking him to go over a fine financial detail. For the SF fans in the room: around him, I feel a lot like Ekaterin with Miles’s finance guy — I swear, they could be the same person. Dry, funny, incredibly conscientious, and a light in his eyes when someone actually takes an interest in the arcane details of his profession.
Jim is retiring in a few months, and while I’m sure the library will find an excellent person to take over the position, Jim is very much going to be missed. If I’ve done a good job discharging my fiduciary responsibilities on the library board, and I hope I have, a large portion of the credit goes to him.
Delighted to note that the Fall 2018 issue of Jaggery is up! With fiction from Sudip Bhattacharya, Ayeda Hussain, Zuneera Shah, poetry from Ankush Banerjee and Jugni Jahaz, essays from Nathaniel Warder, Shruti Mungi, Varsha Tiwary, reviews by Subramanian Shankar, Amitava Kumar, Meena Kandasamy, Susmita Bhattacharya and Deepak Unnikrishnan, and art by Neelima Chikkodi.
Congrats to Anu Mahadev and the rest of the Jaggery editorial team!
Please share and enjoy!
From Ada Palmer, my censorship panel with Cory Doctorow and others is now audio-available for your listening pleasure. (I was extra-tired that day, and I’m afraid I started rambling a bit in the second half, but there’s lots of good stuff there anyway that I think will interest many of you.)
“This is the complete audio of our panel on “What are Censorship’s Real Historical Consequences” featuring Gehnwa Hayek (censorship of comics in contemporary Lebanon), James Larue (American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom), Mary Anne Monharaj (literary consequences of colonialism in Sri Lanka), Anthony Grafton (censorship of Renaissance books & Jewish books), plus co-organizers Cory Doctorow, Adrian Johns, and Ada Palmer. The video is still being processed but we’re delighted to share the audio in this preview form to give you a first taste!”
There is something incredibly pleasing about stocking up for the weeks ahead. I would’ve been a good farmwife, in another lifetime. And they are so pretty to photograph, bonus!
This round of sous vide egg bites, I used buttermilk with the eggs, which
should give a rich tanginess. Bell pepper and goat cheese, broccoli and cheddar, pork sausage and cheddar, all with chives sautéed in the leftover pork fat. Mmm… Three weeks of breakfasts, done.
Finished setting up the winter garden. It’s a multi-stage process:
— first the plants, mostly tropicals, come in from the back deck.
— then they get moved around, as I try to find the perfect combination of sunlight — there are only four sunny windows on the first floor, so sunlight is the big limiting factor on how many plants I can squeeze inside.
— I make sure that none of them will drip on the floor — a combination of a few large pots that don’t have drain holes, some pots that have built-in drip saucers, some pots that have little plastic saucers added (my least favorite solution, because it’s not as pretty, but sometimes needs must), and some large trays filled with clay stones that absorb water; I usually water the stones too, in the hopes that it’ll keep a little more moisture in the environment.
— if any of the plants are sprawling too much, I add trellises so they’ll go vertical instead of wide; I also move them around for aesthetic impact, mostly trying to do a mix of heights and fullness
— and finally I trim off the excess — some of the vining ones, like mandevilla, go a little nuts in the summer, and need to be cut back to manageable proportions indoors
I’m almost done with the trimming — the duranta is blooming profusely right now with its little purple flowers, and I mostly want to trim those branches off and bring it back down to half its height; I’ll wait ’til the blooms are done before diving in with the shears. But otherwise, all set for the oncoming winter — welcome to the jungle.