The New York-New Jersey (NY-NJ) Chapter Annual Meeting 2020, the chapter’s first virtual annual meeting, was held on October 15 and 16. It was a team effort, and as programming chair, I was grateful that each member of the Programming Committee contributed an important piece of the puzzle. At the end of April 2020, we took the pulse of the chapter and decided to cancel our venue reservations and transition to an online meeting. We investigated a number of videoconferencing software solutions before deciding to subscribe to BlueJeans for chapter use, not just for the annual meeting, but also for board meetings and continuing education throughout the year.
We recruited some skilled technical moderators—Juliana T. Magro, Health Sciences Library, New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine–New York, and Matthew C. Bridgeman, Robert Wood Johnson Library of the Health Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ—who ran many tests before the meeting took place to ensure that participants would have a smooth experience, as well as host the meeting virtually. Attendance, coming in at sixty-two participants, not including our guest speakers and vendors, was comparable to recent in person annual meetings. Special thanks to Laurel Scheinfeld, Health Sciences Library, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY; Jeanne Strausman, AHIP, Medical Library, New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) College of Osteopathic Medicine–Old Westbury; and Theresa A. Rienzo, AHIP, James E. Tobin Library, Molloy College, Bayside, NY, for coordinating registration.
The theme was “The Round Table: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” and we were thankful to have our beautiful meeting logo designed by Karen Yacobucci, Health Sciences Library, NYU Langone Health–New York. We decided to highlight some of the wonderful diverse leaders we already have in MLA and invited Shannon D. Jones, AHIP, Libraries and Learning Resource Centers, Medical University of South Carolina–Charleston, to give the keynote speech. She inspired us to reflect on our own identities and how they might lead to bias when serving our patrons and working with our colleagues. Personally, I particularly enjoyed that Jones borrowed words from some of our most revered poets, including Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Audre Lorde.
We also heard from a panel including Beverly Murphy, AHIP, FMLA, Library & Archives, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC; Brenda M. Linares, AHIP, A. R. Dykes Library, University of Kansas Medical Center–Kansas City; and Gerald J. Perry, AHIP, FMLA, Libraries, University of Arizona–Tucson. Listening to their experiences and hopes was eye-opening for all of us. How do we ensure that our patrons and colleagues find our libraries to be safe spaces where their struggles and concerns are heard? One place to look for answers is the book that our guests Jones and Murphy coedited Diversity and Inclusion in Libraries: A Call to Action and Strategies for Success.
We were also happy to have Lisa K. Traditi, AHIP, as MLA president, and Kate Flewelling, from the Middle Atlantic Region (MAR) of the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM), provide participants with updates. Despite the meeting being moved online, a number of vendors were happy to sponsor the meeting, and the lightning talks that Jaclyn Vialet, AHIP, Clinical Medical Library, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, NY, moderated were enjoyable and informative. As a treat, on the evening of October 15, a few librarians participated in an online trivia night, hosted by Bridgeman, the chapter’s trivia emcee.
We held the chapter business meeting, where we were able to celebrate our successes by giving out awards, remembering a chapter member we had lost in the past year, and passing the gavel from our previous chapter chair, Helen-Ann Brown Epstein, AHIP, FMLA, Health Sciences Library, Virtua, Mt Laurel, NJ, to myself, Sarah T. Jewell, Medical Library, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, Bronx, NY.
We had two sessions where we broke up into small groups to have discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion. While it was challenging to share our ideas and emotions around these topics, overall, they were productive conversations. I think the most important thing that came out of these sessions was that several members expressed the desire to continue the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The current NY-NJ Chapter Board is now discussing ways for us to continue our efforts in this area. Whether it is making sure that the Nominating Committee presents a diverse array of candidates for future elections or providing continuing education opportunities for our members to continue to broaden their horizons, diversity, equity, and inclusion are priorities for the NY-NJ MLA Chapter.