Every week until MLA ‘22 in New Orleans, we’ll profile the experts leading each of the six Symposium sessions. In the last of our profiles, Marlene M. Bishop (MB), Patrick Hannon (PH), Brenda M. Linares (BL), and Laurie Phillips (LP) answer questions about themselves and their session, Riding the Waves Together: A Librarian and Publisher Conversation. To learn about all six Symposium sessions, please explore the Symposium booklet.
What are you most looking forward to seeing/eating/experiencing in New Orleans?
MB: As a local, I’m just excited to see visitors enjoying the city. And who doesn’t want beignets and gumbo? I also hope to visit the Historic New Orleans Collection.
PH: After two years of working remotely from my small one-bedroom apartment, I’m looking forward to just about anything besides those same four walls. And like my previous trips to New Orleans, I will be certain to order beignets every time I’m presented with the opportunity to do so.
BL: It has been so long since I have seen many of my MLA colleagues, and I am looking forward to reconnecting in person. I love New Orleans, and I can’t wait to have some of the local foods and, of course, beignets! The conference schedule has a lot of great programming, and I am looking forward to attending several sessions and incorporating what I learn at my library.
LP: Well, I have lived in New Orleans for 32 years, so I assume that I will be experiencing feeding my cats in the morning, then an 18-mile bike ride in Audubon Park starting before dawn, then, eventually, driving downtown for the session. I spent more time in the Quarter during 2020 than I ever had, and it was fun to get to know that part of the city better. If you can get to the St. Claude neighborhood, go to Rosalita's Backyard Tacos. Watermelon margaritas and fabulous tacos!
What’s a surprising fact about DEI&A that helps motivate your work?
MB: It is pleasantly surprising to see institutional support and adaptation grow at an exponential rate. We have a long way to go, but I am motivated at seeing this movement acknowledged and embraced by so many.
PH: For me, it was something someone pointed out to me. I had been running a team of largely entry-level positions for a few years and had hired several people. I felt good about how I had approached things. A few coworkers and I were talking after work one day, bemoaning the lack of diversity in the publishing industry. One coworker asked me what I had been doing to help change this. I hadn’t really taken a step back and evaluated my own role in helping to build a more diverse, inclusive industry. When I did, I realized my actions didn’t reflect my intentions—the pool of people I had hired was overwhelmingly white and looked a lot like the rest of the organization (and industry at large). Since that point, I’ve paid far more attention to the concrete steps I can take to build the sort of industry to which I’d be proud to belong. I’m grateful that my colleague shifted the focus to me and made me realize that I could be part of the solution, instead of being a passive bystander.
BL: There are so many things that surprise me about DEI&A, especially the fact that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to be more inclusive. I still am surprised to hear people think that DEI&A is not a priority. I am motivated to make changes and give a voice to those who are not able to be loud. We need to be there for each other and make everything accessible and inclusive.
LP: Well, accessibility has been a part of my work for several years. Helping students succeed by finding solutions to make their course materials accessible is very rewarding! It's fun to find that perfect solution for each student. With DEI, it's cool finding out about new resources and what might fit well with our curriculum and seeing new titles.
How did you get started in libraries or publishing?
MB: My first library job was working with patrons at a public library. It was there that I realized my niche was technical services. A few wonderful librarian mentors encouraged me to earn my MLIS, and the rest is history.
PH: Like many people, it was a bit of an accidental career. I graduated from college in 2007 as the first hints of the recession were appearing. While I searched for a full-time job, I signed up with a temp agency. On my third day, I was sent to Cell Press to help cover an absence for two weeks. On the last day of my assignment, someone gave their notice. They asked me to stick around to help cover the gap. That led to nine years at Cell Press before moving onto NEJM for five years and counting. One-hundred percent a case of right place, right time!
BL: When I was in my last semester of library school at UCLA, I interned at the health sciences library and fell in love with medical librarianship. I was able to do the NLM Associate Fellowship and then worked in three different medical libraries in three different states. As part of my role as the MLA Board of Directors liaison to the JMLA Editorial Board, I am a member of the JMLA Equity Work Group. The group has been hard at work making access to publishing in JMLA easier and more welcoming to BIPOC authors. I am proud of the work we have done in the last two years and of our plan, moving forward, to be more inclusive and to have everyone’s voices be heard.
LP: I started working at the Sibley Music Library at the Eastman School of Music when I was a grad student. I had my first staff position there, converting chamber music scores from cards to online catalog records. The catalogers there were the coolest women, and I wanted to be them when I grew up. And, I realized I was pretty good at cataloging. You have to be a real nerd to love formulating music uniform titles for chamber music.
What’s the most challenging part of your DEI&A work?
MB: DEI&A is a broad concept that is constantly evolving. These topics are part of every aspect of life, which makes narrowing your focus, budget, and choices difficult.
PH: A huge challenge has been finding a framework that is both expansive enough to capture a global viewpoint, while still being specific enough to draw meaningful conclusions. And while working in cross-publisher groups has been important, having so many people at the table inevitably leads to challenges in reaching consensus. While I think the approach is the right one, it is not always the easiest one.
BL: The most challenging thing about DEI&A is the fact that there is so much to do. There are still people out there that don’t believe in equity access and opportunity. If more people cared, this type of work would not be hard.
LP: Figuring out the right fit of materials for your curriculum. For accessibility, it's finding the right tools and the right solution for what each student needs.
What’s the main thing you hope participants will take away from your contribution to the session?
MB: Keep your patrons in mind. Develop a plan for the areas and topics you want to address, and take it one step at a time. Create new partnerships at all levels. Libraries celebrate freedom of information, so you got this!
PH: I hope that people will recognize that there are a lot of ways that groups can work toward solving some of the DEI challenges we’re trying to solve as an industry. Some require looking internally and being willing to change existing practices. Others involve looking outward and realizing that we can influence the behavior of others to move in a more beneficial direction.
BL: I hope people realize that JMLA and the JMLA Equity Work Group are listening and taking action to make changes in how articles are reviewed and accepted for publication. I hope they know that even if the process seems slow, we are moving in the right direction and they can always reach out.
LP: A little bit about quickly and effectively assessing collection opportunities and some of the possible challenges and creative solutions for accessibility.