A Madison Public Library Foundation grant covered expenses for five library staffers to attend the Joint Council of the Librarians of Color (JCLC) conference in St. Pete Beach, Fla., in February. The JCLC conference only takes place once every four years with the goal to advocate for and address the common needs of the National Associations of Librarians of Color (American Indian Library Association, Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (ALA), the Chinese American Librarians Association, and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking). 

The theme for this year’s conference was Gathering for Action: EDI — Where Do We Go from Here? It sparked great dialogue about how to improve librarianship by making it more equitable. 

Over the course of four days, 83 sessions covered a wide variety of topics pertaining to diversity and inclusion among librarians. The group learned from authors, library leadership across the U.S., representatives from ALA, and others about collections management, programs, services, and leadership. The five Madison Public Library attendees enjoyed the opportunity to learn together and develop professionally as a group while also networking with other library staffers of color from across the country. Each got something unique out of the experience because they represented different job titles and departments within the library. For instance, Jody Mohrbacher attended the conference as one of only seven people on the library’s Collections Management Team. She learned how other libraries across the U.S. are striving to make their collections more diverse and inclusive. Learning about their successes and challenges will help her better approach her collections work for Madison Public Library. 

Another example is Library Assistant Melissa Ernst, who works at Sequoya Library. She discovered how libraries across the country are tailoring their programming to the communities they serve, whether that’s Lunar New Year Lantern kits, Día de los Niños celebrations, or intergenerational flower arranging. She’s looking forward to creating new opportunities for connection at the library.

Marketing Specialist Liz Boyd, who came to Madison Public Library with lots of communications and marketing experience but without a library degree, was able to hear stories from Florida librarians about the challenges they’ve faced in their libraries and how they’ve handled communications around banned books or book challenges. This insight will help the library be better prepared if challenges occur locally or on social media. 

Individually, each attendee learned a lot, but the great part is being able to bring this knowledge back and share it with colleagues and library leadership. The impact of professional development trips like this is exponential as each person shares what they learned, and the knowledge continues to spread in ripples across the organization. Madison Public Library Foundation makes trips like this possible for Madison Public Library staff at all different levels.