ALA 2016 Conference Culture & Diversity By Danelle Jefson

ALA 2016… Conference Culture & Diversity

June 2016.  The annual American Library Association Conference began two weeks after the horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.  The availability of restrooms for transgendered individuals is a legislative “hot” topic.  Both republican and democratic primary elections have divided parties and provided journalists with copious topics for reader engagement. The ALA Conference, as expected, touched on these issues and provided the platform to express our First Amendment Rights.  

I attended the memorial to honor the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub early Saturday morning, the first full day of the ALA conference.  The somber service reminded us of how important our voices and words are in remembering those who died, and our right to express our views, honoring diversity and ensuring safety for all individuals.

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Signs indicating universal public restrooms made clear the ALA’s position on gender related restroom topics in the news.

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After using the gender non-specific restrooms several times, I did find myself seeking out women’s restrooms for those times when, um…, I desired a bit more privacy.  Having a man in the adjoining stall made me uncomfortable, and I guess, it is this discomfort that allows me to better understand the issue at hand.  

To bookend the conference on the theme of embracing diversity, I spent my last morning attending a speaker session with Jazz Jennings.  Jazz is thoroughly a teenage girl, having a fun time during the interview, even at such an early hour!  She spoke about her experience as a transgendered youth and now teenager with candid honesty.  Following the session, Jazz signed copies of her new book Being Jazz. The book provided reading for my flight home, and is one that will most assuredly be on the Mirror Lake Middle School library book shelf!

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A diverse collection and the ability to understand another’s viewpoint and experience, regardless of our beliefs, are services we provide for our students and staff.  

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