To Be a Force of Change, Be Open to It. Edi Campbell on Personal and Professional Development.

I resist, not necessarily by marching in the street but by staying informed as an educator, colleague, and as a bystander. I question policies and practices that align with doing what we’ve always done just because it’s what we’ve always done.

Edith Ann Campbell

Have you noticed that efforts around equity, diversity, and inclusion are intensifying rather than going away? During COVID times this may seem like one more thing, one more straw on our backs, but to me it’s all the same.

I feel that my concerns around both health and equity have merged into work that fortifies my community while disrupting inequity, racism, and hatred. COVID highlights the systemic inequities in access to information, public services, health care, and even relief funding. While I may be getting by, I know too many others who are not and even though I don’t feel the capacity for one more straw, I feel a greater burden in saying nothing.

With greater awareness to the murders of countless Black men and women; Central American children locked in cages at the United States border, and physical and verbal assaults upon Asian Americans, more are beginning to understand, question and possibly even resist systemic oppression expressed as anti-Asian, anti-Black, and anti-immigrant bigotry. The barriers have not come down, the hatred hasn’t ended no more than it ended with the election of Barack Obama to the office of president.

I feel no greater ease visiting new establishments in this city where I live and no less anxiety about where to look for my next job. Yet I believe that my work as an information professional, a librarian, can be a force of change.

I can’t kid you. There are more times when I feel unheard and unseen than there are times when I know I’m able to enact change. So many librarians wonder how we can make a difference in our own libraries when we’re just a force of one working against what has been normalized. Too many want to cling to normal. My only hope comes from continued learning so that I can be prepared when the right opportunity comes along. Learning better ways of doing things always helps me and right now, I’m learning different ways to eliminate imperialism.

Read: "Teachers and Librarians: Look for the Backstory"

I resist, not necessarily by marching in the street but by staying informed as an educator, colleague, and as a bystander. I question policies and practices that align with doing what we’ve always done just because it’s what we’ve always done. Maybe only the mice and the bare rafters hear me but, I’ve not gone completely silent yet. I practice my delivery and hope that one day these barriers will crack or that there will be retirements.

So, I keep learning. Sometimes, I just stop, take a deep breath and read. Reading is always a good place to start because essential, knowledge building information found in books, articles and stories can sustain, activate and restore me. No doubt, on many days—especially these days—simply showing up with a spirit of grace and compassion for those who inhabit this world with me is enough. On other days, I need to bring a bit more.

Just yesterday, I was walking across campus with a friend. I headed for my usual prescribed route along the pavement but, she had her eyes on a different path. “What? You don’t walk on grass? What else is it here for?” I headed for the grass, too!

 I think sometimes, especially when we’ve been made to feel uncertain of our own self, we need that external permission; that friend or that idea tucked into a book that reminds us—because we already know—that it’s okay, and even necessary, to walk on the grass. Professional development can take us off that path and guide us to be the library or teacher leader that our young people need. I breathe, and I read.

 I’m not trying to go back to ‘normal’; I can’t dip in that river twice! My daily rhythm isn’t what it was but, I keep moving forward. I’m better at tending to myself, at checking on other’s well-being and practicing being gracious. As librarians and educators, as information professionals in these times, we still manage to develop in ways that empower us so that we can disrupt as well as feel whole again. We do this not only for ourselves but, because all our tomorrows are in our classrooms and libraries watching us.

Edith Campbell is an Associate Education Librarian at the Cunningham Memorial Library, Indiana State University. She is a founding member of the We Are Kidlit Collective and of See What We See. Campbell currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Research on Diversity in Youth Literature journal. In 2016, she served as a Faculty Fellow to the ISU Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence’s Multicultural Curriculum Learning Community. Campbell blogs to promote literacy and social justice in young adult literature at CrazyQuiltsEdi.



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