ICYMI: Simmons College DERAIL Forum Highlights Student Research and Advocacy in Archives and LIS

Our ICYMI series provide summaries of presentations, publications, webinars, and other educational opportunities that are of interest to I&A members. We keep a running list of upcoming events. If you’re interested in writing a post for ICYMI, please refer to our sign up sheet. In this post, Des Alaniz, Joyce Gabiola and Caroline Gardner recap the DERAIL Forum, held at Simmons College.

The first-annual Diversity, Equity, Race, Accessibility and Identity in LIS (DERAIL) Forum held on March 26th at Simmons College in Boston, marked the culmination of several months of student-coordinated efforts to address social justice and inclusion within the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) and beyond. In April 2015, DERAIL logistics coordinator and SLIS archives student Joyce Gabiola virtually attended University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign’s (UIUC) LIS Education Symposium and was inspired by the coordinators’ leadership and efforts to empower students to critically examine LIS education. In their first semester of graduate school, Joyce wrote their first research paper about implementing “diversity” in core LIS curriculum because they realized “it was unlikely that we were going to explicitly address how race, ethnicity, white privilege, white supremacy, class, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, and intersectionality play a structural role in information, technology, workplaces, and in our relationships with colleagues.” After the Symposium, Joyce felt a similar event could be one way to fill this void at Simmons.

While DERAIL was originally intended to create a safe space for SLIS students to engage in meaningful conversations on topics not explicitly addressed in our classrooms, we also implemented a virtual component to allow Simmons faculty/staff, LIS educators and students at other institutions, and practitioners to participate. Although in-person attendance was intentionally limited to current students and recent alumni (within one year of graduation), DERAIL found tremendous support and interest from virtual attendees (and non-attendees) – both LIS professionals and students in other MSLIS programs – who were able to watch DERAIL via live-stream and participate in discussions through moderated Twitter chats and GoToWebinar. In addition, we were honored that a graduate student from Queens College in New York attended in-person, as well as one of the coordinators of UIUC’s LIS Education Symposium.

The wide range of topics presented at DERAIL represent the existing research, interests, and concerns of current students and recent alumni. Some of the presentations examined librarians and LIS professionals as workers (Professionally Underpaid: Systemic Issues in the LIS Field), the meaning of accessible libraries in policy and practice (Accessible Libraries: Essential and Often Forgotten), and the deployment of ‘diversity’ language in LIS outreach efforts (Words of Welcome: The Language and Structure of Diversity Policies and Initiatives in LIS Outreach). Archival student perspectives were also represented, in oral history projects (Inknography: Challenging the Model Minority Stereotype with Tattoos and Oral Histories) discussions about the role of archives in providing resources for anti-racism work on college campuses (Race, Archives, and Campus Communities), and a panel specifically centering on reconsidering the relationships between archives and archival users (Coming In Like a Wrecking Ball: Deconstructing Archival Authority).  All the presentations were critically engaging and highlighted the biases and systemic inequities in the standards and culture of the professions as well as in the curricula of graduate programs. At DERAIL, our views were challenged and the knowledge we’ve gained in our classes and work environments was shared with members of our student and practitioner communities. These critical conversations continue to affect how we approach our work as students, new graduates, and emerging professionals.

DERAIL provided the rare opportunity for LIS students to discuss their research on “uncomfortable topics” that impact our experiences as patrons, practitioners, educators, and students of information environments. For organizers, presenters, and attendees, DERAIL not only shaped our relationships to our fellow students and participants, but also brought wider recognition of the value of student contributions to the development and reconsideration of “professional” domains. All presentation slides and handouts are currently available online at the DERAIL Forum Program. Follow the Forum on Twitter (@derailforum) to receive info on DERAIL 2017!

Joyce Gabiola recently earned a MSLIS in Archives Management at Simmons College, where they were instrumental in the School of Library and Information Science’s creation of the Dean’s Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion. They are an ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellow, ARL IRDW Scholar, and ALA Spectrum Scholar. Joyce is excited to begin the doctoral program in Information Studies (Archives) at UCLA this Fall.

Desiree Alaniz is a dual degree master’s student in Archives/History at Simmons College and served as Communications Coordinator for DERAIL 2016. She also blogs at Hack Library School and tweets @litlegoldenage.