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Reflections on Growth and Change

Published onJul 30, 2023
Reflections on Growth and Change

Back in March, as I sat down to write my first Up Front article, I was struck by how much growth I needed to be effective in the role of WLA Board President. I felt a sense of nervous overwhelm; I felt humbled by the opportunity to use this role to nudge an organization towards fulfilling its mission and its values, especially around social justice and antiracism. It is now May, and as I near the halfway point of my presidency, much (if not all) of what I note above is still true. But in the magical ways that change happens, I am truly proud of the work that is slowly but surely moving forward. 

I’ve spent time with the amazing Advocacy Committee, who had already robustly begun the important thought and legwork around creating an advocacy portal for the WLA website. How could we, they were asking, support library workers in the state who need advocacy work done on their behalf? In further conversation with President-Elect Sarah Logan and Past President Ahniwa Ferrari, as well as the 2023 Board, we recognized the need for a few things: a strong advocacy statement for our website (“here’s what we advocate for and how we do it”); an online form to field requests coming in; a repository of templates and a quick-response toolkit from the Advocacy Committee; a process for the Board to sign off on advocacy decisions. The structural work to get this project off the ground is unfolding, and—though some details still need to be ironed out—we are hopeful to make it available to our members over the next six months. For folks facing book challenges, for folks facing budget cuts and layoffs—we are hopeful this will provide support. Our work has been collective and iterative, which I’m grateful for.

I am making steady progress on the Neurodivergence in Libraries Presidential Summit, to be held virtually September 8, 2023. I’ve got speakers lined up representing multiple library types who have done work in or around neurodivergence in libraries, and I am getting really excited about growing our statewide knowledge about the impact that ableism in libraries has on patrons and library workers alike. I am thinking deeply about the frequent intersectionality between queerness and neurodivergence, and am looking forward to learning and growing with you all. Please look for registration information on the WLA website later this summer; we will have group rates available. With the inimitable Finance Committee, we’re beginning the process of allocating more funds to a speaker fee line in our annual budget, which would allow us to compensate speakers for events such as this one; the Board will receive a proposal to discuss and vote on in autumn. I truly believe that compensation for labor is where our field needs to be going, and we have the chance to be leaders in that effort.

Being in Wenatchee this spring for the annual conference was tremendous. My gratitude to the WLA main office, and the Conference Committee, and all the amazing volunteers, for all their hard labor in planning and executing a spectacular event. I’m reviewing the conference feedback, and I know there are areas where we need to do better. But I have gratitude around the sheer energy that being together generated, the robust conversations around intellectual freedom, the Tribal Convening, and all the forged connections. The Opening Keynote, “Celebrating Washington’s Tribal Libraries,” was a beautiful learning experience grounded in the knowledge and relationships of Jennifer Himmelreich (Diné), Mandi Harris (Cherokee Nation), Patricia Cutright (Lakota), and Rena Priest (Lummi Nation). The reception in Wenatchee Public Library was a tremendous way to spend time together (and be inspired by a magical renovation). I could go on and on: Washington State Library represented strongly, Aiden Thomas and Shawn David Hutchinson knocked it out of the park, and the tremendous Walla Walla teens, Arin Iverson and Ava Kirtley, spoke about the Right to Read in unequivocal terms. 

In terms of equity work, we enacted a new policy during this year’s conference in which we allocated a portion of registration fees to the tribal land that the event was held on. The money raised this year ($5 of each conference registration and $10 of each exhibitor registration) was donated directly to the Colville Tribal Library: in total, $2,085 was donated. The WLA will continue this in Spokane in 2024.

If you need anything from me, don’t hesitate to reach out.



Headshot of Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman who has short, brown, curly hair and wears blue frame glasses, beaded necklace, and a black blazer.
Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman (she/her) is the 2023 WLA President and the Education and Research Help Librarian at the University of Washington, Tacoma. She deeply wishes for more quiet and downtime and is going to sink into the quiet of the summer with a good book.
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