Posted by: bluesyemre | June 19, 2018

Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in #libraries and beyond by #ChristianLauersen


Text of my keynote at The UX in Libraries conferences in Sheffield, June 6 2018 [get to your fave armchair, it’s fairly long]

I was travelling to Sheffield yesterday and before leaving for the airport I was going over the news and read a story about an allotment which were going to vote about if you should be able to talk and write Danish to be allowed to live in the allotment. [I might have cursed at this point, sorry about that]. I got so angry and so sad when I read that. I’m used to politicians talking crap about closing boarders, sending refugees home deciding how much pig meat should be served in schools but this was normal and regular people in an allotment voting about excluding people who could not speak or write Danish from there garden community. And I thought to myself that these days in Sheffield, talking inclusion and inclusive UX, and the way many libraries take on responsibility as forces of social good, putting an effort into social justice issues, where even more important than I might have realized. I’m a fairly positive spirit but looking at the big picture our world is not in such a good place; We are building walls, physical ones and mental ones, we are closing our boarders, we are creating societies of great inequality and we don’t invite people who don’t look like us to dance. And I believe that libraries, public and academics, are important and crucial institutions in creating a more equal and inclusive world. And I think we should take that responsibility upon us and I like to talk with you about that today.

So even though this obvious is a conference on UX in libraries I am not gonna talk about UX today except that I guess that you could say that everything we do as libraries will – or at least should – end up with some kind of user experience. Looking at the program we are gonna get a lot of awesome UX insights for the next coming days and when I get invited to do a talk I like to try to figure out what I could bring to the program that people might not get from each other or from some other speaker. So I’m gonna face the theme of inclusion which is framing this years conference. It’s a subject that I find utterly important on many levels and to which I have strong feelings both as a private person and as a library professional. I will be talking about the importance of creating inclusive communities where we feel that we belong, the obstacles we face trying to do so and why libraries can and should be leaders in promoting inclusion. I hope that is cool with you.

Let’s talk a little bit about inclusion in general. How many in this room thinks that inclusion in general is a good and positive thing? Raise your hand if you think that. [100% raised a hand]. We often think that in libraries which is nice because it really is the right thing to do. But I also think it is important to look beyond that fact and actually see at what comes with creating inclusive environments and the consequences of exclusion.

Do anyone believe that some humans are born evil? [nobody raised there hand] I find that question relevant working with inclusion because if the answer is no, that nobody are by default born evil, there is still great hope for us. I’ll get back to that.

Where do you put your money in the socks? Inclusion and hidden biases

A story. As a young man I lived in a ghetto in Aarhus, Denmark called Gelleupparken. It was not Harlem or anything but the population rate of citizens with middle eastern origins was way higher than in the rest of Aarhus. I worked in a bar, downtown Aarhus at that time. Every month I got an envelope with tips. We were getting tips by how many hours we had worked and I was working a lot of hours so it was a pretty huge envelope. Enough to pay my monthly rent. Which was cheap because I lived in a ghetto. So on the day when I got my envelope with tips I would take the bus to Gellerupparken, I would get of the bus and then take the money out of the envelope and put them down my socks so if I was assaulted and robbed on the way to my apartment there was a chance they would not find my tips. Some could say that it was common sense. But you could also say it was very wrong. I think the important question is why did I do it? Have I experienced anything that made me do it, had I been robbed in Gelleupparken before, felt hostility and feeling insecure? No, not at all. Did I do it downtown Aarhus with a lot of white folks around me? No. My stereotypes and prejudices towards people from the Middle East, my to some part unconscious fear of strangers, non-white strangers that is, got me to put my tips in the socks while I walked through my own neighborhood. I never experienced anything but friendliness and openness from the middle east society in my neighborhood for the 2 and half years I lived there. Today I believe that the money-in-the-socks action is the sum of the social structures, our way of writing history, the stories and images the media tells and that we reproduce every day and that gave me the idea that my own neighborhood was not a safe place.


Today I feel ashamed that I hide my money in my socks. I also feel worried and to some part scared because it’s the same stereotypes and prejudices towards minorities that are floating through the veins of our communities like a cancer that drives people to beat black folks up, that makes white guys give jobs to other white guys instead of women, to say that gay couples can’t be married, that won’t acknowledge non-binary and transgender people and that sends refugees home to countries of war and terror.

That was 20 years ago. I was a young kid easily effected by my surroundings and didn’t reflect on my actions. Today I grown wiser you should think? I do believe that my ground values corresponds highly with an inclusive approach towards everybody around me no matter skin color, sexuality, educational level, economic status, if they are physical or mental disable and so on. And I’m trying to live that out as a citizens and as a library professional. I like to dance with everybody. But, as I guess many of you know, sometimes there is a difference between our self-perception and how we actually feel and the actually activities we carry out. We all have blind spots.

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