My Knowledge River Experience by Teresa Anne Ortiz, KR14

Submitted by ginamacaluso on Thu, 03/03/2016 - 10:57

Since mid-spring of 2015, my participation in and affiliation with other cohorts, professionals, and alumni of Knowledge River through the University of Arizona's School of Information Graduate Program has not only been a life-changing experience, but also an affirmation of my personally- and closely-held ideologies concerning diversity, inclusion, and equitability. I have found a like-minded, proactive, progressively-inclusive group in Knowledge River.  This progressive culture has been established over a fourteen-year period of hard work and dedication to dissolving long-standing barriers for Native Americans and Latinos in the Library and Information Science profession (LIS).  Very recently, I had the occasion to attend an awards ceremony in which Knowledge River and our director, Gina Macaluso, were honored with the prestigious Peter Likins award for Inclusive Excellence.  What a surreal experience it was to stand with other scholars and information professionals with a passion to craft and hone the future equitably.

 It has always been in my mind and a part of my life's work to celebrate diversity, inclusivity, and equitability and to be part of a restorative process, not only at a familial level, but also on a larger professional scale.  Another very recent opportunity has allowed expansion of that desire.  I attended a conference held in Tucson, Arizona, Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium (CLAPS). The opening keynote speaker, David James Hudson, a McLaughlin Librarian from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, offered his thoughts and research entitled, “On Critical Librarianship and Pedagogies of the Practical.”  His observations immediately brought to the fore a discussion of the white power framework that has dominated and fashioned the portal through which Western culture functions and the LIS profession operates.  To briefly summarize just a few of Hudson remarks, non-white has been relatively marginalized as lesser than or an inferior version of the dominant.  Cultures other than white have rarely found inclusion in the world of Western privilege, and are continually described as different, minority, and excluded from privileged circles.  In regard to LIS practices, dominant white culture and elitist theory must be moved to practicality.  Progressive and proactive steps must be taken by LIS professionals to actively become inclusive.

It was difficult for me to hear my culture and my profession discussed in terms other than celebratory.  However, that is what critique is: an open and frank discussion.  Terms such as white privilege, whiteness, supremacy, and exclusiveness used critically in reference to white male (cultural) dominance were uncomfortable.  And, yet, it was the very same ideologies and established dominance that I had been struggling with much of my adult life.  My children are of Mexican, Ohkay Owingeh, and White descent.  Their paternal grandfather spoke Tewa and English and possessed a rich Native American culture.  Their paternal grandmother spoke Spanish and English and possessed a rich Mexican culture.  However, due to circumstances beyond control and tied closely to dominant-cultural ideologies and norms of which the symposium, CLAPS, was addressing, over the generations, the richness and beauty of the Spanish and Tewa languages and much of both cultures were lost.  They were replaced by a marginalized existence somewhere between a dominant Western culture and the lost richness of the former.

It has been my goal and mission to restore the wealth and beauty of culture and language to my children.  I am of the opinion that their three distinct cultures must to be celebrated and nurtured individually, collectively and equitably within context.  It is their right!  And so, the recognition, celebration, inclusion, and restoration of a diverse cultural identity in regard to my own family includes the following: linguistic restoration through educational facilitation, utilization of informational open-access, engagement in constructive, yet critical, intellectual discourse, reclamation of political advocacy, realignment of societal prestige, outreach to extended family still closely associated with culture, and establishment of economic reward.

The Library and Information Science profession, too, has greatly benefited from the above list and has been a springboard through which I have desired to establish inclusivity in LIS settings. According to Hudson’s presentation, “What does ‘diversity’ assume about what race, racism, and anti-racism look like?  The problem of race in LIS: we don’t look like society at large.  DIVERSIFY!!!”  While I am not currently in a position to make diverse personnel decisions, I do, as a Knowledge River Scholar affiliated with the School of Information, University of Arizona, and a high school library media specialist, Deming Public Schools, have the unique opportunity to continue and expand inclusive information access.  By introducing, steering, supporting, and grooming a predominantly Latino young adult population to investigate training and pursue careers in the field of LIS, diversity may be broadened.  Through strategic curricular programming at the high school level that incorporates many of the ideologies, concepts, and strategies offered through critical librarianship while teaming with the University of Arizona, a contribution of a new generation of inclusive professionals in the LIS field may be realized.

Some may fear that privilege and its access to the power of information is a scarce resource.  However, I am of the opinion that there is no scarcity in privilege when inclusivity, as opposed to exclusive wealth and dominance, is the goal.  This is an ideal through which a society may rise to prominence inclusive of all cultures: privilege, access, and empowerment for all.

I look forward to many more learning opportunities, experiences, and associations made possible and facilitated by Knowledge River and embrace the positive impacts on me and the LIS profession in the future. 

Respectfully authored by Teresa Anne Ortiz for the Knowledge River Blog, March 1, 2016.