In Part 1 of this two-part episode, we talk to the creative team behind the Librarians with Spines book series calling for radical librarianship, Yago Cura, Max Macias and Autumn Anglin. This trio of "information agitators" share the origins of this series, the need for necessary boundary-pushing in the library profession, and the importance of having a strong support system when doing antiracism work.
Hear about the efforts that went into the design and creation of Vol. 3, released in fall of 2022, and get a sneak peek of what's next for this series of essays pushing for a new era of librarianship.
Order Librarians with Spines v.1, 2 & 3 here: https://www.hinchaspress.com/librarians-with-spines
Visit the Librarians with Spines Blog
Link to the EDI & ANTIRACISM TOOLKIT
Hosts: Constance Palaia & Ericka Brunson-Rochette
Date Recorded: December 23, 2022
Constance Palaia: Hello and welcome to OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries, a podcast produced by the Oregon Library Association's Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism committee. I'm Constance Palaia, the librarian at a public elementary school in rural Grants Pass, Oregon.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette: Thank you, Constance. And I'm Ericka Brunson-Rochette, committee co-chair and librarian located in Central Oregon. Today we have the immense pleasure of talking to the creative force behind the popular Librarians with Spines book series, Autumn Anglin, Max Macias and Yago Cura. These dynamic individuals have encouraged necessary boundary-pushing and have made space for others to speak truth to power in this series calling for radical equity centered librarianship. We are excited to have them on the show today to discuss the third volume in this series of anthologies published earlier this year. Welcome, Yago, Max and Autumn.
Yago Cura: Hi. Thanks, Ericka. Thank you, Constance. It's great to be here.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette:: Yes, we're so grateful to have you here. So to get us started, we usually like to start with an icebreaker question, and this is of course optional to answer. But before we dive into some of the deeper questions, we're going to start with one that is kind of philosophical about food, and that is if you can choose two condiments, just two, that could be the only two you could use forever, which would they be? And I'm going to have Autumn answer this one first, then Yago, and then lastly, Max.
Autumn Anglin: Thanks, Ericka. So I have a pretty tough relationship with food. My son and husband and I all have food allergies, and so over the years, those condiments, the foods we eat have changed, and so I would say right now the condiment that I couldn't give up is probably my own vinegar that I make from wild foraged fruits and using wild yeasts, and then I do make a lot of things like mustards with that wild vinegar that I make. So those two I would say right now I couldn't give up.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette:: That's wonderful that you have the ability and skills to make your own condiments and to try to find things to fill those gaps of things that you can unfortunately not enjoy anymore. Thank you for that, Autumn. How about you, Yago?
Yago Cura: So my parents are from Argentina. We have a... It's not really a condiment, it's more like a compote called la chimichurri. It's just wonderful and when you eat a sausage, you kind of open it and then just put it in the middle. It's kind of like a relish, maybe like a compote. I love that stuff. And then I've been in California for 12 years, so sriracha sauce. My kids and I, we just put everything on that and I'm not even the one that can tolerate heat the most, it's my 12-year-old and my wife from Michoacán in Mexico. Yeah, I think those two condiments for me.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette: I love me a good chimichurri. Thank you, Yago. Max.
Max Macias: Yeah, I like the sriracha too and A.1. Steak Sauce. I love that on hamburgers and whatever, roast beef, whatever meat. So yeah, those would be my two condiments. Great question, yeah.
Constance Palaia: Thank you. That kind of made me hungry. So I'm going to start this question with Max. What made you decide to create this book series, and how did each of you come to it?
Max Macias: Well, that's like a multi-part question. I think we can all answer that question. So a long time ago I had this idea because I was kind of frustrated with librarians and academics in general that were just like... There wasn't a lot of fire and a lot of stuff I was reading as far as calling for change, equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism wasn't even a word. I mean, I don't know. It wasn't a movement at that time at all. So I was like, "Ah, man. I want to have a book someday. I want to a do a bunch of chapters by a bunch of writers and call it Writers with Spines and just from a bunch of different disciplines and stuff." That was the idea I had one day.
So then that never happened, really. I just talked. It was just a couple people, it was an idea and never really panned out, and I started thinking about librarians in general, and librarians specifically and how the free speech thing always gets me. It's like, "Oh, free speech, free speech, free speech, but hey, shut up. You better not say anything because you're going to get in trouble. You lose your job and you better be quiet," and I was like, "Wow. That's such a weird thing." But I know a lot of librarians that aren't like that and I don't see a lot of their work or work that has a demand for change instead of, "Hey, please include us." A lot of it I saw it as, and I hope I don't offend people now, but a lot of work just seemed really like, "Hey, please include us and you'll be better off if you include us," and just that kind of stance.
I was like, "Nah, man. We belong and we're all the ones that you all need to get your stuff going, to get everything going to create change, and so we need to be included, man. And we're going to do our own thing and we're going to call it Librarians with Spines." And I talked to my friend, Miguel Juarez, initially about this project and he got me all stoked and stuff. And then we never really worked out to do anything so much, and Miguel later on wrote a chapter in one of our books, but just Yago had met and we were talking all the time, and Yago had already been doing... I think you should talk about HINCHAS too, the history a little bit. Doing his press and stuff. We talked about it and we're like, "Yeah, let's do a book," and it all clicked together because I knew Autumn too at the same time, we were all talking.
Autumn and I live in Oregon. Yago, we never even met in person. That's a trip, this is a lot of virtual work. Autumn and I haven't seen each other in a while either though. We live in Oregon, but we haven't seen each other in a while. We don't live that far away, but the pandemic and all this stuff. But Autumn's an incredible artist and she happens to have experience making books and stuff, and so we all started talking and the project just started gelling together as far as editorially publishing-wise and the ideas content-wise, like what could we do, and then design-wise and stuff. I got really excited with talking to Autumn.
So then I was like, "Oh, man. Let's start a crowdfund." That was when GoFundMe and stuff was already going, but I had never done that and I was like, "Oh, I want to do that," and we did one to publish our book, our first book, and we got $1,200. I couldn't believe it. I was like, "Oh, wow. That's so amazing. People really wanted to publish this kind of work." We had what kind of work we want to do, independent BIPOC support and work, just creating change kind of work. We put on a call and we called it the Golden Ticket. I did the Willy Wonka type of thing like, "Hey, we want y'all to write a chapter for us," blah, blah, blah, and so we started recruiting people like that. Yago, you want to talk a little bit about the HINCHAS Press before the book series and stuff? I think that'd be helpful.
Yago Cura: Yeah, thank you, Max. It's cool because it's what Max is saying is... There's just two things I want to point out. We've been working together it's going to go now in seven years. The three of us have never been in the same room. We live in different states and then even the people that live in the same state, it's hard to kind of... We have kids, we have jobs, we have all these kind of things that we do. So here's the thing, the reason I'm bringing that up is I just want people to understand that the possibility of working virtually is there.
It actually does work, and you can kind of bend it to your will, but you got to put the work in. We've spent many a night on Zoom with our hands on our heads trying to figure stuff out. And I also wanted to point out that what Max said about independently because did a crowd kind of thing to raise some money to do the first edition, but we've weathered the pandemic, we've weathered really all these obstacles and we're still here and we're still doing it, and really what motivates us is the support. And we talked about this earlier, Ericka and Constance, thank you to Oregon for really the big up and the big support. I think in terms of states, it's really where we've gotten the most support and for various reasons. It's really interesting.
I just also wanted to say that Max and I, we met on, I think, the REFORMA listserv in 2012 or something, 2011. Just literally so far. I had just moved to LA from New York where I did my work at Queens College, my MLS, and so we were talking and then we decided... It was right around the time where Tucson Unified School Board was banning ethnic studies. So Max and I were talking and we're big fans El Coyote, the mythical figure, the trickster, the person that does the things that initiate change and sparks and all this stuff. And we were saying, "Let's write this guy a thank you letter for banning ethnic studies, now hear me out, because inevitably what always happens is there's a resurgence, a resuscitation of ethnic studies and kids start reading these books again."
So we literally wrote a thank you to him for banning these books because of the increase in interest and the increase in circulation that we were going to experience. I wrote it from the side of in HINCHAS Press, like a press, "Thank you for banning ethnic studies and making me more money as the publisher of ethnic studies books," kind of a thing. So that's how Max and I started. We were just pranksters and big adulants of Coyote, the mythical trickster. So Max knew Autumn and that's how we came together. And you should know this, Autumn is a mycologist. She's an education guru. She's just a super self-taught kind of renaissance person and way smarter than me.
So it's been this organic almost Voltron thing assembling, and we don't know why it works and we don't really want to know why it works, but what we do know is that we work well together, we listen to each other, the suggestions and the art that Autumn makes and now Max is now making art. We're all kind of making art. I'm a zinester too, so we're all kind of in that art kind of world and we all kind of do our things and we're all very excited about each other's work. I think we're big supporters of each other, but we've never met. Sorry. I could go on and on. Autumn, what about you?
Autumn Anglin: Just like Max said, I had just put on international art show that was showing in Oregon and all through LA where I did a collaborative works with 100 different artists and one of the artists that was in it was Ronnie, Max's partner, and so that's how I got to know their family and we all just hit it off, and so I think that was in 2013, 2014. So Max and I have known each other for a long, long time. And I had just gone back to school to get my third bachelor's degree in graphic design and Max and Ronnie were trying to help me get my feet on the ground with doing a new career with graphic design because I was moving sort of out of the art curation world into trying to own my own business with graphic design, and Max came to me with his idea for Librarians with Spines and it was like, "Hey, I need you to meet this guy, Yago. Let's get on Zoom," or I think it was Google Meet, or I don't know, whatever it was back before in 2016. And we all met and really clicked.
And I got to say, I do know this secret to why this all works, it's because we have a lot of compassion and empathy and we give each other a lot of grace. I could not do this as a parent and I've always felt like being a mom that I could never hold down a normal job. I always had to go the extra mile because they're my kids, my responsibility and I don't get any outside community help, and so just having these guys understand family obligations and that our community comes first and the project will get done, we just need a little bit of grace. I mean, all of us have gone through some major stuff during the past seven years and we've all needed some grace.
And during the pandemic, that was one of the biggest things I pushed for when we were interviewing authors and we were doing Zoom calls with people is if they couldn't do it, we gave them grace because in Oregon we had all the fires In 2020, we had the ice storm in 2021, we're living through the pandemic. Oregon was hit really hard with a bunch of major tragic incidents, not to mention what Max and I were going through personally. So I know it works because we care for each other despite not having seen them in person in a while. We're still here, we're still doing it, and we actually have more projects in the works. There's two big projects with for Librarians with Spines in particular that's coming up and we're excited about them. I imagine when we hit a decade of this, it's going to be a party.
It was kind of the universe that brought us all together, and I would say it's something that was bigger than any one of us. We could not do this without each other. There is no way. Max has the most amazing ideas and has pushed us so far, and Yago has just this amazing ability to connect everything, those connections that bring us all together, but then I can see the vision of the entire series. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I was like, "This isn't going to be one book, you guys. We are making this into volumes. This is going to be a series." I was like, "This is going to be a library journal." So I mean, I sat down and I designed the colors for the covers in 2016, and as we go through, it's already mapped out. We're just going to work together and get more of this done. I mean, you guys wait till you see what's coming up next. It's going
Ericka Brunson-Rochette: Thank you all for sharing those beautiful tales of your journey getting here, and it seems like it was just destiny for your paths to cross. And I know that you're grateful, but all of the readers out there, and I know that the listeners of this episode are eternally grateful that your paths crossed so that you could offer a way to share all of this necessary work and these necessary voices with all of us. So thank you for that. Our next question for you is the stories that we tell have power, they create, perpetuate or grow a culture. What do you want to see in the narrative that we tell about libraries, community spaces and education? And we'll start this one off with Max.
Max Macias: I want to see libraries be the community centers that they can be. I've been friends with Roland, right? Roland Barksdale, and his work is just mindbogglingly so good and so amazing, it's inspiring. I want to see libraries be that, and that in itself creates change. And where's change going to come from? It's going to come from Ubuntu, the community, and just altogether, not just one section of the community or another section, or banning anything. Everybody should have input and nothing should be segregated off into a corner. I used to have an idea that racist books should be segregated into a corner, but I no longer believe that. That's another thing too that I would like to see is libraries change over time, their stance on intellectual freedom for instance. It needs to be revamped. 21st Centurized, if such a word can be.
So that. That's what I would like to see. And education-wise, I want to see librarians and library science be a lot more deeply intellectual and philosophical. When I went to library school, I was just like, "What? This is it? This is like vocational training. I could put a spine on the library book. Sure, I could put a spine label on..." And again, I'm not trying to offend anybody or anything. That was my, "What?" I studied philosophy as an undergraduate, so I'm always looking for deeper thinking, deeper ideas about stuff. I want to see libraries be a little bit deeper as far as LIS, library information science. I want to see it go deep. I want to see more people talk about hip hop and library science, library information science and how there's analogies and how there's Vygotskian jumps that can be made from one to the other, like the idea that you can describe the aspects of metadata using graffiti. So you can really just cross worlds and bring one world to the other, vice versa.
I'm not talking about just hip hop people getting exposed to intellectuals. I'm talking about intellectuals getting exposed to hip hop people. That's what's important to me because I say this all the time and it probably sounds like a broken record to people, but it's so inbred academic thinking in general, and librarianship too is just so the same thing over and over again. We need new ideas and I've been seeing new ideas come out recently, and it's because there's been... I'm not going to say an influx because the numbers aren't as great as I'd like them to be, but there's been new people coming in, people of color, other marginalized people, and they're using their voices and it's beautiful. It's really beautiful. That's what I'd like to say about it. Thanks for the question. It's a great question.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette: I'm going to turn it over to Yago.
Yago Cura: Yeah, narratives are super important and I think what I'd like to see changed in the narrative is how vital integral libraries are to the life of a community. We all learned in library science school, the beginnings of libraries. They were not centers for immigration, but they would help immigrants. They're like, "Look, we want for you to better your English, we want you to better your education." So a lot of those things still continue today. The LAPL has been really great with the New Americans Initiative and working closely with USCIS. So those narratives, those stories, they're still being told, I just think we need to do a better job at telling them. For example, a lot of people are concerned about the book banning and I'm like, "Look, let it come. They're testing our mettle and this is fortuitous. This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity for us to define what the narrative is."
I think it's hard to see the opportunity in those challenges, but I think as information professionals we kind of have to, I'd say, put on our big girl chonies and just kind of figure it out because it's important. We need to be able to tell the story of why we're important, and if you don't think that you need to add to that story, then I don't know what to tell you. I think we all add to that story, working in libraries and doing the work we do. Representation is super important.
So I grew up in Miami, so me going into the Miami-Dade Public Library, the Snapper Creek branch, which is where I used to go, it was always kind of an older white lady telling people to shush, and that's not what the libraries are right now at all. And now I, as a Latino man, work in predominantly African American neighborhood, and so I have to constantly want to learn. How can I say this? I've had to update my skills, what I know about the African American community to work where I work. I've taken the reins of the story of the narrative and try to really kind of own it, and so that's been phenomenal because it has allowed me to create a collection that is very focused on social justice and civil rights history and African American history and Latino history and genderqueer history. So it's given me quite an opportunity.
So that's also the narrative of representation. Kids come into the branch, they see a Latino man who's behind the reference desk and not the circulation desk, and I think that's huge for kids in the inner city, and so I think that's important too. That's important in terms of the narrative that we tell. But I also agree with Max, we're trying to tell these stories about librarians who are trying to do practical best practice solutions to some of these problems that we don't want to talk about. And look, I was born in Brooklyn. I love this country. My parents are immigrants to this country. It means so much for me to be born in this country, that my kids are born in this country, right?
At the same time, I think there's also a premium on the nice patrons and sometimes the ones that are a little more difficult to serve gets lost in the wayside. And in LA we have to deal with all types of patrons. Most of the libraries you are going to deal with homeless people coming off the streets and being in your space, and how do you mitigate that? How do you make sure that you're serving everyone equitably, but at the same time creating a safe space? And sometimes that means asking someone to leave.
Creating a safe space is sometimes asking a person, "Hey, you know what? You're the kind of factor that's causing a lot of this stuff so you can come back tomorrow and we can figure it out again because this is your space, but there's something right now with the dynamics that is not really working. So we need to figure that out." Not saying, "Get out of here, never come back again," unless offenses are egregious. That's also happening quite a bit in LA and Seattle and Portland and places where librarians are being attacked and really being forced to defend themselves, and it's really scary, but we are also public-facing. We are there to serve people and these communities, and man, you're going to get your hands dirty. That's just par for the course.
Constance Palaia: Thank you. And I'm going to have you pick up with this one too, Yago. What advice would you give to BIPOC library workers new to the profession?
Yago Cura: I'll say this, I'm just going to preface my comments by saying that this is my third career. I thought I was going to be a professor of creative writing and just Wonder Boys, just hide from students and not really teach. That didn't work out. Then I thought I was just going to be a high school teacher. I did that for several years and that didn't work out, and I realized after 20 years that I gave myself permission to be a librarian. I didn't know the money that we make and I didn't know that we have the responsibilities and duties that we have. I'll say this, I believe BIPOC librarians coming into librarianship, the one thing I would say is be careful. Be judicious in who you trust and who you spill the beans to. To Assume that all BIPOC people are in your corner is a huge mistake.
I tell people all the time, there's this narrative that the only people that can be racist are Anglo people, and let me tell you, as a person of color, the most racist things that have been said to me have been other people of color. So the first thing I would say is just don't assume that everyone's on your team because they may share your ethnicity or your personal history, right? Because people are beholden to many things. When I was a teacher, I realized that everyone was saying that they're doing it for the kids, but the kids aren't getting any better, so one of us has to be lying. So you got to be really judicious who you pick as a confidant because you don't know if that person is telling someone else everything that you're telling them.
And maybe something else that I would say would be to address the microaggressions as they come because they will come. That's just a matter of working in the information industry. There are microaggressions. I can guarantee you there are many people who would prefer to see me with a leaf blower or a rake, and not behind the reference desk answering high-level reference questions and giving extremely excellent customer service, just acing the reference interview. They would prefer to see me in working maintenance, and that's fine. That's what their assumption has led them to, but I don't have to partake in that. So the microaggressions will come, and I will say that to keep yourself sane, that you should address them as they come. If someone says something to you that you find jarring or really just kind of insensitive, I would just address it. Sometimes addressing it is giving a little of the hate sauce back, giving a little haterade back, and sometimes it's hedging your bets, shutting your mouth and waiting for the right opportunity because it will come.
The third thing I would say, guys, is look, HR is not necessarily your friend, so be careful when the microaggressions may become bigger. And when they do, you might have to talk to someone in HR. And if that's the case, then you should really put on your, how can I say this, best reporter kind of demeanor and really just stick to the facts. But again, none of this may happen or all of it may, but I think it's something that especially people of color coming into librarianship, we should be prepared to encounter and we should be prepared to meet the challenges and those obstacles because they will be there.
Constance Palaia: Max, can you pick up there?
Max Macias: I would say that people need to be reading stuff from the 1960s and '70s, and getting familiar with the radical changes that were happening then and that could have happened if they hadn't been so viciously stamped out. There's a lot to be learned there and there's a lot to be brought today. So in our field, what Yago is saying, in our field, it is true, like what I was saying earlier, that it's still true today, if not more true today, that you better keep your mouth shut because we'll get ya, and I don't really work in libraries because of that pretty much. I feel like I was kept out of libraries because of that. So that people need to realize that, that the field is like that and it doesn't have to be like that. It is changing, I think, a little bit, like I mentioned before, alluded to before, but that new people are coming in and people are talking about structural change versus just one incident there or another incident there, and structural change is important.
So that's what I would tell people to focus on as far as creating change in libraries as a young person coming in or any person coming into libraries still is just to focus on changing the structural inequities that exist in libraries and look at the policies, practices, and procedures and see where those impact people the most, they prevent people from being served, prevent other things from happening. They might have been good 50 years ago. Are they still good today? There's a lot of stuff changes all the time. It changes faster and faster every day. Everybody knows that. That's important. But structural change... And using your voice, if you can. Everybody uses their voice to their own comfort and their own safety. I'm not one for telling people to do things that are going to prevent them from working or anything like that, but everybody does what they can do, and then that becomes something instead of just people being in despair, or not doing much, or doing the same thing over and over again and not getting anywhere. So all of that.
I would say that scholars coming into the field need to, and librarians that even just don't consider themselves scholars, they need to really severely criticize, or not severely, but critically analyze BIPOC leaders of the past and the changes that they created, and their mistakes and their successes. So representation is great, but representation isn't... It is part of the structural change I was talking about, but it's not the cornerstone of the structural change at all. It really shouldn't matter who is in... Even the structure. I was going to say who's the president, or I start using these hierarchical terms, and the hierarchies are part of the problem.
A lot of the hierarchies we have come from medieval Europe, Game of Throne style thinking, and that stuff is part of committees and all kinds of stuff. So people need to be critical and they need to just look at stuff with a critical eye and not be afraid to talk about people's failures, right? I'm not going to say anybody's failures in particular. I'm not going to use anybody's names in this interview because that's not what this is about, but that's what I do, and that's a personal thing that this isn't my podcast per se, but a lot of times I will, whatever, call people out or call them in.
We, as a matter of fact, have a chapter coming up with one of our books. It's one of the best chapters I've ever read in that area. I feel bad that we haven't got it out there yet, but it's coming. And what Autumn said is true, there's challenges to get stuff done. The stuff that's coming is taking a while, but it's going to happen. It's a beautiful thing. I don't know how to say it right. It's not a beautiful thing, it just doesn't happen like that, but it's a beautiful thing to just keep going and know that it's going to be done and know that you're working with people that don't think you're a failure or X, Y, Z because stuff hasn't got done yet. And we communicate with each other too. We just don't like, "I'm not going to do it," or whatever, that kind of stuff. But just... Anyway. I'm getting off track.
Yago Cura: What Autumn said before about grace, but also Max, one of the things I really appreciate about you is when you're wrong, you say, "You know what? I was wrong." You find a new system to replace the old system of thinking that you had, you share it with people. You say, "Look, this is how I used to think. This is how I think now. This is maybe how you should think." And a lot of, I think, the heat that we get is our hearts are in the right place, and what we're trying to do is I think is strive towards equity and strive towards all these really noble things, but not everyone feels that, and that's kind of the fight and I think that's where a lot of this stuff comes in.
But I want to tell you, and Autumn, are also great teachers of mine because what you guys have taught me is really... I can't even put a value on it, but I can be irascible, but you've taught me that, "Look, you know what? If you're wrong, say you're wrong because that's part of it, and then let's move on. Let's get in the right and let's get in the right in a way that kind of almost embarrasses what we used to think," and I wanted to thank you and Autumn for that because I think it's essential to what we do, honestly.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette: Well, thank you so much for that thoughtful advice for new BIPOC professionals and also for showing the wonderful example that you have set in finding support systems and ways to hold each other and yourselves accountable in this work with this relationship that you have here. My next question is a bit of a longer one, and it's one that I know that a couple of you have touched upon already. On your blogs, Lowrider Librarian and Librarians with Spines, as well as Max's contribution to the OLA EDI and Antiracism Toolkit, you have long rejected the idea of finding a middle ground in libraries when it comes to equity work. You point out the mythology of libraries needing to be neutral places, a middle ground for all people as the way to support intellectual freedom and access to information.
To quote, "Anti-racist libraries acknowledge the fallacy of being neutral in the face of racism. Libraries are racist or anti-racist, just like individuals. Libraries cannot just say they are not racist. Being an anti-racist library means they are actively working to dismantle racism and white supremacy in their libraries and their communities. Being anti-racist also means they are working to dismantle the oppression of marginalized people," end quote. How do you see us carrying out this work in our libraries and communities? And we'll start with Max for this.
Max Macias: Very carefully. If you're working in libraries, very carefully and incrementally and working within and without the system. And if you can't work without the system, find people that are working without the system. And I'm talking about outside of the system. Black Panther Party had an underground and an aboveground side, and the underground wasn't really part of the main system, that kind of stuff, but they worked together to create change. That's the kind of idea I like is to do that. At the school where I work, we started an anti-racist group that that's outside of any official school organization, but we're all part of the school organizations, and so we can work outside and then have our members go inside and agitate, if you want to call it that, or create change is probably a better way to put it in their own individual committees or bring up stuff that might not otherwise get brought up.
And anti-racism is all about stopping... One main aspect is stopping when you see something and saying it, calling it out and saying it needs to stop and, "What's going on here? This needs to stop. This isn't what we value. Here's our mission statement. It clearly says we don't value this stuff. Why is this happening?" Use the policies, missions, practices and procedures that are already available, and also, that's what goes back to before. Get involved with committees that have a say in those policies, practices, and procedures, and everybody can get part of any... Not any committee, but you can get part of committee work and as you work, you can become part of those committees that you really want to be part of, and then you can start creating change.
And I'll say it, and again, not to offend people, but the reason to get to those positions is to create change. It's not just to get to those positions and then get to the next position. It's to get in there and create change. And I've seen too many people of all backgrounds say they're going to create change and, "I just need to get to this spot, and then I can start talking, then I can start doing stuff," and then they never really get there, or they get there and they find themselves so strapped down and gagged and they have handlers and all this stuff that they can't do anything. And that's part of the structural change too.
I mean, even the concept of a leader, it's offensive to me. A leader? What do we need a leader? You need a council of people, community of people making decisions, man. Not just one person or one type of person. It's just really weird. And so now you got a Latino president, you got Latinx president, you got an indigenous president, whatever, but the structure's still the same and the suffering is still ongoing. We just had a president in our school for the past 10 or 15 years, whatever, I don't even keep track. Probably 10 years. It hasn't been that long. He was there. He's a BIPOC person and his parents suffered in the internment camps, in the Japanese American internment camps here during World War II.
He knows what it feels like, but he believes in the system of oppression so much and the white supremacist system so much, and not white supremacy per se, but our governmental structures is what I'm saying, the way they're set up. The change is going to happen if we work within those things without changing the structures necessarily. And so nothing really changed during his tenure. There's a lot of pretty name committees and stuff like that. Some students got some help, I'll say that, but the structural change didn't happen, so it's not a sustainable thing. So it needs to be a sustainable thing.
Yago Cura: I think you answered the question perfectly. It's like how do we plan to dismantle the inequality that we see? I just want to kind of piggyback on what Max is saying. Here's the thing, we can spot inequality. We know what it looks like. We know why it breeds. If we just sit there pointing a finger and identifying it and we take no action to quell or to mitigate or to kind of push back on the negative effects, then really we're just window shopping, and I think what Max is saying is that, and this is something personal to me, but I don't pay ALA anymore. I don't pay CLA anymore. And this is just me, this is a personal action that I've taken, and the reason is because something that Max said, that there are a lot of librarian of all ethnicities who get into this as to kind of promote their career. And that's fine, that's great. I understand we're all ambitious, we all want to move ahead in our careers. We'd all like to make a little more money. This is great.
But if we're doing this so that we can, I don't know, not share it with our communities or so that our communities don't actually benefit, then really what's the point? So if I become the president of an organization, so that gives me enough time to go and play golf, that's awesome, but that's not the point of working in the community. I mean, I get it. You treat yourself nice, all that stuff, but what's actually being done? When I was in education, we'd have these meetings to have meetings, to form meetings to form committees. We would talk about the troubled students, the ones that weren't performing or weren't up to snuff, and instead of actually coming with solutions, instead of saying, "Okay. Look, for this student, this is the intervention I think we should use," we would sit around and kind of ask each other, "Well, what do you think you... Well, what should we do? What would the special ed department do? What would the English department too?" And what happens is absolutely nothing gets done.
If you think I'm being harsh, I just want you to think about something. For the past 30 years we've talked about the inherent whiteness of the publishing industry, education industry, and the information professions, and if you were to actually look at what's changed in terms of data and statistics, you would be amazed because it really hasn't changed. I did my thesis work on MFAs and stuff like that, so I was doing research on how many Latinos versus how many Blacks have master's degrees. This was in 2009, and it was about 8% African American to about 5% Latino, and I don't know how much it's changed. Actually, I don't want to know because I feel that might have changed maybe three, 4%, which I hate to say is negligible, honestly.
And I'm not saying that we need an influx of Latino and Black librarians in librarianship. No. What I'm saying is the systems that hire librarians should take it upon themselves to put their money where their mouth is and actually hire and retain those librarians, then they can actually say that they're trying to chip away at the problem, because from what I see a lot of the times in these interviews and a lot of times about people who get hired, it's the same type, it's the same narrative. It's safe middle-class, kind of on the meek side, don't be too flamboyant or have too much testosterone. it's kind of like middle of the road, bland, sin sal you would say in Spanish. And I guess also what we're talking about is in Spanish, you say muela for gums, and it's just a lot of the times, a lot of this work is just gum flapping and nothing actually gets done, and I share Max's frustration and I share... All you have to do, folks, is check the data out.
The best thing you can do is be like, "Yago is full of crap. I'm going to go and do my own research. I'm going to go to Pew Latino Research Center and really check these numbers out for myself and see if whether he's being sensational or actually kind of might have a point," because I think what Max is saying much more eloquently than I have said is I think that. If you're not putting your money where your mouth is, it's just your muelas are flapping, your gums. That's all it is. And what we do with Librarians with Spines, without advertisement, without any really backers, supporters, outside of individuals and institutions that buy the book, what we've been able to do is astounding and with really no help, and I'm very proud of it. This is one of the crowning achievements of my career, and I don't care whether people in LA see it like that, whether the colleagues I have see it like that. I could care less because I know what's what. I know what's tangible, and the community that we've built is tangible.
Ericka Brunson-Rochette: Wow. Thank you so much for those powerful and thoughtful reflections on what it means to be anti-racist and what it looks like to carry out anti-racism work in our spaces, libraries, and communities. Really all of this discussion thus far has given me so much to think on and our listeners as well, so with that, we're going to give everyone a chance to reflect on the conversation thus far, and we're going to end here with part one of this dynamic interview. And we invite our listeners to join us for part two of this two-part discussion that's happening with Max Macias, Yago Cura, and Autumn Anglin, the creators behind the Librarians with Spine series that will be released in just a few weeks. So thank you all so much and happy reflecting to our listeners.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act administered by the State Library of Oregon.
Este proyecto ha sido posible en parte por el Instituto de Servicios de Museos y Bibliotecas a través de la Ley de Servicios de Biblioteca y Tecnológia (LSTA), administrada por la Biblioteca Estado de Oregón.
Voiceover: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries would not be possible without the generous support from the Oregon Library Association and the State Library of Oregon, whose mission is to provide leadership and resources to continue growing vibrant library services for Oregonians. We would like to take time to acknowledge historical injustices. We recognize Oregon was established as a white sanctuary state with the intent to exclude African American and Black people on ancestral lands stolen from dispossessed indigenous peoples. We recognize and honor the members of federally recognized tribes and unrecognized tribes of Oregon. We honor Native American ancestors, past, present, and future whose land we still occupy. This acknowledgement aims to deconstruct false histories, correct the historical record, and disrupt genocidal practices by refocusing attention to the original people of the land we inhabit, the slave trade and forced labor that built this country, and to the oppressive social systems interwoven into the fabric of our national and regional heritage. We ask that you take a moment to acknowledge and reflect as well.