The Alternative Voices Feature is brought to you by the NMRT’s Membership, Diversity, Promotion, and Recruitment committee. It is meant to give a platform to the voices of librarians from underrepresented communities in the library field. The format of the feature is a journalistic question and answer format. It provides information that the librarian wants people to know about them, plus their thoughts on the current state of the field of librarianship.
Name – Jewel Davis
Contact Information – firstname.lastname@example.org
City & State – Boone, NC
Position Title – Education Librarian
Length of time in the library field – Five years
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you attend college? What degrees do you have? What programs (undergraduate or graduate) prepared you for your current position? Tell us about your position and what you do? What is your definition of diversity, or equity or inclusion?
I began my career as a high school English teacher after receiving a Master of Arts in Teaching and a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I later decided to go back to school to become a librarian, and I was supported in that choice through the ACE Scholars program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The program was created to recruit minority librarians, and as part of this cohort of diverse students, I received financial support, participated in internships and professional development, and built relationships with phenomenal future librarians. It was an amazing program that jump-started my path into librarianship and seeing the value of diverse representation in this field.
I currently work as an Education Librarian in a PreK-12 Curriculum Materials Center at Appalachian State University’s Belk Library and Information Commons. I work with pre-service teachers, education faculty, and practicing K-12 teachers on teaching with youth literature, incorporating STEM and emerging technologies into classroom practice, and developing practitioner-based research skills. I love the job because it combines my passion for teaching, utilizing instructional technologies, and advocating for youth.
I define diversity as the wide range of differences that make us individually unique people. Because we are each inherently different as people, diversity is part of our everyday lives. What we do to understand, honor, and act upon it is what matters, and this is where we must engage in inclusive practices. Inclusion is the act of recognizing and supporting the diversity we encounter in people and creating an environment that provides a sense of belonging, value, and respect.
How are you becoming or staying in involved with the wider profession?
When I started my current job, I decided to focus first on building community locally and within my state. I volunteer, help organize, and attend events in our local education community, and over the years I have taken on more active leadership positions in our state library associations. I currently chair the Roundtable for Ethnic Minority Concerns for the North Carolina Library Association, and I am the President of the North Carolina Curriculum Materials Center Association. I am now seeking opportunities in national service organizations, and I feel good about this slow but steady path because I have a supportive network in my local and state community that I can lean on and work with to help make a wider impact.
What advice would you give to new librarians from underrepresented groups?
Don’t be afraid to lead in the position that you are currently in. Leadership doesn’t have to be gained through a new title or position. You can make an impact and grow in your career laterally just as well as you can vertically. Hungrily seek the opportunities that speak to your passions, put in the work, and always advocate for yourself and your work.
Now more than ever, it is important for libraries to seek out diverse materials to add to their collection but some may have difficulty locating materials that accurately reflect the voice of a specific community.
What resource would you recommend that librarians use to locate the most up-to-date and relevant sources?
I work with youth advocates specifically on this issue in terms of finding authentic representation in youth literature. Going beyond our traditional collection development practices of primarily using trade reviews and moving more towards seeking out reviews and recommendations from people within underrepresented groups is key in having authentic materials in our collections. The See What We See Coalition (socialjusticebooks.org/about/see-what-we-see/) is comprised of dedicated advocates who critique and provide extensive evaluations on diverse titles in youth literature. In addition, the We Need Diverse Books (diversebooks.org/) organization provides links to curated title lists and links to other groups who have taken up the call to evaluate and recommend diverse youth literature.
What trends are most impacting the field right now?
In the library circles, I am a part of, I have been hearing more conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. I hope these conversations build into even more action, training, and difficult conversations that push us into a sustained movement and not a passing moment.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned on the job?
Effective communication is everything. Even when it is difficult and we do not agree, we have to strive to listen better and be more open to having authentic dialogue.
What is your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is speculative fiction. I love that even though we can escape to explore fantastical and futuristic settings in this genre, we can still learn about ourselves. For youth and adults, it can grant us the distance we may need and provide through metaphor a safe way to confront our fears, highlight our issues, and imagine our futures.
Do you have a blog/website?
I am on twitter as @jewel_davis (twitter.com/jewel_davis), and I have a website jeweldavis.com.
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