03 September 2020 Blogs

WOC+Lib Amplifies the Voices of Black Library Workers

Discover a digital community forum dedicated to diversity and inclusion issues and initiatives in librarianship

WOC+Lib, a website co-founded by ProQuest training and consulting partner LaQuanda Onyemeh, has quickly become essential reading for anyone interested in diversity and inclusion within the library community.

The American Library Association highlighted WOC+Lib in their Libraries Respond: Black Lives Matter page for the website's role in amplifying the voices of Black library workers. 

LaQuanda and her friend Lorin Jackson launched WOC+Lib in 2019, shortly after meeting. They created the website to provide a platform for women of color and people of color to contribute to the conversation regarding issues and new initiatives in the library community.

In this interview, LaQuanda shares why she and Lorin created the website, response from the library community, upcoming plans and more.

PQ: When did you and Lorin found the website?

LaQuanda: Lorin and I first met at the first annual University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNC-Greensboro) Library Institute for resident librarians in September 2018. Immediately, our personal and professional relationship began to bloom over shared interests like diversity & inclusion, residency librarianship and critical librarianship. We also connected with other residents as early career librarians and women of color. 

Over time, interactions between Lorin and I became more regular to discuss and compare our experiences of micro- and macro-aggressions in librarianship. These conversations brought us closer. Determined to see a change, we kicked into problem-solving mode. We began to think that we cannot be alone in facing these experiences. We thought that more WOC (women of color) and POC (people of color) could benefit from a digital community forum focused on the state of affairs for BIPOC (Black & Indigenous people of color) folks in the LIS field; a platform free from the Eurocentric narratives that dominate other established media channels and publishing platforms.

We wanted to amplify the voices of residents, early-career librarians, library and information science students, paraprofessional staff and all part-time and full-time library workers. Lorin and I wanted to provide them with opportunities to contribute to the conversation surrounding current issues and new initiatives in the field. 

After recruiting like-minded, committed team members who volunteer their time, effort and energy from our personal networks, WOC+Lib was born. In the tradition of many gender, race and class struggle-affirming publications, WOC+Lib operates from a deeply grounded grassroots social justice framework. We realized that there weren't many spaces for us. We wanted to create a safe space ourselves for ourselves.

At that time, Lorin and I had only met in-person twice, and our next meeting was in Cleveland, Ohio. We hired a graphic designer, began to forge a plan for the site, and set a launch date. WOC+Lib launched on April 5, 2019 at ACRL Cleveland and was met with high praise from the LIS profession in person and online. Both Lorin and I received messages of encouragement and excitement from colleagues at the conference.

Through heavy retweets, the WOC+Lib Twitter profile​ pushed traffic to the website. Our first feature was called “The Importance of WOC Friendships in Librarianship.” We wrote two separate pieces explaining why it was important for WOC in the field to work together and support each other. (Read LaQuanda's piece, and Lorin's take.)

During the conference, we hosted our first social hour to explain WOC+Lib, our mission and our plans. It was an immediate success and attendance was high. We were blown away by the support of our colleagues. During our first week of launching, we had 2,672 unique visitors and over 6,339 pages views. WOC+Lib also has international reach. Representatives from 24 different countries and the United States have visited WOC+Lib, and traffic has only increased since then! Today, we have increased to a total of 14,000 unique visitors and 28,300 pages views.

Shortly after, we were accepted into the NEH ODH (National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities) Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities.  We received the opportunity to gain experiential training from the experts who created the Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap to help us to develop a sustainable plan to ensure the long-term digital viability of WOC+Lib. Read more at WOC+Lib.

Could you preview some of your plans for WOC+Lib in the fall?

WOC+Lib will be working diligently to ensure that all voices are showcased on our platform! We will continue to expand our site's reach by increasing the visibility of issues for BIPOC LIS workers. This fall, expect to see more content highlighting original research and advancing the interests of those with intersectional identities, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. We will also be employing targeted marketing strategies to various demographics to ensure we are doing our best to represent diverse voices within GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) professions.

WOC+Lib is being archived by the Library of Congress as a part of a collection of internet resources related to the Women's and Gender Studies and was recently recognized by ALA for Amplifying Black Library Voices in the field and community. We pledge to continue delivering groundbreaking content and exceeding our audience’s expectations.

Where are you based?

WOC+Lib is remotely based. We have team members from all over the U.S. committed to our mission and vision! We operate with volunteers. Lorin and I direct the site. We also have teams of editors, marketing staff, and social media mavens for the site. WOC+Lib is funded independently by us. Lorin and I pay hosting fees every year out-of-pocket, along with other expenses and time we put in to push out consistently great content. We absorbed every payment to keep the site running so that all marginalized voices are heard and added to the profession's mainstream conversation.

If you want to learn more or would like to support WOC+Lib, please visit https://www.wocandlib.org/work-with-us.