In general, law librarians tend to be very active and aware of social issues around our profession as well as US society at large and the inevitable and impactful connections between them. This active role translates into calls to action, statements, education and training programing, difficult yet needed conversations and so on. As a profession influenced by two communities (i.e. legal and library communities) reckoning with the same pressing issues, there is no doubt that law librarians must be an integral part of these conversations. At the same time, because of the rapidly changing and crucial “frontal” space that law librarians inhabit, there are times in which we, law librarians fail. Despite all the information and training available, we fail to anticipate the problem, we fail to listen to our colleagues, we fail to assess who is hurting, we fail to actively listen, we fail to educate ourselves, we fail to see the consequences of what we do, we fail to see our part in the entire scheme. We simply fail.
Therefore, I’m going to invite my law library colleagues as well as all readers to do a little exercise right now. Close your eyes and take a quick scan at your immediate professional circles: the people you work with, your teammates, who supervises your work, who calls the shots, the people in the committee or group you are part of, the people in the project you’re working on, the people you work with regularly and in special projects. In short, take a look at the table from your seat and think for a second about who is missing. Forget about the project, the topic of conversation, the mission statement, objectives and goals. Who is missing at the table?
Let’s be honest. We all know who is missing. You know. I know. They know. Your colleague next to you knows. We all know. And darling, if you don’t know, let me google that for you…
Once you realize that we all know who’s missing, think about these salient related questions:
- Have they ever been at the table? And if so, what happened? For how long?
- How many were at the table? Were they just one?
- Doing what? Were they truly allowed to participate? Did they call the shots?
- Or why they have never been at the table? Have we talked about helping them without them at the table?
More importantly, you need to realize the power that YOU have to bring people to the table in a fully, nurturing and meaningful way. That is your power, especially if you consider yourself an ally, someone aware of, educated and active on social issues and willing to make a difference. You have a choice and a voice at that table. From that table, you have the power to lift other people up. If you want to be part of the solution, you need to raise your voice and ask where are the missing people and how we can truly bring them to the table. And then, listen and let these people talk for themselves.
The purpose of this realization and this post is not for you to create another workshop, host a panel or write an article about the people missing from the table, without, yet again, the actual missing people at the table. We need realization and action. It’s about bringing the missing people to the table, giving them the resources and letting them talk.
I love telling stories. So, let me finish with one. Passover is my favorite holiday of all times. During the Passover seder, families read about four different children representing all of us. However, with the passing of times, rabbis began questioning who are all the children missing from our table. The missing child has now become the fifth child which we remember and strive to bring to the seder table every year. The full enjoyment and liberation promise of Passover will simply not be fulfilled without the missing child also fully sitting at the table.
If we don’t all work towards bringing everyone to the table in a meaningful and equitable way, we are never going to succeed. No amount of scholarship writing, analytical studies, panel discussions, cultural trainings or HR policies are ever going to change anything, if we are not willing, each of us, to do something and bring the missing people to the table. It starts and ends with you.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. Their essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.