Our 2017 Theme, “Beyond Neutral” is a departure for LSLS. Our team of volunteers isn’t normally a very serious group. Our past conference themes reflected that: our first conference in 2012 focused more on the awesome taco bar than on a unifying theme, and for LSLS16: NOW That’s What I Call Libraries! we created this epic promotional video. But this year, when discussing possible themes, we found ourselves reflecting on recent events in our communities, nation, and world, and thinking intently about the role of libraries in our current information environment.
To be honest, our decision process was influenced by the November 2016 election cycle, which many of us found deeply unsettling. Each member of the team genuinely cares about their communities. Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota are in the rust belt, and our communities have struggled with funding, advocacy, and equity for the past 40 years. As the political pendulum swings, many of us were having doubts about whether our welcoming message to all users was being heard by our leaders. As information professionals, we often provide access to information and facts and let our users make their own judgements. But in an age of partisanship, fake news, and acrimony, we felt a need to step away from the role of arbitrator and into that of information advocate.
Discussion around these issues led to our 2017 conference theme: Beyond Neutral. At LSLS17 we hope to challenge the traditional stance of libraries as neutral spaces. When factual information is routinely ignored or considered partisan, can librarians remain neutral? When certain community members suffer and are made to feel unwelcome because of false information, how do we respond? In the current political climate, how do we navigate our institutional restrictions while upholding our professional values? How do we become radically welcoming spaces for everyone while retaining our commitment to information literacy and actual, not alternative, facts? How can we become active sharers of data, replacing anecdotes and spin with truth? At LSLS17 we will look outward to connect with our community, and inward to reflect on ourselves and our profession.
We hope you will join us in this dialogue, at LSLS17 and beyond. Let’s learn from each other as we bring our libraries beyond neutral!