A red robot holding two pieces of a broken heart with a tear falling down its face.
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How to Reject Grant and Job Applicants with Compassion During This Time

A couple of weeks ago, it was my responsibility to deliver bad news to a couple dozen people. This is an already challenging time for many and I was very sensitive to how I was about to make them feel. You see, the Archivist-in-Residence (AiR) program, received 10 highly qualified joint applications and we could only pick one. (Joint meaning a new professional and host site applied as a team = 20+ people). This meant that not only were we rejecting grant applications, we were also rejecting job applicants.

Prepare Your Compassionate Rejection Ahead of Time

The AiR team is comprised of highly emotionally intelligent people and we decided a couple months ago (pre-COVID) that we wanted to offer support to the applicants who weren’t selected. This decision is in keeping with our mission which is to advocate for new professionals in the field and support the institutions who are working to build paid internships. When I sent out the bad news I was prepared with the support offer the team came up with. I began the email notice in the usual way: “Thank you for applying, unfortunately you were not selected, it was a highly competitive application pool that helps to prove just how important this program is…” and then I got real. “I know this is crappy news during an already challenging time.” I delivered our prepared offer to share a summary of application notes, and I offered an hour of my time to both the new professional and the host site to strategize on anything they wished–from networking to other grant opportunities.

My Experience with Rejecting Compassionately

All but two applicants have responded back asking for application notes and took me up on the offer of my time and knowledge. So far, I’ve had several email and phone conversations where I’ve pointed host sites to grants they would be an excellent fit for and offered advice on how to make an even stronger application. And for newer professionals I openly and honestly answered all of their questions from what skills to acquire, to how to job seek, to how to be professionally involved; and I connected them to peers and resources to help propel them forward. I’m so proud that each of these people who received discouraging news, bravely took me up on my offer and really used the opportunity to get the support they needed. After each conversation I’ve felt joy that I could be of help, and optimistic that my advice may make a real difference to them during this hard time.

What I Learned

This whole experience has taught me two things: 1. That you really can give the gift of time; and 2. You can reject an applicant compassionately by still offering them support.

Now It’s Your Turn

During this time of extreme hardship for many, I encourage granting agencies and hiring organizations to brainstorm how they can imbue compassion into the rejections that must inevitably be sent out. First, acknowledge that this is a very difficult time for many and make a statement of empathy. Next, think of what resources you can provide to unsuccessful applicants. What knowledge can you offer to support them? Can you give the gift of 30-60 minutes of your time? Or send an introduction email to help connect people? There are likely actions you can take and resources at your fingertips that can make a difference to the person you’re sharing them with. I realize many of you are dealing with much larger numbers than a couple dozen, so I encourage you to think strategically as to how you can scale your delivery of support. Perhaps a blog post, how to video, or place on your website can host supportive material. Or, perhaps there’s enough staff to offer a few appointment slots on a first come, first served basis. Or, you can solicit questions and deliver a Q&A. My point is, there are many ways you can offer support smartly without it requiring significant labor, and if ever there was a time for you to incorporate compassion into your rejection practices, now is the time.

Stock photographs by Burak Kostak, via Canva. Image downloaded for use April 2020, and was not purposefully altered. All other image and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.

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An Update on Webinars, LAM Relief Funds, and a New Advocacy Call

I hope this post finds you as well as can be expected during this time. I know I’m writing more frequently right now and that’s an intentional choice on my part. We all need support to stay engaged in our work so that together we can survive this pandemic and economic disaster. I want to make sure you have the latest news and resources at your fingertips to help you pivot your work and advocate for what you need. With that in mind, if you’re new to my site, thank you for joining me. I invite you to sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any critical information or valuable resource drops. You can catch up on my previous two COVID-19 posts with resources here:

COVID-19: Five Actions to Take Right Now for Archives, Museums, and Cultural Heritage Organizations

An Evaluation of the Stimulus Package and Resources for LAM Professionals

If you’re not familiar with the LAM acronym it means: Libraries, Archives, and Museums.


TOPICS

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This post covers the following topics: 1. Free webinars built specifically to help museum professionals, archivists, and cultural heritage professionals navigate this challenging time; 2. New resources available to help financially support LAM organizations and professionals; and 3. The most recent call to action for phase 4 of the US economic relief plan.


FREE WEBINARS TO HELP US WORK

This crisis has challenged us to approach our work in new ways. What can we do while physically separated from our collections? How can we show the value of the collection and our work when repositories are closed and our work out of sight? This week there are two new webinars available for free on-demand.

The first webinar is one I participated in with fellow co-panelists Margot Note and Chris Cummings. We received an overwhelming response of 680 registrants and 501 who joined us live on April 7, 2020. Thank you so much for attending and engaging with your thoughtful questions. I’m pleased to be able to offer this video to you and our colleagues.

Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19),” offered by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, featuring Rachael Woody (myself) or Rachael Cristine Consulting, Margot Note of Margot Note Consulting, and Chris Cummings of Pass it Down. The webinar is a call to action for enhancing museum and archives collection programs online through adaption and repurposing of content, reviewing digital usership and digital collection best practices, and capturing the value of your online collections work to broadcast to administrative stakeholders. The aim of the webinar is to help archivists and museum professionals cultivate their skills to become better promoters of themselves, their repositories, and their profession. Watch via YouTube or click the video above.

How to Craft Meaningful and Mindful Digital Content in the Age of Coronavirus,” offered by Cuseum, featuring Brendan Ciecko (CEO & Founder of Cuseum), Ryan Dodge (Head of Digital Experiences at the Canadian Museum of History), and Kat Harding (Public Relations & Social Media Manager at North Carolina Museum of Art). Panelists discuss how to develop effective content and messaging that aligns with your organization’s mission while resonating in the hearts and minds of audiences. This webinar will address questions like, what does your audience want and need from you? How do you communicate with consistency and compassion? And, how do you continue to imbue your mission into your content? Available on-demand via this link.

Looking for more webinars, trainings, and ideas on how to do your work? A comprehensive list is being collated with all COVID-19 generated resources. “What to do during COVID-19?” a list of online courses, videos, podcasts and other activities for archivists during COVID-19. The list is updated daily.


NEW FINANCIAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE

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As of April 10, 2020, more than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks. The US unemployment rate is now at 13% and will continue to increase until the coronavirus pandemic is contained. LAM organizations across the country are in dire need of financial relief. So far, the financial relief available has been minimal (more on this below). As of this week, federal funds have been disbursed to federal agencies, the Society of American Archivists has launched an Archival Worker Emergency Fund (thanks to the ad hoc team who led that initiative), and a few local crowd source campaigns have been launched.

ARCHIVAL WORKERS EMERGENCY FUND APPLICATION

Archival Workers Emergency Fund Application Guidelines: Created in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, the Archival Workers Emergency Fund was established to provide financial assistance for archival workers experiencing acute, unanticipated financial hardship due to the crisis.

The number of recipients and award amounts will be determined by the SAA Foundation AWEF Grant Review Committee in collaboration with the SAA Foundation Board of Directors based on need and available funds. During the initial period (April 15 to December 31, 2020), the award amount will be up to a maximum of $1,000. Nonmembers will also receive a complimentary year-long membership in SAA.

Application Deadlines: Due to the unpredictability of the crisis and times of acute need, applications for AWEF will be considered on a rolling basis up to December 31, 2020.

WHERE’S THE MUSEUM WORKERS EMERGENCY FUND?

At the time of this writing I’ve not found a similar museum workers fund (on a national level). I’ve located a couple hyper-local funds being collected in a crowd sourced fashion, such as the Greater Philadelphia Museum Worker Fund.

AN UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS FEDERAL RELIEF FUNDS

On March 27, the US passed a $2-trillion-dollar stimulus package with $2-million earmarked for National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). NEA and NEH have released preliminary information for the distribution of their funds.

NEA ANNOUNCES INITIAL CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND INFORMATION

With the $75 million appropriated to the National Endowment for the Arts through the CARES Act, the Arts Endowment will award 40 percent of the funds directly to state and regional arts agencies by April 30th to distribute through their funding programs. Sixty percent of the funds are designated for direct grants to nonprofit arts organizations all across the United States and will be announced by June 30th. Read more here.

NEH ANNOUNCES INITIAL CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND INFORMATION

Approximately 40 percent of the appropriation, or $30 million, will go directly to the 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils, based on the standard population formula used for their annual appropriation. The remaining 60 percent, or $45 million, will support at-risk humanities positions and projects at museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, colleges and universities, and other cultural nonprofits that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus. All NEH supplemental funds must be obligated to projects by September 30, 2021. Read more here.


IT’S TIME TO WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES (AGAIN)

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The US stimulus package passed on March 27, 2020, allocated less than 5% of our $4-billion-dollar request. The American Alliance of Museums has put out an Advocacy Call and it’s time to write your representatives (again). Our US congressional representatives are working on the fourth phase of economic relief packages. For the health of the LAM fields, your organization, and yourself; it’s imperative you write your representatives. You can use AAM’s proforma letter with easy-to-send button. Or, you can personalize the letter using my easy fill in the blank template. More information on this important action can be found in my previous post here.


Rachael Cristine Woody of Rachael Cristine Consulting smiles at the camera as she poses in front of her laptop displaying Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19) webinar.
Rachael Cristine Woody of Rachael Cristine Consulting

I know there’s not been a lot of reasons to smile lately. Just to see myself smiling in this picture is jarring. I took this photo right before the live webinar last week (linked above). I found myself lighter in that moment–having found a little bit of peace in the awareness that I was about to help at least a few of my colleagues during this challenging time.

From the positive feedback I’ve received since Tuesday’s webinar, I’ve been inspired to overhaul my content plan for the year. I have a few ideas in the hopper and hope to drop more easy-to-follow strategies and advocacy resources in the coming weeks. If there’s something you need, please let me know.

Finally, if you know colleagues who need access to these resources please share this post. They can also sign up for my newsletter here. Thank you.

Stock photographs by Bongkarn Thanyakij and Steve Johnson, via Canva. Images downloaded for use April 2020, and was not purposefully altered. All other image and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.

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An Evaluation of the Stimulus Package and Resources for LAM Professionals

A lot has happened since my last post on March 26. (If you’re new or wish to read it again, you can find it here). On Friday night the $2-trillion dollar stimulus bill was passed by the House and signed by the President. It’s the largest bill in US history and was passed in record time out of necessity. As a result, many pundits acknowledge it’s far from perfect and that there’s still more work to be done in the long-term. As a profession that’s heavily impacted by this current crisis, it’s very important that we understand what resources are available in the stimulus package and identify what we still need.

This post covers the following topics: 1. The stimulus package and what it means for archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations; 2. Surveys that are tracking impacted professionals; and 3. Free webinars to help you get through this challenging time.

If you’re not familiar with the LAM acronym it means: Libraries, Archives, and Museums.


THE STIMULUS PACKAGE AND WHAT’S IN IT FOR US

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the National Council of Nonprofits, and the National Humanities Alliance have all weighed in with their initial thoughts. To summarize, the National Endowment for Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the IMLS will collectively receive $200-million from this stimulus package. Details are forthcoming on how and when the money will be distributed from these agencies. Additionally, nonprofits can apply for loans that include a forgiveness component, with certain eligibility parameters in place. And, a charitable giving provision was put in place for an above-the-line deduction up to $300 in cash donations.

This is viewed as a good start, but much more is needed to fully support LAMs. As a point of comparison, Germany approved a $50-billion aid package with more substantial funds allocated to support their small businesses, freelance artists, and cultural organizations.

KEEP WRITING YOUR REPRESENTATIVES — MORE AID IS NEEDED

Considering US cultural organizations asked for $4-billion and received less than 5% of their request, you can see we have a long way to go toward getting the resources we need to navigate the economic part of this crisis. As AAM stated in their letter last week, “We estimate as many as 30 percent of museums, mostly in small and rural communities, will not re-open without significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.” This is still true unless more resources are provided. If your organization is struggling, it’s imperative you write your representatives. Please use this easy fill in the blank template to contact your representatives. More information on this important action can be found in my previous post, here.


THE HUMAN IMPACT

As with many industries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations have been unexpectedly thrust into an economic crisis on top of the pandemic crisis. There is the very real human toll on us physically and psychologically. And there is the economic toll on us as the organizations we work for begin to shutter operations and furlough staff in an effort to slow the quick trip to bankruptcy. As of this week, 3.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment and we’re just in the first few weeks of the pandemic impacting the economy.

Several surveys have been created by grassroots organizers to help capture the human and economic toll, and I’m sharing them with you here (below). If you are one of the many who have lost their job, please fill out these surveys so that we can know the full extent of this economic crisis. Any future plans for economic recovery will need this information. Please participate and share with your peers so that they can be counted too.

TRACKING LAYOFF/FURLOUGH SURVEYS

Contingent Archival Workers and COVID-19

Archives Staff Impact During COVID-19

Museum Staff Impact During COVID-19

RELATED RESOURCES FOR PEOPLE

Art + Museum Transparency Twitter thread is tracking museum layoff news.

Archives Workers Emergency Fund is a group of peers preparing to set up an emergency fund for archival workers in contingent positions who may be affected by COVID-19, have limited workplace protections or sick time, and may suffer the loss of income as institutions close and move to remote work in response to the pandemic.

The Americans for the Arts’ dashboard for The Economic Impact of Coronavirus on the Arts and Culture Sector provides the latest results from Americans for the Arts’ ongoing survey. They hope to capture coronavirus-related economic impact reports from artists, arts organizations, and arts agencies of all types, genres, sizes, and tax statuses. To participate you can fill out their survey here.

RELATED RESOURCES FOR ORGANIZATIONS

AAM’s Strategies for Short-term Financial Survival, a collection of resources and information to help you create short-term strategies for navigating the coming weeks and months.

AAM’s Financial Relief and Resources, a living list with updates made regularly. The resources listed are to help museums develop short-term and long-term fiscal strategies to keep your museum afloat.


FREE WEBINARS

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This crisis has helped to inspire multiple free webinar opportunities for archives, museums, and cultural heritage staff to learn new things. Here are a few upcoming webinars to help you navigate this crisis.

“Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections,” offered by IMLS, featuring Dr. David Berendes and Dr. Catherine Rasberry from the Centers for Disease Control. March 30 @11am Pacific. Register here.

“Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona,” offered by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, featuring Rachael Woody (myself), Margot Note of Margot Note Consulting, and Chris Cummings of Pass it Down. April 7 @12pm Pacific. RSVP here. Join here.

“How to Captivate, Connect, and Communicate with Your Audience During Coronavirus,” offered by Cuseum, featuring Brendan Ciecko (CEO & Founder @ Cuseum), with special guests Susan Edwards (Associate Director, Digital Content @ Hammer Museum) and Koven Smith (Museum & Nonprofit Digital Strategy Consultant). On-Demand.

And related AAM article, “4 Ways Museums Can Successfully Leverage Digital Content and Channels During Coronavirus (COVID-19),” by Brendan Ciecko of Cuseum.


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Many of us are entering into week 3 of social distancing. As we make our way through this I hope that you are finding solace in your friends, family, and community. If I can help support you better, please tell me how. Until then, here’s a picture from when my babies we’re young. Through them I try to find small moments of joy.

If you know colleagues who need access to these resources please send them a link to this post. They can also sign up for my newsletter here.

Image courtesy of Regan Vercruysse, via Flickr’s Creative Commons, and follows the Creative Commons Attribution License. Image downloaded for use March 2020, and was not purposefully altered. All other image and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.

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COVID-19: Five Actions to Take Right Now for Archives, Museums, and Cultural Heritage Organizations

I hope this post finds you and your family safe and healthy during this challenging and unprecedented time. Archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations across the US have had to shut their doors quickly and with little notice to staff and the communities they support. While we’re worried about the organizational logistics and health implications for the short-term, we’re also incredibly anxious about the economic implications in the long-term. For myself, it’s the future unknown and inability to plan that kills me. We are already seeing and experiencing the effects of COVID-19 that go beyond our physical health and we feel so unprepared for it. But, we can take baby steps and make our way to a future that’s a little more certain.

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The purpose of this post is to give you five actions that you can take right now to help you and your organization. For each of these actions you’ll find helpful guides and links to free resources to help you navigate the uncertain future we all face.

ACTIONS

ACTION 1: WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
As of writing this, the Senate appears to have reached a deal with the White House to pass a 2-trillion dollar stimulus bill. Details for the bill and whether it adequately covers the arts, culture, and humanities industries is unknown, and the bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives. It is imperative that our representatives hear from us. You need to communicate clearly just how, exactly, COVID-19 is impacting you and your organization. While an impassioned narrative will certainly help, quantifying (with numbers) is going to make it easier for your representatives to understand how this crisis has impacted you and what they can do to help you. I know writing letters to your representatives may not be top of mind, especially in our current state of overwhelm, but it’s absolutely necessary to do it now. To help you out, I’ve provided a “fill in the blank” template so that you can quickly and effectively state your case and ask for what you need. You can find your elected officials via the Senate and House contact pages. And I recommend you include your Governor to get support at the local level.

Write Your Representatives Template

ACTION 2: SHARE CALLS FOR SIGNATURES AND SURVEYS
In addition to signing proforma letters and taking related surveys (below), it’s important that you share them with your staff, peers, and community. The more information we gather now, the better our future decisions will be, and the better off we’ll all be. Please distribute the following calls for signatures and surveys to your community as you find appropriate.

Tell Congress: Include Museums in COVID-19 Economic Relief by American Alliance of Museums is a pro-forma letter requesting museums are included in a relief package.

Urge Support for the Humanities Community During the COVID-19 Crisis by the National Humanities Alliance seeks support for the humanities in the stimulus package.

Sign-on Letter for the Lankford Amendment by the National Council of Nonprofits. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) is planning to propose an amendment to the Senate COVID-19 Stimulus bill that would, for 2020, create an above-the-line deduction for charitable donations.

The Economic Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Arts and Cultural Sector by Americans for the Arts is a 5-minute survey to capture the financial and human impact of COVID-19.

Contingent Archival Workers Survey is an informal survey by the archivist community and is for both United States and Canada-based professionals. From the call: If you are a #displacedarchivist — if you are furloughed, working remotely, working reduced hours, or otherwise no longer working within your institution — or if you are concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on your workplace status, income, or access to sick time and family leave time, we would like to hear from you.

ACTION 3: FIND AND JOIN YOUR COMMUNITY ONLINE
You may already have your personal network available to you via social media channels. But, if you haven’t already, I invite you to find your professional community online. It’s through these informal channels where professional support and problem-solving is happening in real-time, and you can find quick answers when you need them. Where does your industry live and communicate? For me, I find lively conversation with archivists via Twitter and receive helpful insight and important updates for museums on Facebook. And the good news is you don’t need an account to view (though you do need one to participate). I’ve created a quick reference infographic to help you find these communities and join the ones most appropriate to you.

Find My Community Online

ACTION 4: KNOW YOUR GRANT DEADLINES AND APPLY
I realize applying for grants may be the furthest thing from your mind right now. But, they shouldn’t be. Many granting agencies and foundations have received their money for the year and it’s there, right now, ready to be handed out. And, it may not be there next year as the nation attempts to rebalance and recalibrate. If you have projects that you can get grant application ready, now is the time. Pay attention to the grant opportunities you’re eyeing and get to work! You may not have the opportunity to do so later. If you’re a little rusty on the grant writing side, don’t worry, I’ve got you. If you haven’t already, download a free e-copy of my book A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing (button below), and check out my free webinars available via Lucidea. If you’re stuck on finding a grant worthy project, here’s a post on the Top 4 Funding Ideas for Museums. And, if you’re not sure where to find the right funding opportunities for you, here’s a post on How to Find the Best Museum Grant Funding Opportunity. Note: While “museum” is in each of these titles, these resources are appropriate and adaptable for libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage organizations.

Link to Request the Free e-Book

ACTION 5: INVEST IN YOURSELF
There is only so much we can do *right now*. I know it may sound odd, but the best thing you can do right now for you and for your organization is to invest in yourself. During this challenging time we find ourselves with the unexpected opportunity of open-ended time and focus. No matter what things look like on the other side of COVID-19, I know there are skills you’re going to need to not just survive, but thrive. What skills have you wanted to learn, but haven’t had the time to? What articles have you wanted to write? Which colleagues have you always wanted to collaborate with? I’m telling you: the time is now. For my part, I’m converting my grant workshops to an online platform and hope to make those available to you in the near future. If you’re interested in getting in on the pre-launch invite please reply to this email and let me know. Until then, here are a few free webinars happening this week:

Society of American Archivists’ Independent Archivists Section presents Authors Among Us: A Conversation with Christina Zamon, Rachael Woody, and Margot Note. RSVP here and join live here. When: March 26 @11am Pacific. A recording will be made available.

Margot Note, owner of Margot Note Consulting LLC presents Close Together/Far Apart: Creating Family Archives While Social Distancing. RSVP here. When: March 29 @10am Pacific.

Society of American Archivists presents Archival Advocacy at Home, an on-demand webinar currently available for free here. When: On-Demand.

MuseWeb is offering its annual conference programming online, free for MuseWeb members as a membership benefit. Membership is $120. When: March 31- April 4.

TAKE A BREATH AND CONNECT

I know these are uncertain times and we don’t know when we’ll return to “normal”. But, I do know we’ll get through this. Even during a time of extreme physical isolation, I see we are strengthening our connections with each other. If you need support, professional or not, please reach out to me. And if there’s information or resources you need that you don’t see here, please let me know.

If you know colleagues who need access to these resources please forward this message. They can also sign up for my newsletter here.

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Where Our Professional Conferences Fail Us

Why failing to provide certain courtesies and services at conferences are costly discrimination tactics.

 I’m cold and I’m starving. It’s been two days and there’s another long one ahead of me before I can leave in search of food. My mind is tired. My body is tired. And I’m trying to find my compassion for the conference organizers as I explain for the dozenth time that I’m gluten-free (gf) and dairy-free (df) and yes, cheese is dairy. I’m at a conference and unfortunately this is typically how it goes. What are my options?

  • Be hungry and angry – hangry. No fun for anyone. (Personal Cost)
  • Hope and pray the city/town has gf & df options and that those options deliver. (Financial Cost)
  • Leave the conference and miss educational sessions or valuable opportunities to network with colleagues so that I can find real (non-salad) food. (Financial and Professional Cost)

None of these options are good and all of them cost me. Not only did my registration fee go towards food I can’t eat and sessions I’ll potentially miss, but now I’m also spending more money to buy food I can actually eat.

This is my own personal conference issue, but there are more issues that exist and they’re all rooted in fundamental exclusion. Or, to put it more plainly (and no, this isn’t hyperbole), it’s discrimination.

Where’s the DEAI in “Conference”?

Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) are not a trend. Each is a principle that has a long history and these principals are experiencing a renaissance. Right now, in my museum and archive conference circuit, I see DEAI play out in presentations with a few institutions beginning to experiment with what DEAI can look like. What’s ironic, and sad, is that we as a conference community don’t even think about how we can apply DEAI to the conference experience.

Gender and the Right to Pee

In our growing awareness and support of the LGBTQIA community one of the actions we are taking is to provide gender neutral bathrooms. Everyone has the right to choose which bathroom they wish to pee in and the right to do so in peace and safety. An added benefit to this change is that there are now even more bathroom options available for those that tend to pee more frequently and often suffer longer lines – women. The museum, library, and archive fields are statistically dominated by women and yet every conference location offers the same number of men’s and women’s toilets. Stripping the gender requirement from toilets helps to bring equality to the conference experience for both the LGBTQIA community and women.

I now challenge us to more fundamentally change how we support the LGBTQIA community. Here are some recommendations:

  • Stop asking for “preferred” pronouns and just ask for pronouns.
  • Offer educational sessions or pamphlets with suggestions on how we can transition our language to be gender neutral. No more sayings like “you guys”, people.
  • Review and actively alter our collections to be inclusive of the LGBTQIA community. Libraries, you’ve made a great start. Archives and Museums? We can do better.

Conferences Don’t Need be Religious but People Are

Larger conference centers have non-descript prayer rooms. Some conference programs will assist with directing people to local religious centers, but there is room for improvement. Our conference season typically occur during religious holidays. For example, Ramadan often takes place while the weather is heating up and conference season is upon us. Ramadan requires fasting from sunrise to sunset for those who observe the Muslim faith. Our conferences tend to happen in hot places during hot times of the year because that’s what’s cheap. Can you imagine attending an all-day conference while fasting and in 100+ degree heat? Do you know what makes it worse? People who ask why you’re not eating and then apologize (while still eating), turning the conversation to you and why you’re not eating – and maybe that’s just none of their business?

Here’s how we can begin to do better:

  • Offer education and awareness to all conference attendees about what religious holidays may be taking place during the conference and what those religious times require of those who observe the faith.
  • Offer dedicated prayer rooms with appropriate items of all faiths and make sure it’s clearly marked on the conference program and website.
  • Be thoughtful about when and where our conferences are and make better decisions around how we support people who are practicing their faith while they’re conferencing with us.

 If I Have to Eat One More God Damn Salad I will Scream

Salads are great, just not as entrees and certainly not as entrees for every meal. It’s absolutely incredible to me that conference food organizers forget the simple principle that everyone’s meal should meet nutritional standards. Each meal should offer protein, starch, and vegetables. Instead, I’m often left to ask the conference hosts which foods I can eat only to discover I can have the salad and maybe the red meat.  How hard is it to put the cheese or cream sauce on the side and offer steamed rice? Additionally, dairy-free options would help to nutritionally support those who eat kosher or halal.

Dietary restrictions exist for many reasons: religious, health, or none of your fucking business. My dietary restrictions are in place to help manage my chronic pain and autoimmune issues. I adhere to them in order to function and this is especially true while at a conference where I need to feel my best in a place that’s not my home.

Here’s how to do better:

  • Require that each conference meal offer protein, starch, and vegetables that meet every dietary restriction.
  • Clearly label food!
  • Have the local arrangements committee or conference staff research restaurants that accommodate dietary restrictions and clearly identify those on the conference website and program.
  • Support food delivery to the conference site, especially if the food options are inadequate.
  • If the conference can’t or refuses to provide appropriate nutrition then provide a discount for conference registration.

Conferences Are for Extroverts

Conferences are geared toward extroverts: those who are energized by being with other people. Introverts and those living with conditions where they can be emotionally or sensorially overwhelmed need a place to retreat to in order to take care of their needs and reenergize. My attendance at the American Alliance of Museums was the first time I encountered the Quiet Room. The Quiet Room also served as the Nursing Room, which was not the wisest decision as kids don’t care to be quiet. But, the room had the lights dimmed, talking was frowned upon, there were comfy chairs, and water and tea were provided. It was seriously heaven within the conference din. Studies show that at least 50% of the population are introverts, so why are conferences extrovert-centric? We need to find a more balanced approach in order for both personalities to thrive within a conference setting.

We Are Not Kidless Automatons

Kids are a thing. Many people have them and yet you wouldn’t know it due the complete lack of acknowledgement or support from our places of work or professional conferences. Some conferences are beginning to offer nursing rooms and that’s a start. But can we get a daycare in here?! By not offering subsidized childcare, conferences are forcing professionals to choose between personal or professional sacrifice. As a society, we know this burden impacts women disproportionately. And again, women make up the majority of the library, archive, and museum communities. So, certainly we should be doing a better job of supporting women and families, right?

Also, kids or not, conferences need to take place during the work week. In our profession we already sacrifice a lot, we shouldn’t be required to sacrifice our personal time, time with our families, to attend a work conference.

We’re All Here to Learn, But Can We?

There’re the above issues I’ve mentioned and each have their own nasty outcomes when needs aren’t met. The universal outcome of not supporting these groups is that their opportunity and ability to learn will be negatively impacted.

We’re also (still) failing those who live with different physical abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and almost 30-years later we still suck at including this community.

Here’s how we can do better:

  • Collect all slides ahead of time and provide them on the conference website for download so that screen readers and other ADA tools can be used during presentations.
  • Require the microphone to be used at all times. I don’t know what it is with people thinking they’re loud enough that they don’t need a mic. You may not think you need a mic, but guaranteed there are other people who need you to use the mic. Additionally, I’ve been to locations where microphones weren’t automatically provided. They need to be there every time, no matter what.
  • Presenters need to audibly describe the images and text on their slides so that all contextual information to the presentation is conveyed.
  • Make sure your font is at least font size 22 and clearly legible.
  • Resources should be provided to presenters and speakers to assist them in crafting their presentations to be as accessible as possible.

This is Costing Me and It’s Costing Us

Conferences cost money. It costs money to attend (which goes towards all my salads). It costs me more money to feed myself outside the conference food. And it costs me money if I have to leave the conference to find food. If I or others can’t attend a conference then it costs us the professional development opportunity and the ability to connect with colleagues. This can have a repeated negative impact on our careers.

And it costs the profession if I or any of the persons who fall in the groups I’ve covered decide we can’t attend a conference because our attendance isn’t supported. That means the profession misses our contributions to the professional community with the compound effect of limiting diversity within the participating profession.

 Can We Do Better?

Can you imagine discriminating against the following?:

  • LGBTQIA persons
  • Women
  • People of faith
  • People with dietary restrictions
  • People with health issues
  • People who need mental and/or emotional introversion
  • People with children
  • People with varying physical abilities

That’s a long list with many on it belonging to communities that have been repeatedly and systematically discriminated against. Discrimination doesn’t have to be an active act to prevent or stop a group or persons from participating. In this instance, discrimination can be passive and impede or prevent a group or persons from participating through thoughtlessness or lack of prioritization. By not providing a conference experience built to include everyone in the library, archive, and museum communities we are discriminating against these groups.

With so much focus on DEAI we (as a conference community) need to start our practice by including and caring for the very people who attend our conferences.