Presentation: Or, the Abstract as Poster

On Saturday, April 11 I presented at the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education. It’s my second conference presentation (in the first, while I was in my final year at Roosevelt University, I presented on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and her presentation/celebration of education women in La Respuesta, itself a celebration/defense of women’s education, and her villancicos celebrating Saint Catherine of Egypt), my first official library and information science (LIS) presentation. It was also an outing of sorts: I rarely speak of my life with dyslexia, although it certainly isn’t going anywhere (and it is certainly an important part of who I am). I could not have had a kinder audience for my public unveiling, and I am immensely grateful for that fact.

But my brief poster session was hardly the only one. The program (web page linked here, while this leads directly to a pdf copy) was stuffed with amazing presenters, and I only regret that I could not hear all of them. I, like a number of other LIS graduate students, came to the profession from another field–in my case, from a Master’s in colonial Spanish American literature and a double major in Art History and (unsurprisingly!) Spanish. I also came with a strong background in critical theory, one strong enough, indeed, that I count Coloniality at Large as one of my favorite go-to books for Why The World Is The Way It Is and have a fondness for bringing up Antonio Gramsci in daily conversations. I’ve turned back to theoretical frameworks for nearly every large paper I’ve written as an LIS graduate student–not because it is required in LIS, but because, to me, a theoretical framework does indeed frame one’s understanding, both of the world at large and at one’s small part thereof. So, as an ardent lover of theory, I was excited to hear the number of presenters who brought strong theoretical understandings to their presentations. Theory might not be practice (although there are times I think postcolonial theory really is practice, just written differently!), but it can certainly inform our practice, and assist us in our self-reflection.

But what was the single most exciting part of the conference? More than any single session–though many of the sessions were incredibly exciting, though I survived my own (and it was well-received!)–I am so excited to have been among others who question that which is included, or excluded, in LIS curricula. I am excited to hear a discussion of how LIS approaches the normative, and the non-normative. I am most excited of all to think that this is only the beginning of the conversation, one which will sustain and challenge us for years to come.

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Abstract Writing

In short order, I plan to submit an abstract to the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education, which will be held here at GSLIS in April. There is nothing quite like a deadline to encourage writing, as unfortunate as it may be, but there is also nothing quite like writing an abstract to make one pause. I will submit a proposal pertaining to library service to dyslexics—but I have yet to decide if I want to present a traditional paper or a poster. My research is already done; I got a little excited last semester, when I wrote a trends and best practices-style paper on services to teenage dyslexics, and my bibliography was about as long as the paper itself. Several of those resources come straight from neurobiology and other scientific research into dyslexic and other learning disabilities, while others are written by readings specialists and educators.

Only a very few of the articles I’ve found come from the library world: most notably, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has guidelines, currently in draft form, for services to dyslexics; in addition, they have a poster, available in pdf format, for quick reference. The overwhelming silence seems to me a missed opportunity. Despite the overall lack of library and information science publications on dyslexia, I noticed rather early in my research that, in most cases, following best practices for dyslexic patrons would also help bring libraries and their websites into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Thus, while bringing our services towards best practice for dyslexics will require time and effort, it will serve others with learning disabilities as well.

Since the Symposium’s nerve center will be LIS education, I will focus my own abstract—and, should it be accepted, my presentation as well—on LIS education and dyslexia. I have yet to decide exactly how to approach my topic, but I certainly hope to help make a case for the inclusion of information on dyslexics (and other non-neurotypical people) in LIS instruction and, thus, for improved library services to such people.