By Aisha Conner-Gaten, Instructional Design Librarian and thankful participant
ALA Annual Conference is a librarian’s annual opportunity to connect with colleagues, collaborate with those outside their siloed systems and departments, and enjoy free posters, books, and events. This year’s Annual Conference offered a particularly valuable experience to female-identifying folks involved in technology called LITA AvramCamp. Inspired by AdaCamp, this day long preconference included leaders and technology staff from various paths to coalesce and reflect on our roles, lives, and most importantly, share experiences from across the country. LITA AvramCamp provided the space for folks to express their concerns and feelings about working with technology and excelling in a male-dominated field. Some highlights from this amazing event include:
Imposter Syndrome Workshop
Materials for this workshop were offered by AdaCamp but can be personalized for any group, including librarians and technologists involved in information work. Imposter Syndrome, that feeling that you are a fraud or unqualified for the work you are currently doing, was a pervasive feeling among participants at every level. Many attendees felt this inadequacy was informed by negative and often sexist feedback on the job. Very often, folks who should be enjoying their work are less satisfied, waste time over-preparing, and ask for less money and less power overall.
Combating imposter syndrome, especially for new managers, was a theme throughout the day with attendees sharing their failures to build community and giving advice to those with difficult supervisors and subordinates that may impede success at work. We particularly moved from relating our successes to others and began to understand how to prioritize our own merits and strengths. After evaluating our values and what we really enjoy to do at work, many expressed the need to re-assess their roles and acknowledge that they are most likely over-performing compared to their male and male-identifying counterparts. We all need to remember to have the confidence of a mediocre white man and remember your worth.
Another great feature of LITA AvramCamp was the afternoon breakout sessions. These sessions were democratically chosen by the participants themselves through voting and were short enough that folks were not worn out by the end. Very often, attendees became the facilitators for these sessions as we shared our experiences and realized how much knowledge we have as technologists. Breakout sessions included a wide variety of topics including how to conduct more inclusive hiring and recruiting, pushing back on aggressive male voices, and how to ally colleagues, as well as negotiating money and positions at your institution. From each session, attendees received customized advice and specific tools to build their confidence for their inevitable return to work and bridge the gap for other folks in the workplace.
To wrap up a day of solidarity and joy, attendees were invited to share ideas, work, or projects they are doing with their fellow colleagues. As a group we had some innovative and exciting things to look forward to, including a book on intersectional feminist leadership, an invitation to define values and codes of conduct for open repositories, and a day in the life of an IT department head. This time was also a great plug for involvement in LITA with female-identifying specific interest groups and online connections well after the conference ends.
LITA AvramCamp was an inspiring start to what can be a long weekend at ALA Annual. As a participant, I left the preconference with a renewed sense of agency as a woman in technology. I learned that I was not alone in feelings of imposter syndrome and that I know more than I ever thought. I hope to take the knowledge gained and share it with other women struggling through their work day. All in all, it’s essential to remember that you are ambitious, valued, and you know what you are doing!
Aisha Conner-Gaten is an intersectional librarian, activist, and tech enthusiast working at the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University in sunny Los Angeles. She is interested in emerging technologies, issues of equity and access in the library, and the role of librarians as social justice accomplices. In addition to her library work, she is a burgeoning sous chef and tennis pro. You can follow her on Twitter at Aisha_CG.