Sunday Morning Reads

Perhaps today’s post is going to be an uncomfortable one, but in opening up conversations about money and finances with my friends and family, I’ve found a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas. Discomfort is a sign of growth.

We usually think of money and finances when we think of economics, but this science is actually the study of decision making. Money and finances often influences our decisions, don’t they? It has for me!

At the end of last year I was fortunate enough to be invited to make several presentations. While may of the organizations that invited me to present were able to provide me with a small stipend, I never had all my expenses covered and as a result, I’ll be paying off credit cards for the next couple of months. Sure, I could have said ‘no’ but, what would have been the cost of doing that? As a pre-tenure faculty member, these opportunities to grow the perception of me as an expert in my field are critical.

I wish I could wholeheartedly say my message was critical, too. I think I refrain from saying that not because I think I’m a completely ineffective speaker but, because I think I’ve strayed from my message. This blog has been the core of my platform and it is where I work to promote Native Americans, authors of color and their works. It’s also where I promote literacy for marginalized teens. White authors are not my focus. Sure, I’ll occasionally do a critical review of something written by other authors, but there has consistently been so little attention given to marginalized authors that I want to keep that focus.

I can’t say I have an audience in mind when I write. I can remember after a couple of years of blogging, I was surprised to get responses from teens when I reviewed books they were reading. And, I’m even more surprised when faculty members tell me they use this blog in their classes. I realize I have a variety of readers and the best thing I can do for them all is to stay focused and to stay true.

I’ve declined several opportunities already this year because I don’t want to talk to white authors about what they can and should write. From my perspective, white authors who embrace decolonization will work to insure opportunities for WOC/NA but those lost in the marketing concept of diversity will be stuck trying to understand how to write The Other.

I have to admit that finances did play a role in leading me realize that I too was caught up on the marketing of diversity. I hae to admit that finances played a huge role in bringing me to this awareness.

Which leads me to the presentations and conferences.

I recently posted on FB about the high cost associated with a conference at which I’ll be presenting later this year ($299 registration fee). This is an ALA affiliate conference. Friends, librarians like to conference! The American Library Association (ALA) has two conferences each year. Each of their divisions has a conference every year or two as do the ethnic caucuses.  These caucuses come together to hold a joint conference every 5 years. There are also state and regional library conferences. Librarians also find ourselves at literacy and reading conferences at the national, state and local levels, children’s literacy conferences and even education related conferences. I attended ALA MidWinter in January and spent over $1000 for travel, registration and lodging )for that one event. Librarians are not particularly well paid professionals.

But I digress! I posted about the high cost of an upcoming conference and generated a rather robust conversation on FB among librarians, academics and authors who are caught in this money pit. We need the conferences because they allow for exchange of information, networking (which is not the same as online networking), committee meetings, validation and rejuvenation. And conferences allow those of us in the hinterland to connect with a NYC focused industry. But at what cost? There are numerous externalities to conference attendance, but money remains a major opportunity cost.

Some authors are sponsored by their publishers and some librarians are sponsoring by their libraries. Public and academic librarians often have a pool of money that is shared among all librarians. School librarians! School librarians have to worry about release time, finding substitutes and getting financial support.

Self-published authors, who really need to be in the conference where it happens, are among those who can least afford these opportunities. Publishers use conferences as a marketing tool and rather than purchasing ad space in major media outlets, they rely heavily on the use the panels and exhibition halls to advertise their goods.

They also rely upon book reviews which have systematically excluded self-published authors. Thanks goodness Zara Rix (zaralrix@gmail.com ) at Booklist is trying to open doors for inde presses and authors by reviewing their books for Booklist.

As a result of these costs people who are much better at it than me find themselves strategically selecting where to make their investment. When does attending one more conference make a difference? How do we measure the return on our investment?  Are the organizations who sponsor these events working to promote our profession? I have to say too many kidlit related conferences seem more concerned about promoting books and authors than addressing issues relating to librarianship, the art and science of literature or to literacy. It’s incumbent upon us to see beyond the conference and examine the mission and actions of the association behind the event. Find out how well organized the events are and determine how well they align with our purpose. Not all kidlit conferences are the same; some are just too White [exclusive in nature] for me. Yesterday, I read Tweets from a participant at an annual writer’s conference who painfully and critically examined the ways participation by people with disabilities was marginalized by poorly planned accommodations. We will not continue to show up if we are not made to feel welcome.

I love that I’m in a profession that pushes me to learning and evolving. I just have to work to keep finding ways that allow me optimal opportunities to do so.

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