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Forming and Sustaining a Community of Practice for Volunteer-Based EDI Work

In Brief

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are essential to the preservation of intellectual freedom (American Library Association). Yet some Library and Information Science scholars argue that EDI work within libraries is not evolving significantly or rapidly enough. Using our work in building the Diverse BookFinder Community of Practice as an example, we highlight overarching principles that can guide EDI professional development towards greater effectiveness and sustainability. Sharing concrete strategies and examples of how to keep community and the community’s shared purpose at the forefront of a volunteer-based EDI program, we posit that with only minimal adjustments, our model can be adapted to fit other EDI work, whether it’s focused on sustaining the efforts of an external volunteer group or on supporting and sustaining the crucial and everyday EDI work of librarians in collection development, programming, and committee building. We end the manuscript with a checklist designed to support the development of EDI training. 

At the Diverse BookFinder (DBF), we work to move the diverse books discussion beyond increasing the number of books (see Aronson et al.) to a deeper consideration of how Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC) are represented within diverse books. To accomplish this change, we’ve cataloged and analyzed thousands of trade picture books published or distributed in the United States (including various Canadian publishers) since 2002 to surface and create a one-of-a-kind resource. 

In 2020, the DBF received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to “reach up” and include all of children’s literature in our work: picture books  (generally ages 3-8), early readers (5-9), middle grade (7-12), and young adult books (12-18). As we worked to expand, it became clear that we would require an exponentially larger group of people to read and analyze texts. Practically, this meant that the DBF needed to establish a volunteer-based community of learners who could be trained in the specific methods of DBF book analysis and who would be invested enough in the project to provide continued participation. In response, we created and sustained a Community of Practice (CoP). 

As we worked through the process of creating, training, and sustaining a diverse, volunteer-based community of learners, we discovered that we were creating a model for sustainable Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) work that is missing in the field of librarianship: a model that chips away at traditional systemic and institutional barriers to create truly inclusive and collaborative working partnerships. Using our work in building the DBF CoP as an example and drawing together interdisciplinary research and practice, we highlight overarching principles that can guide EDI professional development towards greater effectiveness and sustainability. We share concrete strategies and examples of how to keep community and the community’s shared purpose at the forefront of a volunteer-based EDI program. Furthermore, we posit that with only minimal adjustments, our model can be adapted to fit other EDI work, whether it’s focused on sustaining the efforts of an external volunteer group or on supporting and sustaining the crucial and everyday EDI work of library professionals in collection development, programming, and committee building.

Why is the DBF Work Important to Libraries? 

Providing patrons with access to diverse books is central to librarianship and the role of library professionals who have an obligation to maintain collections that represent the experiences, interests, and needs of historically marginalized communities (“Diverse Collections”). Furthermore, longstanding disparities in publishing have created a need for library professionals to be more intentional about their selection process (see Cummins). Library professionals must identify and select books that provide visual and textual representations of diverse characters across various forms and genres. They must also identify and select books that depict diverse characters in culturally relevant ways. This task is further complicated by recent attempts to ban library books that highlight the unique experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. In 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) tracked 1,269 book challenges, the highest number yet, mostly aimed at removing diverse books (“American Library”). These challenges are harmful to EDI work in libraries because they can exacerbate existing inequities present within library collections. 

In light of these challenges, ALA leaders have taken the position that equity, diversity, and inclusion are essential to the preservation of intellectual freedom. Despite this position, some Library and Information Science scholars argue that EDI work within libraries is not evolving significantly or rapidly enough, due to the lack of diversity that’s prevalent within the library workforce and library collections (Dali and Caidi). Additionally, libraries articulate diversity as a core value but have not developed methodologies that would align practice with professional values (see Espinosa de los Monteros and Enimil; Dali and Caidi).

We therefore argue that in order to maintain the cadence of EDI work, library professionals must be intentional about their approach to collection development and management. Without intentionality, we fear that EDI work may continue to evolve slowly. According to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Justice too long delayed is justice denied” (839). 

The work of the DBF is beneficial to libraries in two ways. At a granular level, the DBF can support selection decisions related to diverse content. Through the DBF Collection Analysis Tool (CAT), libraries can access a snapshot of their collections in order to determine where diversity gaps exist in terms of the representation and presentation of BIPOC communities. Also, the metadata undergirding the DBF work provides a shared EDI language specific to children’s literature, potentially making it easier for all library professionals, BIPOC community members, and allies to talk about EDI in children’s literature writ large.

Second, the DBF CoP serves as a model for recruiting, engaging, and sustaining large groups of library professionals in diverse collection development practices and other EDI activities. Our model achieves measurable outcomes and encourages collaboration among library workers and/or volunteers from different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds, with varying levels of professional experience and types of expertise. 

Literature Review and Theoretical Framework for Our Work

Our leadership group grounded the design and implementation of the CoP in feminist pedagogical theories that have been developing for over 25 years. In a feminist classroom, students and teachers work together to achieve mutual goals through “collaboration, community building and validating knowledge based on experience” (McCusker 445). In developing our training plan and throughout the training program, we placed significant emphasis on personal lived experiences and translating those experiences into learning opportunities to effect social change. Rather than insisting on a traditional academic model that centers expertise with a clear head of the classroom, we chose to create an environment with a shared responsibility for learning between facilitators and learners since we had much to learn from one another’s unique positionalities (Tedesco-Schneck 267, Grissom-Broughton 166). Having multiple voices involved in planning, during the training program, and in interpreting DBF’s metadata allowed us to decenter authority and power, a necessary condition for EDI work. We also provided ample opportunities for continual reflexive practices in order to analyze intersections of oppression and how these intersections play out in our reading of texts (Grissom-Broughton 171, McCusker 456). 

Another crucial aspect to our model was a pedagogy of care, which involves “an approach based on an ethic of care as both a moral imperative and pedagogical necessity (Gay, 2018)” (Barek et al). Pedagogy of care theories stress the relationship between teacher and student with an emphasis on mutual respect and authentic dialogue with compassion, reciprocity, and positionality. Focusing on our learners from a perspective of radical compassion, in which we try to relieve causes of distress and discomfort, allowed all of us, facilitators and learners alike, to center radical self-care (Ravitch 6). In doing so, we could “lovingly revise parts of ourselves as a necessary dimension of our work to re-envision and reconstruct the world from a perspective of equity, social identity, and liberation” (Ravitch 6). 

Upon reflection after the initial training program was complete, we saw clear connections between meaningful learning and our initial roots, intellectual partners, and intentions. After all, meaningful learning occurs when “learners are active, constructive, intentional, cooperative, and working on authentic tasks” (Jonassen 49). In particular, our focus was intentional and goal-oriented with an authentic task of coding approximately 2,380 books within a year, so that library professionals and readers could make more informed decisions about book selection. In order to support meaningful learning, our training program was inherently cooperative to help all of us, facilitators and learners, solve problems and generate new knowledge. Like a feminist classroom, “these characteristics are interrelated, interactive, and interdependent” (Jonassen 51). 

However, we also felt that meaningful learning and some of the other frameworks we drew upon were more limited in their depictions of the relational aspects of learning and teaching than what we were striving for in our model. Living up to the expectations of facilitators and learners and developing authentic, honest, and caring relationships are essential to the reparative work often involved in EDI projects and partnerships. Traditionally, student-teacher relationships have been viewed from a binary positive-negative emotional response, but studies relying on this binary “do not consider the interplay between the emotions of student-teacher relationship and the cultural and social organization of interaction” (Tormey 994). Our relationships to others are influenced by the implicit biases we all carry with us and bring to our perceptions of others. Thus, in preparing an EDI focused training program, it’s necessary to fully understand the relational aspects of how people learn and how people teach. Relationally, there are multiple levels of engagement in a training program: between facilitators; between learners; between learners and facilitators; and between learners, facilitators, and the materials under analysis.

Each of these relational levels requires attention not only to others but also to ourselves. Kathleen M. Quinlan outlined different relational levels in the classroom and noted that “education is relational, and emotions are central to relationships. … how we feel with and about others are central to the quality of our relationships” (102). In maintaining expectations and authentic, caring relationships, we create a relational third space for action, thought partnership, and empathy (Ravich 4).

Planning and Recruitment

Leadership Team 

When developing an EDI project in librarianship, the leadership team is responsible for the planning, promotion, and implementation of the project’s objectives, so determining the members of this team is crucial. While the DBF has multiple teams working on various aspects of the project, the CoP Advisory Group (CoP AG) is a team of seven (originally eight) members from a variety of professional backgrounds, lived experiences, and positionalities. Two of the original DBF founders and a former DBF project manager are a part of our group, each bringing significant experience in applying the specific methods of DBF book analysis to picture books. Four new members joined the group as part of the expansion into early readers, middle grade, and young adult literature. This combination not only allowed for cohesion between the two phases of the database but also for flexibility in considering new interpretations of the DBF’s metadata and diverse children’s literature and audiences. 

Academically, our group members are experts in psychology, librarianship, children’s literature, and gender and sexuality studies, and one is an award-winning author-illustrator of children’s books. Most importantly, however, each member brought experience in and with EDI work from various vantage points, whether as BIPOC and/or with expertise in working with minoritized populations. Collectively, we were grounded in interdisciplinary feminist, critical race, anti-racist, gender, and sexuality theories. Since our individual thought partners and lived experiences varied, each member brought an invaluable, unique perspective to EDI work and a shared respect for discussion, collaboration, and willingness to learn and work by consensus. 

Planning for a Virtual Experience

After creating the leadership team, an integral part of the planning process included preparing a program that would function well as an entirely virtual experience. We knew we would be recruiting volunteers from across the United States and Canada and that our volunteers would be coming from a variety of backgrounds with a wide array of scheduling needs. This meant that we wanted to be as intentional as possible in creating a training structure that would cater to the greatest number of participants. Planning for this reality involved three major components: creating a flexible training structure; encouraging consistency and active learning; and creating and providing easily accessible training materials. 

To allow for a variety of schedules and time zones, we focused on building a training course structure that was intentionally flexible. Dividing the training sessions into Large Core Classes (facilitator-led instruction) and Small Group Sessions (group-led discussion) allowed us to provide a training that could be both asynchronous (the recorded Large Core Classes) and synchronous (Small Group Sessions). In addition to providing flexibility for scheduling, dividing the training into these two types of experiences also furthered our goal of following a feminist pedagogical model that decenters expertise by allowing us to place equal importance on both facilitator-imparted knowledge (Large Core Classes) and group learning through more personal interactions and discussions (Small Group Sessions). ((During the seven-week training program, learners and facilitators participated in weekly Large Core Classes and Small Group Sessions. After the training program ended, we continued to hold monthly Small Group Sessions to discuss new coding questions and share insights and approaches. The monthly Small Group Sessions provided ongoing consistency and community and continued our collaborative approach to learning from one another.))

Furthermore, the synchronous sessions were offered on various days and times throughout the week, and participants were invited to select which session would work best for them rather than being assigned a session. This attention to flexible scheduling encouraged engagement and prevented scheduling conflicts from prohibiting participation, which made the involvement of such a large group of volunteers sustainable. In October 2022, we started our first CoP with 76 volunteers and by August 2023, we retained 63 volunteers, with the departing volunteers leaving for various personal reasons rather than for reasons related to our shared work. Of the remaining 63 volunteers, 37 expressed interest in continuing work with the DBF even after their initial one-year term was completed. 

Throughout this process, it was necessary for the CoP facilitators to support the work of incoming coders and to ensure that the overall scope of our work was meaningful and produced tangible results. One way in which we fostered these goals was through an emphasis on consistency. With such a large group of learners being split among various Small Groups centered on discussion, we wanted to make sure that each learner received consistent messaging and training. To this end, facilitators met weekly. During these weekly meetings, facilitators reviewed how the prior week’s class and discussion sessions had gone and considered how we could best create ongoing active learning opportunities that would enrich and reinforce the knowledge constructed during the Large Core Classes. This constant loop of feedback between the facilitators, as well as between the facilitators and learners, helped us to create spaces where participants had consistent structure and support and thus felt comfortable engaging in sensitive dialogue around topics of race, culture, and identity.

Once the course structure and schedule were finalized, it was also important to provide training materials and instructions in such a way that they would be available to all participants, regardless of when they were working on their assigned tasks. Thus, we developed our training materials using the Google Suite of products which suited our need for software that provides user friendly and accessible collaboration at no cost. With Google Sites, we created both an online instructional manual and a “Training Base Camp,” which served as a resource center for learners and facilitators. The base camp stored all the important documents, links, and forms that a learner or facilitator might need to access during the training program and their year of coding. We also used Google Forms to create “Question Submission Forms” so that participants had the opportunity to submit questions on a rolling basis without having to wait for the next session. This created a loop of constant feedback between the learners and facilitators that was both cooperative and flexible.  


Once a flexible and adaptive course structure was established, we turned our attention to volunteer recruitment. Given our focus on diversity and inclusion and our goal of creating a widely diverse CoP, we guided our recruitment efforts towards library organizations that included participants who already had some experience with diversity in children’s literature and with metadata. We also focused our efforts on recruiting volunteers from professional organizations that already had a stated diversity focus. ((In our recruitment efforts, we promoted the DBF CoP to members of the following library organizations:  the American Library Association’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT); the Black Caucus of ALA (BCALA); the Association for Library Service to Children’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implementation Task Force; the American Association of School Librarians’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Community of Practice; REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking; the Asian Pacific American Library Association (APALA); the American Indian Library Association (AILA); the Rainbow Roundtable (RRT); and the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). We also shared the opportunity with the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and divisions of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).))

Our strategic goal of recruiting diversity-minded individuals was reflected in the creation of our application materials, as well as where we shared them. The short-answer questions on the application asked potential participants to reflect on the importance of diversity in children’s literature and on how their own identities and positionalities might influence how they interact with literature and other participants. By intentionally directing our recruitment strategy and materials towards library professionals already engaged in EDI work, we aimed to create a group that was both diverse and already familiar with some of the concepts addressed in our training. We asked applicants to provide a resume, and the application included an optional Lived Experience survey through which they could disclose their races and ethnicities, as well as a number of other identities, such as gender, sexuality, religion, and ability status. 

The success of our recruitment efforts can be seen through both the professional and demographic diversity that was achieved within our participant cohort. Our first cohort from 2022-2023 included a wide array of academic, public, and school librarians, as well as students working towards a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences, hailing from 31 states and Canada. Of our 63 remaining CoP members, 48 completed the Lived Experience survey. Of these individuals, 26 self-identified as BIPOC (41%), whereas among US credentialed librarians as a whole, the percentage identifying as BIPOC is only 12% (“Diversity Counts”). 

Implementation and Responsiveness

Facilitators and Learners

We intentionally created a community of learning in which learning was an authentic, active, social process for all of us. As members of the CoP AG, we chose to call ourselves facilitators because we wanted to emphasize that none of us are – or can be – experts in all aspects of EDI work, particularly as EDI work is constantly evolving. Just as members of our advisory group learned continually from one another, we knew we would learn from the cohort members, too, particularly if we invited them to bring their whole selves to the program and share their insights and expertise. We referred to the new cohort members as learners, but they quickly became co-facilitators, helping to shape the training program and some of the coding work itself.

From our own experiences, we knew that learning all the DBF terminology and identifying the categories and tags in books takes time and can initially feel overwhelming, so we scaffolded the training, with the overall coding process broken down into smaller, more manageable sections. Learners developed their coding skills and knowledge over multiple weeks, with new sections of coding added in consecutive weeks and plenty of time for questions and connection building between sections. We also practiced coding with multiple books of varying genres, formats, and intended audiences. We provided the reading assignments in advance, so learners could incorporate the work into their already busy schedules.

Within this carefully designed training structure, we also incorporated flexibility. As anticipated, the work evolved based on our learning community’s feedback and needs. We provided written and oral feedback opportunities, both through formal surveys and informal discussions in Small Group Sessions, and we quickly responded to feedback. For example, several weeks into the first training, we centered the Small Group Sessions even more fully on discussions of book coding and specific questions that arose rather than reviewing material from the Large Core Classes, and we lengthened the training program for the second cohort based on input from the first cohort. 

As learners expressed their fears of coding “incorrectly,” we increased our refrain about there being no one “right” way to approach EDI issues through book coding; we all code based on the evidence we find in the books and our lived experiences. Our training focused on providing consistent information, guidance, and messaging, and part of our recurrent  messaging was that our diversity of experiences and lenses would lead to some valid, different interpretations of material. Through discussions about how and why we coded a book, we learned from one another’s positionalities and perspectives and were able to perceive new ways of interpreting the books and the DBF terminology.


At the start, we sought to create an inclusive, compassionate, affirming, and humanizing learning environment. Initiating our work with a growth mindset, we discussed the difference between safe spaces and brave spaces (see Arao and Clemens), inviting everyone to embrace the challenges inherent to EDI work and consider what they needed to do so. As a first step, we introduced the community agreement created by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) in the first Large Core Class, asking learners to consider its elements and propose revisions, additions, and/or amendments that would allow them to step into a brave space. The ALSC agreement and revision suggestions were reviewed in Small Group Sessions the following week. One suggestion was to clarify how we would identify and manage observations of something oppressive being said or done in the group. We discussed this revision as a leadership team, suggested language, then brought it back to the small groups for further discussion and elaboration before sharing it again in the Large Core Class. Once affirmed in the large group, the agreement was finalized and posted on our shared online training base camp. (See Appendix for the agreement.) The whole process was completed in two weeks. This important community building exercise let our learners understand that we saw them as partners, experts capable of contributing to our shared work. It also provided support for our shared goal of authentic, active participation. It is interesting to note that we never had to return to or invoke the community statement, even though we engaged in numerous conversations about hot topics in children’s books, diversity, and librarianship together.

We also received feedback from those coding stories featuring Indigenous characters, including from those who identified as Indigenous, reporting that they weren’t able to generate what felt like complete and accurate summaries of books featuring Indigenous people. For instance, the metadata meant to capture religious or spiritual experiences was lacking. Using this feedback, we engaged in a larger project, inviting tribal librarians and others with knowledge, skill, and/or lived experience to participate in metadata revisions. The result was the conceptualization and vetting of multiple new tags in collaboration with CoP members and other experts nationally who were part of their networks. Moreover, the experience further conveyed our commitment to shared expertise, authenticity, and active participation, deepening our knowledge and relationships within and beyond the DBF group, leading to one CoP learner agreeing to become a co-facilitator in the 2023-2024 training program. 


Developing a sustained volunteer-based EDI program or sustained committee work related to EDI requires a multi-theoretical and dimensional approach that questions and begins to erode systemic and institutional barriers to integrative and collaborative working partnerships. In our approach, we used pedagogies of feminism and care and meaningful learning that allowed us to translate theory into practical application and move beyond the conversational and performative aspect of EDI work often seen in libraries. The success of our program, as well as the theories through which we formulated our training goals and structure, is exemplified through the continued involvement and commitment of our first volunteer cohort and their expressed comfort in communicating and learning with our facilitators.

As we build on our success and begin our training program with a new cohort, we continue to add greater structure to our CoP AG conversations and practices and focus on the most essential elements of our program.

  • Integrate personal lived experiences into the learning environment and consider all the relational levels present to avoid imposing an artificial boundary between professional and self-knowledge.
  • When learners and facilitators express their needs, listen and respond carefully, trusting that people have good intentions and know what will most benefit and support them.
  • Allow flexibility for shifts in response to the cohort’s needs and use the ongoing reflection to intentionally and steadily move from contemplation to action.

We hope that reflecting on the following questions will guide and enhance your work as you consider your next steps in creating and/or sustaining intentional and authentic EDI programs that challenge the status quo.

Guiding Questions for a Community of Practice for Volunteer-Based EDI Work

Forming and Supporting Your Leadership Team

What knowledge and positionalities do members of your leadership team have? What knowledge and positionalities are lacking? Are you being honest about what you, as individuals and a group, know and what you don’t know? How will you fill in any identified gaps?

Have you built in time for facilitators to reflect individually and check in with each other throughout the program to ensure connection, alignment, and consistency?

Recruiting Participants 

How will you recruit participants? How will your methods ensure a diverse group?

How will you invite program participants to engage fully and authentically?

What special considerations are needed to sustain participants from marginalized communities?

Creating Your Program Structure 

How will you design your program to avoid life/logistical barriers to participation? 

What methods for decentering authority and power between facilitators and learners and between learners are you utilizing? How are you making your intentions around this practice clear? 

Who are your thought partners? What guiding frameworks will you use to inform program development?

How will you celebrate different positionalities, which are key components of a successful program?

How will you build in the flexibility to readily adjust your program, based on your learners’ and facilitators’ needs?

Implementing and Evaluating Your Program

How are you listening and responding to feedback? Are your learners able to see how you are listening and responding? Can they see their real-time impact on the work you are doing together?

What kinds of collection methods will inspire the most honest and complete feedback from participants to allow a full assessment of your program? How and when will you collect this feedback?

The Guiding Questions section of this article may be reused under a Creative Commons License:
Guiding Questions for a Community of Practice for Volunteer-Based EDI Work © 2023 by Alteri, S., Aronson, K., Caponegro, R., Jamison, A., Laboy, L. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.


We would like to thank the other current members of the Diverse BookFinder Community of Practice Advisory Group, Anne Sibley O’Brien and Andrea Breau, as well as past member Marianne Williams, for envisioning and building this community of practice with us. We would also like to thank the other DBF team members and Community of Practice cohort members for all the work they do to make the DBF possible and accessible to users. Finally, many thanks to our reviewers Ikumi Crocoll and LaKeshia Darden and our editor Jaena Rae Cabrera for helping to shape our writing. We appreciate the time and labor that went into improving this article and connecting it with readers. 


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Community Agreements for the Diverse BookFinder Community of Practice

Thank you to the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) for widely sharing their community agreements, which we have drawn on heavily in this document.

Diverse BookFinder Community Agreements:

These community agreements were developed so that all meetings/classes convened by Community of Practice members/facilitators of the Diverse BookFinder (DBF) are spaces where meaningful and respectful conversations are held. The agreements outline best practices to ensure that everyone has an opportunity for expression, accountability, and growth. 

They provide a guide to how topics are discussed, the language used, and how our different experiences, identities, and knowledge are reflected in our thought processes, discussions, and decisions. As you participate in discussions, meetings, presentations, etc. please use these guidelines as a starting point and as a group; add additional agreements if necessary.

Speak for yourself. Use “I” and be aware that your perspective is not everyone’s perspective or the “normal” perspective.

Embrace multiple perspectives to engage in curiosity-driven dialogue (not debate or argument). Have compassion for and honor people’s varied journeys while respecting their humanity. The goal of dialogue should not be to change anyone’s mind but to offer and receive a perspective for consideration and curiosity. Even if your every cell feels in disagreement with someone’s perspective, right and wrong binaries rarely build connection and understanding. Do note that racism, bigotry, and all other forms of oppression are not a difference of opinion and will not be tolerated.

Be aware of the privilege, oppressions, and life experiences you carry and how they might impact your discussion process.

Listen to and use people’s correct names and pronouns. Let people know how you would like to be addressed during introductions and include pronouns if you would like. If pronouns are not shared or if you are unsure of someone’s pronouns, refer to the person by their name.

Share the air. Be aware of how much you are talking versus listening. Challenge yourself to invite others into the conversation and “step up” if you are prone to not participating. We all have something to bring to the discussion.

Interrupt attempts to derail. Oftentimes, discomfort is so great that we immediately attempt to change the conversation to something that feels more comfortable. Before you know it, the conversation is about the weather when we were talking about equity. Work to stay engaged when you feel uncomfortable and make mistakes (this is when learning happens).

Acknowledge intent while addressing impact. Work to not personalize the responses of others while taking care to be mindful of the impact of our words and our actions on others. Understand that intent does not equal impact and acknowledge the impact of something that was said or done during the conversation (or break) by criticizing ideas and not individuals.

Interrupt bias and take feedback. We want to cultivate a space for everyone to learn, to be wrong and unlearn, to be accountable and change. We recognize that this process always happens in relation to each other and so can and will be hard. It’s also important to us that the necessary labor of creating this space does not fall on the same bodies. In order to hold the systems and structures of power that create harmful ways of relating to each other accountable, this work requires careful intention, thoughtfulness, creativity, and experimentation. We will not always get it right, but if we do this work collectively, we can move forward together.**

Self and community/collective accountability are essential to our work together. If you observe something oppressive being said or done (by yourself or others), please acknowledge it. [For example, “ouch” and “oops” and “oh” are words that can be used to acknowledge moments when you recognize something oppressive is said (“ouch,” “oh,” or another term) or you notice a mistake that you’ve made (“oops,” “oh,” or another term). Of course, you can raise a topic for discussion without using these terms as well.]

  • During Large Group Classes: A facilitator will be identified as “Chat Moderator” for the evening. If you would like to bring an experience or example of bias to the attention of the group and have it addressed in some way, please use the chat to privately message the Chat Moderator and let them know.
  • During Small Group Discussions:  If you would like to bring an experience or example of bias to the attention of the group and have it addressed in some way, please use the chat to privately message your facilitator and let them know.

In either case, facilitators may address the moment immediately or they may ask for some grace and the opportunity to further reflect (and receive guidance) on how to best address the situation.

Please remember that everyone (your facilitator included) is human. As we experience feedback about bias, it is our personal responsibility to keep learning. However, that learning may require deeper dialog, reflection, and/or time.

 **Ideas adapted from Angela Davis et al’s Abolition. Feminism. Now. (which centers the tools/strategies of transformative justice and community accountability).

Remember that we all have opportunities to grow. Feedback is a gift of experience and expertise, and it acknowledges that learning is complex and never-ending. Receive it and consider systems of dominance and power at play in community conversations and interactions. Be aware of the lenses you do and do not have as a result of your identities and experiences.

What’s said here, stays here. What’s learned here, leaves here. DBF meetings should be a safe place where people can feel free to be vulnerable and share things about their identities. No one should have to worry about these things being discussed outside of DBF. But take other DBF knowledge and learning with you!

On Cameras: Connection is crucial. As we move through the process of training and discussion, we will be interrogating challenging and sensitive topics. We aim to provide the most open, productive, and engaged spaces in which to do this while still considering the flexibilities often required by real life. We believe that being on camera allows us to best build the connections and trust required to fully engage in these conversations. While we suggest that your camera remain on during all of your DBF sessions, cameras will be required during small group sessions.

  • If you need to turn your camera off temporarily, please turn it on as soon as possible.
  • If you are having technical difficulties or need to leave your camera off for an entire small group session, please communicate that with your facilitator.
  • Occasional interruptions from guest stars such as dogs, cats, other furry/feathered/scaly friends, children, roommates, partners, parents, coworkers, doorbells, and food deliveries are a normal part of virtual meetings and working from home and will be expected.

Reach out before conflicts get worse. All of our facilitators are skilled educators, whether in higher education or as professional speakers, with particular expertise with facilitating conversations about race, ethnicity, and culture. Every effort has been made to create a solid footing for this work, with the goal of creating a brave space where we can all learn and grow together. Even so, conflicts may emerge during the course of our work. When that happens we would first like you to reach out to your small group facilitator. Our hope is that together you can discuss the matter and work towards resolution.

If you experience conflict with your small group leader, please reach out to Krista A. or Lisely L. for assistance.


Much of the language above is borrowed from the following organizations/documents:

  1. “ALSC Community Agreements.” ALSC. Retrieved from https://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/aboutalsc/governance/hndbk/ALS%20Community%20Agreements%2011.2020.pdf 
  1. “Sample Group Agreements.” GSAFE. Retrieved from https://www.gsafewi.org/wp-content/uploads/Sample-Group-Agreements.pdf 

Community Agreements for the Diverse BookFinder Community of Practice © 2022 by Diverse BookFinder is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.


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