What We Learned From the 2021 CAL EDSJI Conference

The Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) second annual Equity, Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion Conference was a jam packed day of sessions led by some of the field’s foremost experts.

The day kicked off with some EDI-related trivia, and at the risk of bragging, our very own Kieran Hixon came in at the end and swooped away the victory!

Then came the keynote by anti-oppression activist, speaker, and trainer Regan Byrd, ‘Transformative Justice and Racial Liberation.’

Following this were breakout sessions on an array of subjects all through an EDSJI lens:

  • Youth programming
  • Karens/Kevins and wokeness
  • Social justice cataloging
  • Digital collections
  • Forming social justice interest groups
  • EDI trainings
  • Libraries and LGBTQ+ youth
  • Diverse representation in literature
  • Diversity audits
  • Mini grants
  • Inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in libraries
  • Novels in verse
  • Advocating for EDSJI in libraries
  • Meta-literacy

Needless to say, it was hard to decide which breakouts to attend! Here are what some Colorado State Library staff said when asked for their thoughts, takeaways, or ah-ha moments from the day.

One thing that stood out to me was the idea that it is a myth that libraries are neutral places, and that before we hold up being neutral as a beacon/goal, we should consider if neutrality would do more harm than good.

– Renee Barnes, Institutional Library Development Supervisor


There were a lot of takeaways from the CAL EDSJI 2021 conference. I was inspired to see so many library individuals engaged with EDI work, in so many different ways. The opening keynote by Regan Byrd started the day with an interesting, philosophical approach to transformative justice. I appreciated how she brought in information about the criminal justice system, its intersection with racism, and how that’s really impacted our psyche on the concept of justice in general. It left me with a lot to think about.

The session on conducting a diversity audit gave me a lot of practical skills that I can put into practice. One of my colleague’s goals is to do a diversity audit of our book club collection. I think it’s really commendable and incredibly critical to think about how the books we are suggesting and publicizing reflect the communities we live in. Not only that, but we also need to diversify collections so that we are making available a diversity of narratives and ideas, whether those identities exist in our communities or not. The session by Julie Edwards helped me conceptualize the intricacies of a diversity audit and provided some valuable input from other attendees who are at different places in the process. It feels very doable now and I’m excited to support my colleague as the project gets underway.

-Leah Breevoort, Research Assistant


One of my many takeaways from the CAL-EDSJI conference is the reminder of the importance of language and the words and manner we use to communicate. We need to reflect on how we communicate with others before we engage not in hind sight. Unintended harm is still harm and can most often be avoided with more care and forethought.

-Regan Harper, Director for Networking and Resource Sharing


This is a good reminder – “No one’s first act of violence is as the perpetrator. They experience it first.” Moving toward transformative justice could help to break the cycle of violence.

-Debbi MacLeod, Interim State Librarian and Director


I was reminded that it’s not good enough to be an innocent bystander and that each of us can learn simple tools to interrupt racism when we see it.


The Keynote speaker spoke on Restorative Justice which is a new topic for me. I found that it brought up many questions and led me to have a good conversation with a staff member who did not attend the conference. This is a topic I will be exploring more in the future.

-Jean Heilig, Fiscal Officer; LSTA Grant Coordinator


For myself, Regan Byrd’s powerful keynote presentation was a very potent reminder for our purpose in doing EDI work. It gave me a great introduction to the concepts of transformative justice and restorative justice and laid bare in stark detail how our systems fail marginalized people in particular. And, everyone should care about that, regardless of your own identity. The sad reality is that for too many people, it is not just a matter of ideas, but of life and death. The central goal of EDI work, ultimately, is to minimize the violence inflicted on oppressed peoples to the greatest extent possible. I was also impressed with Julie Edwards’ session on conducting diversity audits on library collections as it gave me the confidence to move forward with my own project! I am looking forward to the next conference.

Thanks to CAL for putting on a sterling conference!

Michael Peever
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