Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Open Research and Education

It was such an honor to be invited to speak on a panel at OpenCon with Denisse Albornoz, Thomas Mboa, and Siko Bouterse. Lorraine Chuen did an amazing job putting the panel together and moderating.

Lorraine’s questions were:

  • How do the solutions put forth by the Open movements reinforce Western dominance, colonialism, as well as barriers on the basis of race, class, gender, ability, etc…?
  • How does exclusion and a lack of diversity impact their own Open advocacy work in their communities and/or institutions?
  • How might they begin to address this in their own communities?

Continue reading Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Open Research and Education

new job on Mozilla’s Diversity and Inclusion team

October 16th will be my first day in my new career at Mozilla on the Diversity and Inclusion team. I’ve been telling people I’m going to be a feminist data driven storyteller, but the scope of the job is a little bigger than that. I’m really excited to learn more about the connections between diversity, inclusion and innovation. I’m also excited to figure out how to operationalize research on diversity and inclusion and support culture change. Until very recently I couldn’t have imagined a career in HR, but the People Team at Mozilla is not your typical HR group:

At Mozilla, we need a certain, special kind of “HR”. We are an organism more than an organization. We are bumpy, and rough, and strong, and unique. We’re powerful, and generous, and open, and brave. We respect iteration, failure, choice, and inclusion and care little for convention, rigidity, or compliance. We are wicked smart and imperfect. And we are all of these words and many more.

An experiment in open

Through the recruitment process I experimented with being really open with my Facebook friends about all my excitement, questions, insecurities and fears. I’ve curated my Facebook friend-list to be people I know, like and trust. My friends are generous and helped by encouraging, cheerleading, helping me beat back impostor syndrome, sending me research articles and tips for data analysis and storytelling, offering me feedback on my written work and presentation deck, and coaching me through explicitly connecting the dots from my library experience to this job. People also introduced me to friends who are current or past Mozillians who also agreed to chat with me. There were a few really delightful serendipitous connections. I know lots of smart, helpful and generous people in various industries and it was so awesome to have all kinds of support through this process. It was awesome having friends cheer me on as I made it through to the next round and have them reflect back all the positive things they see in me when I was having self doubts. This experiment turned out really well.

It was a bit scary leaving the stability of academic libraries, but I’m so excited about the challenges, adventure and positive change that are possible with this new job.

UBC’s Open Dialogues Series: How to make open content accessible

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of chatting with the folks from the Centre for Teaching and Learning at UBC about accessibility, universal design for learning and inclusion. I’m really happy with how this video turned out. I love that captioning is now part of their production workflow, and not an afterthought. Yay born accessible content!

I’m also thrilled that the Accessibility Toolkit I co-wrote with Sue Doner and Amanda Coolidge has been remixed by UBC  for their guide on creating accessible resources.

digital or “inclusive” doesn’t always mean accessible

blue wooden door with a big rusted old fashioned lock

Just how inclusive are “inclusive access” e-textbook programs? points out the problems with mandatory course fees for all students to lease access to online textbooks. This so-called “inclusive access” model has been piloted at Algonquin College with the e-textbook platform provider Texidium.

Too often we conflate digital with being accessible. Here’s my thoughts on accessibility of e-textbooks for students with print disabilities. I left this as a comment on Rajiv’s post.

When talking about inclusion and accessibility we can’t forget about students with print disabilities. I’ve seen two major accessibility problems with proprietary “inclusive access” models like Texidium.

First, sometimes the platform isn’t accessible. This is more problematic than a print textbook as there’s workflows for format shifting print content for students with print disabilities. What does an accessible format look like for an online “book” that’s on an inaccessible platform? A whole new accessible website? Also there’s really no excuse for publishers who are building inaccessible web platforms in 2017.

Second, sometimes the content isn’t fully accessible. Many of the online publisher textbooks I’ve seen don’t have image descriptions, have math content that’s not in MathML (and therefore cannot be read by a screenreader), or have videos that lack captions. Again, there’s really no excuse for publishers producing content on the web that is not accessible.

A couple of years ago I used to think that publishers might not be aware of accessibility, but now I believe that they don’t care . I believe they don’t care because it cuts into their profits and they are not responsible for the cost of remediating inaccessible platforms and inaccessible content to provide full access to students with print disabilities.

When we talk about accessibility and open textbooks we usually mean financial accessibility, which is important. It’s also important that we make choices that don’t disable students in our classrooms.

Practical considerations

If your college or university is going down this path it is critical to put in clear language around accessibility (like WCAG 2.0 compliant) in the procurement documents and in the contracts with vendors. Benetech has some great resources creating or purchasing content that is born accessible. Their checklist on what to look for in e-books is particularly useful.

It’s also important to include clear information about what the publisher will do if the content is not accessible. Who is responsible for the costs of making this content accessible? If the Disability Service Office, or a service provider like CAPER-BC, needs to do work to make the content accessible who do they contact for the publisher files? What is the turnaround time for this?

Moving to e-textbooks is not necessarily an improvement for students with print disabilities. Digital or “inclusive” doesn’t always mean accessible.

How to organize an inclusive and accessible conference

I was asked by Brady Yano to offer feedback on the awesome OpenCon Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report that will be publishing as a PDF document in the second week of July.

I love that OpenCon is making their values explicit and transparent and connecting them to how they do their work:

Central to advancing Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education is the belief that information should be shared in an equitable and accessible way. It is important to us that OpenCon reflects these values—equity, accessibility, and inclusion—both in our communities and in the design of our conference. We recognize that although the Open movements are global in nature, privileged voices are typically prioritized in conferences while marginalized ones are excluded from the conversation. To avoid creating an environment that replicates power structures that exist in society, OpenCon does its best to design a meeting that (1) is accessible and inclusive, (2) meaningfully engages diverse perspectives, and (3) centers conversations around equity.

I also love that they’re being transparent about their process and self assessment publicly. I’d love to see more organizations do this.

In preparing feedback on this document I found myself referencing other documents that I’ve found useful. April Hathcock recently seeded a list of women who work in “open” and put it out for the wider community to add to.

Inspired by April’s approach I’ve put some resources for event organizers on inclusion and accessibility together in a Google Doc. This is open for editing, so please add other resources, beef up the annotations or organize the content in a more useful way.


My top 5 reasons to go to the BCLA conference

graffiti that looks like an elephant with three trunks and the text "Connect"
Connect by AV Dezign

I just registered for the BCLA conference and I hope you’ll consider attending too: https://bclaconnect.ca/2017-conference

Here’s my top 5 reasons to go to BCLA:

  1. Sessions relevant to today’s political climate:
    • Understanding librarianship in the time of Trump (Kevin Stranack, PKP/SFU, Phil Hall, Tami Setala)
    • OpenMedia
    • Small steps to becoming a government information activist (Susan Paterson, UBC, Carla Graebner, SFU)
  2. Strong program for academic libraries:
    • Calling Bullsh*t in the age of big data (the folks from UW who made http://callingbullshit.org)
    • Are we engaged? Academic libraries and off-campus communities as partners in life (Dr. Norah McRae, UVic, Deb Zehr and Gordon Yusko UBC)
    • Collaborative effort: institutional OER initiatives shared and discussed (with Ken Jeffery, BCIT and Arthur Gill Green, Okanagan College)
    • From citizen science to personal benefit: data management for everyone (Alex Garnett, Carla Graebner, Jessica Gallinger, SFU, Allison Trumble, VIRL)
    • Technology trends: tomorrow’s library (Ben Hyman, VIU, Daniel Phillips, GVPL, Paul Joseph, UBC)
    • Provincial Digital Library (Caroline Daniels, KPU, Anita Cocchia, BC ELN)
    • Making it work: ideology and the infrastructure of the library (Emily Drabinski, Long Island University)
    • Does the medium matter? Using evidence from science and engineering student surveys to guide choices between electronic and print books in collection development (Christina Nilsen, Seattle University)
    • 3×3 in Search of An Assessment Plan (Collen Bell, UFV, Amy Paterson, TRU, Laura Thorne, UBC-O)
    • Keeping Assessment in Sight (Tania Alekson, Capilano U)
  3. Never Neutral: Ethics and Digital Collections – I’m organizing and speaking on this hot topic plenary panel about some of my (completely unrelated to CAPER) research on the ethics of digitizing lesbian porn. I’m super excited that Jarret M. Drake from Princeton University Archives, who does amazing work with community archives and is also on the Advisory Committee of DocNow, and Michael Wynne from the Mukurtu agreed to come and participate on this panel. I think we might challenge the idea that open access is always a good thing and also talk about how we need to shift how we work with communities.
  4. Sessions by and about First Nations people:
    • Understanding the library and archival needs of Indigenous People (Camille Callison, University of Manitoba)
    • Rhymes, Rhythm, and Relationships: A Model of Community Collaboration between a Public Library and an Organization Serving Aboriginal Families (Els Kushner, VPL, Robyn Lean, YWCA Crabtree Corner)
  5. Awesome keynotes:
    • Khelsilem – Sḵwx̱wú7mesh language activist and teacher
    • Anita Sarkeesian – Equality or GTFO: Navigating the Gendered Minefield of Online Harassment She’s well known for her tropes vs women in gaming video series and for continuing to speak out about sexism in gaming despite being the ongoing target of massive, vicious online harassment.

For me it’s a rare chance to connecting with colleagues from across the province and with folks who work in public libraries.

I’ve been on the program planning committee for a few years now and I’m really proud of the diversity in speakers and quality of sessions. The program has a good balance between sessions for public and academic libraries and seeks to provoke broader conversations around the themes of access, community, evidence, place and work.

Early bird pricing is on until March 10th, register now!

Trying to track the changes to the PDF of the Women’s March’s Unity Principles

From the title of this post you have probably already figured out that I wasn’t successful in tracking when the PDFs on the Women’s March Unity Principles page changed. It’s always less fun to document when something doesn’t work the way you wanted, but I’m doing this in case it’s useful for anyone else.

These words of wisdom have helped me through this week:

Why was I even trying to do this?

It was easy to set up Versionista to track changes to the Women’s March Unity Principles webpage. On this page there’s a link to a longer PDF document. I wanted to be able to save the various versions of the full PDF statement and then compare the different versions to see what changes happened. I know that this document has also changed because people have screenshots of various version. Also, this document used to be 5 pages and now it’s 6.

This started as a place for me to put my anger around sex workers being thrown under the bus by the Women’s March. In watching the changes to the website I also saw how “disabled women” was added to the first paragraph of that page. To me, the changes in language (additions, deletions, changes) illustrate power struggles within this movement. I’m so curious about the politics behind each edit.

Library technology colleagues are awesome

I’m really lucky to work with library technology colleagues who are smart, curious and generous. A big thank you to Peter Binkley for his time tweaking a script he had written to email him updates to the bus schedule when the PDF schedule was changed. Peter made some changes of his script to email both of us changes to the PDFs on the Women’s March site. Unfortunately that didn’t work as the name of the PDF and the location of the file kept changing.

Coming out as a former sex worker is the scariest thing I’ve done professionally. My big fear is that the people I work with (both at my workplace and in the Access and code4lib communities) would dismiss or shun me and the work that I do. These communities are really important to me, and it’s been amazing to have colleagues offer their technical smarts and support. I think, like most people, the feeling of belonging and being connected is deeply important to me. When Christina Harlow suggested I could put the PDFs in GitHub and that she and others would help run comparisons and share the change outputs I found myself in crying on the bus.


Being clear that I am a former sex worker (and a feminist and a librarian) positions me in a unique place to be making these critiques of the Women’s March. Librarianship is not neutral, and neither are the changes to Women’s March Unity Principles. Being out is also necessary to be trusted by some sex work activists–I’m not a researcher who wishes to study sex workers, I have this lived experience. While I have experience doing feminist activism, I have very little experience doing sex worker activism. It’s felt good to put my librarian skills to use in service of sex worker rights and supporting sex worker activists.

How to see what has changed in 2 versions of a PDF

There were 3 excellent suggestions from colleagues:

Juxta Commons

For a free, web based tool Juxta Commons does a lot and is easy enough to use.

Juxta Commons walkthrough from NINES on Vimeo.

According to the 4 year old video Juxta Commons can only accept plain text or XML, according to the documentation it accepts more file types now: HTMl files, Microsoft Word DOCX, Open Office, EPUB and PDF. I didn’t realize this so did the unnecessary step of converting the PDFs to text files using Omnipage.

I liked the different comparison tools. The heatmap shows where changes have happened and there’s icons to identify things that have been added, deleted or changed. For me the side by side comparison was the most useful. The histogram was also useful to see all of the changes on more of a macro level. This is how I realized that I was comparing different copies of the same version of the PDF.

Adobe Acrobat Pro – Compare Documents

I’m glad Carmen reminded me of this as I had forgotten it was there. This was pretty straightforward. You tell Adobe Acrobat which PDF is the newer one and which is the older one, tell it which pages you want to compare, and then pick from 3 different document layout types: 1) reports, spreadsheets, magazine layouts; 2) presentation decks, drawings, illustrations; 3) scanned documents.

Again, I was unknowingly comparing 2 copies of the same PDF and it found no changes.

Juxta Commons is way more useful, but most people already have Adobe Acrobat on their computer. If I had a bunch of documents to compare or was going to do this more than once I’d recommend using Juxta Commons.

Today Trump was inaugurated as the US President. Already his government is making radical changes to what information is on the White House website, including removing the LGBT rights page, and removing pages on civil rights, health care and climate change. As librarians we have some useful skills that we need to use to resist fascism and foster the social change we want to see.

Let’s be careful with each other so we can be dangerous together.


The Women’s March changing Unity Principles

I was really excited to see that the Women’s March’s Unity Principles said that they “stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements”. To my knowledge this is the first time such a big feminist gathering has explicitly acknowledged and included sex workers. It’s a really big deal. The Unity Principles really inspired me with how broad, inclusive and intersectional they were.

Yesterday the language on the website changed several times and there was a lack of transparency about the changes and why they happened. Refinery 29 does a good job of summarizing what happened. As a feminist, a librarian and former sex worker I was so pissed. Discussing and debating with friends on Facebook about what was and wasn’t in the Unity Principles felt like being gaslit.

Once my anger levels had dropped I realized that some librarian skills might be useful in documenting what kind of changes were happening, as organizers were not being transparent. I wish I had the foresight to set up something to monitor changes to the website in the morning. I asked on Twitter for recommendations on how to do this and got some great suggestions.

I set up accounts with both Versionista (thanks Andrew Berger for the suggestion!) and OnWebChange (thanks Peter Binkley!) Both were easy to set up. For Versionista there was a 7 day free upgrade that I’ll need to cancel so I’m not billed. With the free version on OnWebChange it will only check the website I’m tracking once every 24 hours. I’m assuming you need to upgrade to access the greyed out options of 5 min, 30 min, 1 hour, 2 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours. You also need to upgrade to the paid version to access Diff Reports. I was only concerned about how the language around sex workers’ rights was changing in the Unity Principles, so this wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

With the upgrade Versionista had more functionality. This morning I manually ran a check and saw that a new page for sponsors has been added to the Women’s March website. I couldn’t see how to automatically schedule checks.

screenshot showing changes to Women's March Unity Principles using Versionista

DocNow has created a tool called DiffEngine that I think does something similar. Unfortunately I don’t have the technical skills required to set this up and run it. Still, I’m glad it’s out there.

I wanted to also track the versions of the longer 5 page PDF of the Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles as people reported that it had also changed throughout yesterday. I didn’t get around to this.

Janet Mock’s beautiful statement was much needed heart balm for me. This is the bit that made me cry:

We will not be free until those most marginalized, most policed, most ridiculed, pushed out and judged are centered. There are no throwaway people, and I hope every sex worker who has felt shamed by this momentarily erasure shows up to their local March and holds the collective accountable to our vast, diverse, complicated realities.

In the preface to How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir, Amber Dawn writes:

…it revealed a larger truth—that to listen to and include sex workers’ voices in dialogue is a skill that we have not yet developed, just as we have not learned how to include the voices of anyone who does not conform to accepted behaviours or ideas.

Here are some of the amazing sex workers and sex worker activists I follow on Twitter. I encourage you to listen to what they have to say: Amber Dawn, Mistress Matisse, PACE SocietyLorelei Lee, Chanelle Gallant.


The Women’s March website was edited again between 11:45am and 12:15pm to add “disabled women” in the first paragraph before Muslim women and lesbians. Here’s a screenshot. 
screenshot showing the addition of disabled women to the first paragraph of the Unity Principles page

While I appreciate the coalition of organizers are handling a bunch of logistics for the march in Washington the way this page is being edited is a reflection of what’s been going on in mainstream feminist organizations for a long time. Who is included and who are the people who are being thrown away?

liberating our yearly planning meeting

I’m a huge fan of Liberating Structures. Despite the name being a little hokey they are great facilitation techniques that are designed democratize participation and come up with different, new and better ideas.

I’ve been dabbling in using these in regular weekly meetings, in community meetups, in facilitating panels and to make a conference talk more engaging (and avoid doing a Q&A session). Our work team has a yearly planning meeting and I wanted to try using Liberating Structures to structure our planning. Most of my team are on the more introverted side of things, and I wasn’t sure if these would work. I’m new to stringing together Liberating Structures and wasn’t sure the meeting would flow well.

The meeting ran extremely well and I credit the activities and our team being willing to try something new. It was really satisfying for me to bring something useful to my team, as my skills are pretty different than those of most of the people I work with. My coworker also had the great idea to get out of the office and meet somewhere new. Thank you to the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre for letting us use one of their meeting rooms.

Agenda (3 hour meeting)

1. What was your biggest accomplishment at work this past year?

1-2-All (10 minutes)

“let your time together be generous” was the takeaway for me from @sambradd’s book launch

A photo posted by Tara Robertson (@tara.robertson) on

Something that Stina Brown said during the Vancouver book launch for Drawn Together Through Visual Practice, an amazing book on graphic facilitation was “let your time together be generous”. Stina said that when she works with groups she values generosity and builds this in to her facilitation so that people might make new connections and develop new relationships. I was thinking about this for our team and I wanted to make space for my teammates to reflect on work they were proud of and ensure there was time to share that. I realized after that this was also a litmus test of trust levels on our team.

2. What have we accomplished in the last year?

Every year we are surprised at how much we’ve accomplished in the previous year. We individually brainstormed ideas on to sticky notes. We then shared them and grouped them into common topics. This bit took about 20 minutes.

ecocycle planning chart with yellow sticky notes on it

Then we mapped them to the Ecocycle planning chart and talked about what we needed to let go of and what we needed to nurture. The themes were of different levels of granularity and we split some of our client relationships into needing growth and those that are at a mature stage. This took about 30 minutes.

4. What must we stop doing to make progress on our deepest purpose?

TRIZ (35 minutes)

I asked people to brainstorm ways that we can make things more difficult for the students that we serve, including things that are completely over the top. Some of the ideas that people came up with were pretty funny, like only being open 2 hours a day like many embassy passport offices. Then I asked them to think if anything we’re currently doing resembles anything on this list. We were all a little surprised to uncover some of these links.

TRIZ was a good way to step outside how we normally look at things and get a fresh perspective on what we’re doing. As the facilitator I was most unsure about this exercise and it was probably the one that worked the best.

5. What is your 15 percent? Where do you have discretion and freedom to act? What can you do without more resources or authority?

15% solutions  (20 minutes)

As the department coordinator (and holder of the work credit card) I have a lot of freedom to try new things. I have a great working relationship with my director and she gives me a lot of freedom and independence, which I value a lot. This is one of the things that makes me happiest about my current job.

Everyone I work with is really smart but I want to foster a work culture where people feel empowered to try new things, take risks and fail safely. I thought this would be a useful way to wrap up our planning meeting.

Liberating Structures 2 day workshop

I’m super excited to be part of the facilitation team for BCcampus’ two day Liberating Structures workshop in February 2017. I’m already learning lots from the rest of the team and I hope to learn more about stringing together individual activities so they flow well for a workshop or planning meeting. I’m also excited to meet Nancy White, who is leading this workshop. It’s going to be really useful and a lot of fun–I hope you’ll join us!