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Encountering and learning from differences by Open Aspirations

By Ian G Evans, on 24 September 2020

27 years ago, I was a seventeen-year-old international exchange student who stayed in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada. It was my first ever experience of travelling abroad, as well as living away from home in an overseas country. The life in the community was not easy for an introvert. The only places where I felt relaxed were my host family’s home, the school library and the way to walk back home from school, where I could enjoy a great view of prairies and the sky.

The biggest challenge I faced during my stay was the community’s prejudice against homosexuality. I remember: in 1993 after a church service, an old lady asked me to sign my name on a form, which I understood was a campaign against legal protection on the basis of sexual orientation. I blinked for a few seconds, felt extremely uncomfortable, even scared, but said “No, I can’t.”

For the first time after almost three decades, I am revisiting this memory without being swallowed up by the intense emotions I felt back then. Right now, I am making plans for a series of workshop sessions focusing on diversity and inclusion, and, having a flashback of 1993, I searched online to find out what was happening in the province during the 1990s. A wonderful subject guide on sexual and gender diversity is available, and this webpage, developed and maintained by the University of Saskatchewan archivists and librarians, answered many of my questions. By reading these resources including an annotated chronology, I can finally contextualize my experience within Canada’s LGBTQ history. And I am proud of that timid, socially awkward girl who was yet able to make the right decision.

The sessions I am organizing with the help of Alison Hicks have three main themes:

  • A safe place
  • Encountering and learning from differences
  • Reimagining our learning space

Other sub-themes are storytelling, history, memory and social justice.

My aim is to create an informal space, where students can explore how these topics intersect with our knowledge (not limited to Library and Information Studies), professional practices and personal experiences.

So far, I have chosen the following articles and children’s story for suggested reading, based on my interests in student engagement and wellbeing, oral history, and critical librarianship:

More details on the event will follow soon, and I really look forward to starting conversations with my fellow students!

Open Aspirations (Twitter: @O_Aspirations)

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