Nationwide political polarization has become a fact of life for every library. While many libraries (understandably) steer clear of political controversy in the course of organizing their events and programs, the institution of the library—in both its public and academic forms—has historically played a key role in hosting discussions featuring speakers with differing viewpoints. Now, in the age of Zoom, it is easier than ever for libraries of every kind to bridge the distance—both ideological and geographical—that separates speakers with differing points of view on matters of public controversy. Even so, organizing debates isn’t easy. How can a librarian determine whether a given topic is suitable? And even if a suitable topic is found, what principles should govern a librarian’s choice of speakers?
In this workshop, participants will work in small groups to develop individual action plans to organize a virtual debate or discussion for their library. Participants will be encouraged to select an issue related in some way to the United States Constitution (or, alternatively, an issue related to whichever constitution governs the country in which they live). Participants will work individually as well as collaboratively to 1) identify between two and four distinct political/ideological viewpoints on their Constitution-related issue and 2) identify at least one speaker who would be qualified, on the basis of background or experience, to address the issue from each of these viewpoints.
Once participants have developed curatorial visions for their virtual events, participants will draft brief action plans addressing a range of additional tasks: collaboration with library administration, communication with library staff, event promotion, event format, event moderation, post-event evaluation, digital recording, and honorarium payments for speakers. Having considered each of these elements, participants will be prepared to begin organizing a virtual Constitution-related debate or discussion for their libraries.
Primary Conference Tag
Teaching and Learning
Secondary Conference Tag
Debating Across Distance: Curating Constitutional Controversies for Your Library