Edge Case Too: The Intersections of Identity

Short Form


A thing that human brains do is generalize groups based on the individuals that they personally know who make up that group, either as examples of the group or as exceptions to the group. Thus, you get both #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen. The easy way to beat this human tendency is to surround yourself with more than one person of that given identity or group membership....More likely than not, there's going to be one, maybe two, people in your immediate work circle who are part of groups that you're interested in recruiting more of into your profession or project. Usually. As we pointed out above, in some cases, you have one in your entire department who carry the entirety of their group identity with them wherever they may be going, without anyone else to be able to share the burden of being everyone's shortcut example of how that group behaves.


Everyone professes a want for a more diverse workplace, yet several industries and areas seem unable to convert that desire into actual results. Is it an inability to speak to people in way that gets them excited, or are there deeper pressures and forces at work than there would appear?

We’ll take a look at how difficult it can be to get into a workplace where less than twenty percent of the people in the United States in your area of study look like you, and the challenges that come along with trying to recruit, from the experience of one Youth Services librarian.


diversity, recruitment, public libraries, youth services, allegory-by-example

Speaking experience

Speaker, Open Source Bridge (2015, The Library Is An (Almost) Open-Source Insitutuion, 2016: Postcards from the Edge Case and Librarians and Open Source: We Need Code Too!)

Speaker, American Library Association TechSource Conference (2008: Smash Bash)

Spotlight on Success Poster presentation at Washington Library Association Conference (2013, Mind The Gap)

Speaker, Storytime Extravaganza (2016, Early Literacy Asides: You already have what it takes)

All slides and commentaries available at https://heofhishirts.neocities.org/presentations/index.html


  • Alexheadshot

    Alex Byrne

    Pierce County Library System


    Youth Services Librarian for almost a decade, Linux user for longer, player of games of all sorts and wearer of floral print shirts. Very interested in the ways that public libraries can better assist and find the needs of their communities, how open source code can help raise a generation of coders and hackers, and how open technologies can help free public libraries from vendor lock-in and prevent the adoption of technologies that run counter to public library principles just to get at content.


      • Title: Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play: What Early Literacy Can Teach Us About Software Literacy
      • Track: Culture
      • Room: B204
      • Time: 11:0011:45am
      • Excerpt:

        I’m not saying that you have to speak parentese to beginning software learners. They might be quite offended with you doing that, actually. What beginners often need, though, is not just to be set in front of a tutorial and told to come back when they’re finished, but to have someone on hand to bounce questions off of or to talk them through problems and exercises so that they understand. Learners often pick up useful information by observing someone else at work using the language, but they can’t just be there while you do things and learn it all by observation alone.

        One of the best skills a librarian has that goes mostly unnoticed is that they’re really great at narrating themselves to others. When demonstrating (sometimes for the sixteenth time) how to go through a procedure to obtain resources or run searches, librarians narrate what they are doing and why. When reading a book to tiny people, youth services librarians often ask questions about what the characters are doing or feeling, so that the tiny people can use both the text and the pictures to decode what’s going on in the story. Key information about the story is often communicated visually in a picture book, and sometimes in complete contradiction to the text. By providing scaffolding through narration, the librarian provides context and reasoning for the actions they’re taking. By asking questions at regular intervals, the librarian can check to make sure understanding is happening and adjust to include perspectives they may not have been taking into account before.
        Talking and explaining things to your learners, and with each other, is the best way to help them learn. So if you get the opportunity to have someone shadow you and ask you annoying questions about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that way, take up the opportunity. (And request it all gets documented. Trust me.) By talking through things with someone who doesn’t have your expertise, you shore up your own knowledge and help someone get more of their own. That leads to literacy.

      • Speakers: Alex Byrne
      • Title: Out of the Game: How Apps Fail Oppressed Users (and what you can do to help)
      • Track: Activism
      • Room: B202/203
      • Time: 3:454:30pm
      • Excerpt:

        Apps and websites routinely expose user information in service of social and interactive goals. But what happens when your user has a stalker? Many of these services will compromise the safety of users who are already at risk. Making things worse, some developers resist making changes, with justifications such as “If someone’s in that much danger, they shouldn’t be doing anything online,” and “It’s basically impossible to defend against a state actor.”

        This overview will help developers take the risk factors into account, and make development decisions that puts control back into the hands of the users. There’s no way to perfectly remove the risk of going online if you’re in danger, but people will go online anyway. Many more users at risk are facing technically naive attackers than are facing highly skilled attackers such as state actors.

      • Speakers: Alex Byrne, Azure Lunatic