If You See Something, Say Something : an anti-oppression framework for recognizing and responding to microaggressions in our libraries

Document Type

Presentation or Lecture

Publication Date


Conference or Event

ACRL Washington & Oregon Fall Conference 2013


Collins Memorial Library


“Well, they ended up hiring someone who was in one of those diversity residency programs, so it’s no wonder I didn’t get an interview.”

“It’s not like we really NEED a gender neutral bathroom in the library.”

“Can you do the session for my class in the library lab? I know there aren’t enough computers to go around, but the students all have their own laptops, anyway, so they can just bring those.”

As librarians, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, our colleagues, and our patrons by ensuring that the libraries we work in are safe spaces.

Statements like the ones above are examples of microaggressions, defined as “verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate … slights and insults to the target person or group (Sue et al 2007).” These often thoughtless statements, whether they come from colleagues or patrons, can insidiously turn our libraries into unsafe spaces.

Creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment in our libraries requires an anti-oppression mindset, motivation to act, and the skillset to address intolerance at all levels, from hate speech to unchallenged microaggressions.

Repurposing New York City’s If You See Something, Say Something slogan provides us with a framework to identify and address microaggressions. In this brief presentation, we will introduce strategies for recognizing and responding to microaggressions when working with students, faculty, community members, or coworkers.

Sue, D., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271


Audio recording was made after the initial conference presentation.

Streaming Media

microaggression presentation.mp4 (52922 kB)
Downloadable video