Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Comfortably uncomfortable

Rachel led a #critlib chat on Twitter last Tuesday about what libraries/librarians can (and should) do in the middle of social justice events.

You can read the Storify of the #critlib chat here. It was storify-ed by the fantastic Anna-Sophia.

Rachel asked this question during the chat and it has stuck with me:

I think the answer to this question is "everywhere." We owe it to our users to provide them with services that both enable self-care and help them move forward social justice movements.

I think, at its heart, Rachel's question should compel us to consider how libraries might be more user-centered. What would happen if we asked our users where library services should be on that spectrum of palliative to transformative? How would their answers change our spaces and services?

That's what stuck with me: this notion of how radically librarianship might be transformed if we became truly user-centered.

I think it's hard to considering asking our users this question. We're comfortable with certain processes and changing our priorities might mean that our jobs become obsolete. And if we're being honest, providing services on the transformative end of the spectrum is not without risk for the institutions and people providing these services.

But I don't think that should stop us. I think that we owe it to ourselves and our users to ask them the question about who they think we should be and what they think we should do for them. And I also think it's acceptable to be uncomfortable with their answers. But where I'm not sure it's okay is when we sell our users short because we're not comfortable with what they require from us.

As a profession, let's resolve to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Let's resolve to put users first, even when it means disrupting our current way of doing things. Let's agree to take on the risk to provide tranformative services. And let's find out what transformative services mean to the people we serve.

And if you get scared, ask yourself what Sandy Berman would do.

Stay positive,

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