Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sins of Omission

For me, this year has been one of revelation.  The events this year in Gaza and in Ferguson made me think hard about communities I love and how they operate as institutions of oppression, even when they're doing much better than Israel and St. Louis County were doing this summer (and now). Even more importantly, I realized that thinking right about tough issues isn't enough. What that meant was some hard conversations with my parents about their city (a city I love), and some very tough conversations in my faith community (I don't want to talk about those). And these have to be ongoing, like the way I have to keep learning and growing in my own understanding. But if I think right and say nothing and do nothing, my thoughts have no value. In fact, to do nothing where I could have done something is an equal sin to doing the wrong myself.

I want to try now to expand that to my professional life: to start to look at what it would be like to address with action the of sins of omission we commit frequently in libraries and higher education.
 I really want your help with this, too, please leave your comments. Let's start with keeping out mouths shut when we shouldn't.

First, I think that we, as librarians, we don't speak our minds generally, let alone on tough issues. It could be rooted in the history of our pink profession, or because someone fears retaliation for a simple disagreement.  Instead of focusing on what it might mean for us to speak up on a professional matter, think about what you are doing when you don't speak. You could be creating a poorer user experience. If you don't speak up to say "tell me about how this will affect patrons," or "I really don't think that will be the student response to this service, let's get some more data," you may be actively damaging the experience users have in your library.

We also don't speak up professionally, because we don't feel sufficiently expert, because we don't think people see us as sufficiently expert, because a topic isn't sufficiently "professional" and a myriad of other reasons. Take for instance, net neutrality, U.S. domestic surveillance, discrimination and abuse in our profession, lack of diversity in the profession, on and on. On these issues, it is helpful for me to think: what kind of professional am I if I don't feel the need to educate myself? do I want to be in that kind of profession? So I hope to, in the next year, do more work on both educating myself and helping us all to educate ourselves so that we can speak out with authority on issues of import to ourselves and our communities.

Now, don't get me wrong: I intend a full level of professionalism in these discussions. It is professional to have a disagreement. In fact, a passionate disagreement is professional (I want you to be passionate about your work!) So my ideal is something like we passionately speak our minds in disagreement giving respect where it is due to our colleagues because THAT is the only way to get the best outcomes.

So that's a start. What do you think our biggest sins of omission are as a profession? What can we do to address them? Let me know in the comments.

and Keep Rockin',

No comments: