Thursday, April 2, 2015

Caring About People is Revolutionary: Rachel's ACRL 2015 post

It's been a long while since I've been to a national conference like ACRL. I've worked at small schools that don't have the funding and never had enough funds to send myself, and I've worked at institutions that could only fund one conference and never prioritized ACRL or ALA above a national conference in my area of specialty. So it was amazing to see so many people from my current internet world as well as people from my previous positions together talking about important things.

I was absolutely jazzed to be able to talk about diversity and leadership for the better part of three days, let's be honest, I was really surprised that I could. I had more amazing times at the #critlib15 unconference, my first unconference experience, with more great discussions and connections. In fact, I fit my whole conference experience into the little notebook we got!

Reflecting on all of the sessions I went to and discussions I had, the theme of my conference was attention to individual people and their humanity. I want to draw your attention to this because a lot of the contexts this came up in were relating to the normal course of business and how to get the best outcomes from your employees and yourself. However, the notion of attending to a person as a person and not as someone who produces something is quite revolutionary.

The American context is one that is built in response to industrialism. (Also true of many other places, but the United States is the only context I know first-hand.) Our systems of employment are all based on industrialism. Even our systems of education, including higher education, grew out of industrialism (both during the period of industrialization and during periods of post-war growth). Librarianship itself is based on creating a sort of ideal citizen, which turns again toward a certain kind of productive member of society, a worker. These structures that underlie our work all attend to creating workers, not people.

To turn one's attention to a whole person, either as a student or as a coworker or employee, undercuts the notion that one's value is related to one's productivity in society. To determine to grow as an individual because of or in spite of the conditions of your work is revolutionary. To work to help others grow in the same way is also revolutionary. Library work has always had a certain predisposition towards the revolutionary labor of growth (I think more of Carnegie's tale of youth rather than prairie librarians shaping the rural poor into what they considered a good citizen). Because we've been predisposed to thinking this way and have told ourselves stories about how it has always been our mission, I don't know that we have reflected appropriately on the revolutionary nature of this work.  Further, when we do one kind of revolutionary work and acknowledge it as such, it helps us look at the other things we do -- are they in concert with what we're working towards? are we working on all fronts presented to us? can we do more professionally and personally?

ACRL really raised these questions for me and I'm glad it did. It's one of the pillars of the Unified Library Scene that I hadn't thought about in those terms. And I'm glad I got to see the faces of so many people I admire and respect and I look forward to working with you all more closely.

Keep Rockin',

No comments: