Thursday, June 14, 2018

And what I choose is my voice

I am taking a class this summer wherein we are reading newly published books about higher education. For this week's class, we read Taking It to the Streets, which I enjoyed far more than I thought that I would. Even in the places where I didn't agree with an author's ideas, I appreciated the vulnerability it took to write about how they considered their relationship to public scholarship.

While all of the author's seemed to be in favor of some degree of public scholarship, a theme that permeates Taking It to the Streets is the tension between being the kind of scholar who chooses only to write and publish and the kind of scholar who chooses to both write and publish and in some way connect to the communities about which they research and write.

It may be too reductive of an observation, but it felt to me like implicit in the tension I felt in this book is whether the goal of the scholar should be to embody a positivist epistemology or a participatory epistemology. The goal of research conducted using a positivist epistemological lens is to explain some naturally occurring phenomenon. In contrast, the goal of research conducted using a participatory epistemological lens is to create change in the world using research findings as the basis for that change.

While it might be tempting to suggest that one or the other of these epistemological lenses is more appropriate for the time in which we live, it is important for scholars on both sides of the divide to understand that there is not universality in what brings scholars to the academy and what undergirds their work. In a chapter titled "A Road Less Traveled: the Responsibilities of the Intellectual," William G. Tierney (2018) writes:
I do not believe that only one route exists for intellectual engagement, and in that light, I want each of us to be aware that we are choosing a particular path. I am troubled at times that a colleague may assume that only one choice is possible and that if another choice is made, then his or her colleague is gravely mistaken or morally failing. I am equally troubled by those who do not see their choices are choices. By assuming that the choice one has made is the only possibility or not thinking through the array of possibilities that exist appears shortsighted to me, loaded with hubris and devoid of humility. (p. 101)

Reading Taking It to the Streets helped give me words to talk about a similar tension I feel in librarianship. While the divide isn't explicitly drawn along epistemological lines, there are similarities. There are library workers who believe deeply that the work of libraries and those who work in them is to be neutral actors, providing access to all types of information to all types of library users. There are also library workers who believe deeply that the work of libraries and those who work in them is to agents for liberatory change, wherein marginalized voices are privileged and hateful rhetoric is unwelcome.

In much the same way as there is not universality in what brings scholars to the academy, there is not universality in what brings library workers to the library. But there's something in what Tierney writes that sits wrongly with me. While choosing to take a particular path or to use a particular epistemological lens is, in fact, a choice, there are people for whom the stakes are higher. In her remarks at the ALA Midwinter President's Program, Emily Drabinski (2018) suggested that:
those steeped in and rewarded by dominant ways of seeing the world don't have to see how intensely political the ostensibly neutral position is. If the white supremacists booking your meeting space are not after you, you don't have to know how dangerous they are. Books about reparative therapy for gay people can simply be another point of view if yours is not the body and mind those authors seek to destroy. To imagine that neutrality could be something we could choose is an intensely privileged position, one that I have to imagine my way into as I listen to the arguments of those whose worlds are rarely contested. (para. 6)

In his chapter in Taking It to the Streets, Shaun R. Harper (2018) echoes Drabinski's thoughts, writing "Researchers frequently mistreat Black Americans and other minoritized populations as variables in their statistical models. Then they go on to make all sorts of assumptions about my people vis-à-vis Whites and other groups in their analyses. Much about this is dehumanizing" (p. 82).

The point I'm trying to make is this: for those of us in dominant groups, acting out of a particpatory or liberatory epistemology in either the academy or the library is a choice. We can choose to turn away from neutrality or positivism because we have the safety afforded to us by being some combination of white or cisgender or able-bodied or middle-class or male. But our colleagues from marginalized communities are less able to adopt the position of neutrality because it is their identities that the world seeks to destroy.

So yes, let's accept that each of us comes to librarianship with a diversity of experiences and motivation. But let's also accept that for some people, living into a participatory or liberatory epistemology is literally a matter of life or death.

Stay positive,

Drabinski, E. (2018, February 12). Are Libraries Neutral?. Retrieved from

Harper, S. R. My People's Professor. In Perna, L. W. (Ed.) Taking It to the Streets: the Role of Scholarship in Advocacy and Advocacy in Scholarship (p. 79-85). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

Tierney, W. G. A Road Less Traveled: the Responsibilities of the Intellectual In Perna, L. W. (Ed.) Taking It to the Streets: the Role of Scholarship in Advocacy and Advocacy in Scholarship (p. 100-105). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Nobody listens, nobody should

Toward the end of a fantastically resonant blog post, Carrie Wade asks "what would it take for our profession to take theory seriously on a systematic level?"

I think the short answer (which Wade, herself, touches on in the post) is: LIS programs need to engage more with theory and teach it to students, even if the profession sees the MLIS as a practitioner degree.

Here is my longer answer:
I am taking a course this semester titled Qualitative Methods in Higher Education. It is a wonderful survey course where we learn the mechanics of qualitative methodology through reading how-to texts as well as articles in which these methods are applied.

What I have learned about qualitative research so far is that unless you are doing grounded theory research in which the theoretical framework emerges from the data, at the outset of a project qualitative researchers choose theoretical framework to guide their research.

It is my sense from reading LIS literature that much of it could be considered qualitative research, by which I mean that this literature often tries to make sense of the behavior of library users in some kind of context. It is also my sense that LIS is an interdisciplinary field, which is to say that people who study LIS come from varied backgrounds and bring their own interdisciplinary frameworks to their work and, as a result, LIS lacks its own set of theoretical frameworks.

(A parenthetical digression: One could correctly state that LIS does have its own theoretical frameworks, especially around organization of information. It would be wrong to overlook this part of the argument, so I'm acknowledging it. But I also think that much of our literature is not strictly about the organization of information, so I'm not sure how useful IO theoretical frames are to the whole of LIS scholarship.)

I think that when people criticize LIS research for not being rigorous enough, what they're actually criticizing is the fact that many LIS researchers do not engage with theoretical frameworks as part of their qualitative research. As a result, a lot of LIS scholarship ends up accidentally being grounded theory research. There are, of course, exceptions to this--notably Maria Accardi and Emily Drabinski--and I think this is why some LIS scholarship seems both more resonant and more rigorous than others.

In fairness to those engaged in LIS scholarship, my background preparation also leaves me as woefully unprepared to apply theoretical frameworks to my work. As I have tried to work through my research question for my Qualitative Methods in Higher Education course, I have struggled to identify an appropriate theoretical lens through which to view my research question. I feel certain that this isn't because a framework doesn't exist but, instead, that I have not been trained to find it.

The problem of LIS practitioners being unprepared to successfully engage in qualitative research is not, in itself, particularly problematic. Where the waters get troubled is that many academic librarians--especially those on the tenure track--are required to produce scholarly work. And while I haven't done any research into how many American LIS programs offer social theory courses, my sense is that the number is pretty low.  And if you're an academic librarian without a background in qualitative research, the scholarship you produce is only as good as your background and/or your capacity to take on learning about theoretical frameworks you can apply to your research question.

I think the answer to the question that Wade posits in her post is that LIS program administrators and accreditors need to consider how well LIS programs prepare librarians for the life of scholarship often required for academic librarians and make adjustments to the curriculum to make space for engagement with social theory. Doing so would improve engagement with theory, both in the creation and consumption of scholarship.

Stay positive,

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Undermine the underground

I'm taking a qualitative methods class this semester and while I am by no means a qualitative researcher at this point, there is a particular method in qualitative research that has captured my interest: bracketing.

This article (maybe paywalled?) by Tufford and Newman has an useful definition of bracketing:
Bracketing is a method used in qualitative research to mitigate the potentially deleterious effects of preconceptions that may taint the research process (80).
The authors go on to suggest that what researchers may choose to bracket includes, but need not be limited to "beliefs and values (Beech, 1999); thoughts and hypotheses (Starks and Trinidad, 2007); biases, (Creswell and Miller, 2000); emotions (Drew, 2004); preconceptions (Glaser, 1992); presuppositions (Crotty, 1998); and assumptions (Charmaz, 2006) about the phenomenon under study" (84).

My sense is that the idea is that when a researcher brackets, they acknowledge the role that their lived experience plays in the work that they do. So while there isn't such a thing as neutrality in qualitative research, the researcher can expose their positionality and attempt to separate lived experience from their observations.

I think a lot about how lived experiences inform our work as catalogers and I appreciate the space that bracketing gives qualitative researchers to both acknowledge their lived experiences and to separate those experiences--to the extent it is possible--from the work that they do. In much the same way that lived experience informs qualitative research in some way, lived experience informs how we catalog. And, in much the same way as there is no such thing as neutrality in qualitative research, there is no such thing as neutrality in cataloging.

While it may be easier for us to make immediate connections between our lived experiences and the work we do when we are tasked with cataloging materials which challenge our worldview, those connections are always with us. As Emily Drabinski said in her talk at the ALA Midwinter President's Program regarding neutrality in libraries:
The principle of neutrality is one that asks me to leave my political opinions somewhere other than that reference desk. But the truth is, I don't even think of my opinion as political, or, even, as an opinion. I can't get rid of it. It's mine.
I think we focus on the wrong thing when we suggest that catalogers should put aside their opinions or beliefs in favor of a mythical state of neutral being. I think what is more useful is for catalogers to engage in self-reflection about their values, beliefs, emotions, and biases. Bracketing doesn't say that qualitative researchers should ignore their lived experiences. In fact, it suggests the opposite--that qualitative researchers should reflect on them so that they can be separated--to the extent that it is possible--from the work being done.

Who are you and what do you believe in? Which of your identities is privileged and which is marginalized? What do you value? What do you assume about the subject matter of the item you are cataloging?

I feel like there is real value in embracing the whole self and in identifying posititionality when it comes to the work we do. If we can't separate ourselves from the things that make us us, we should acknowledge those things and the ways they inform our work.

Stay positive,

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday jams (02/23/18)

R.E.M.'s album, Monster, came out in 1994 when I was a sophomore in high school. In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe said "'in terms of the whole queer-straight-bi thing, my feeling is that labels are for canned food,' he [Stipe] says. 'People are much too binary in their thinking--I think sexuality is a much more slippery thing than that. I've always liked the idea that I could publicly play with that and not pronounce myself anything and let people...not wonder...let people take me for what I am.'" As a teenager with what I imagined to be a complicated relationship with sexuality, Stipe's quote resonated with me. I could be who I wanted to be, who I needed to be, without having to try to find a place in the binary. I mean, it turns out that Stipe embraced his queer identity. But what he said in 1995 meant a lot to teenage, queer me.

Janelle Monae dropped two tracks yesterday. They're wildly divergent in feel, but equally awesome. Make Me Feel is a fun Prince-esque jam, but the consensus seems to be that it's more than that. In a different way than Stipe, and (presumably) for different reasons, Monae has always been publicly vague about her sexuality. And the consensus seems to be that Make Me Feel is the bisexual anthem that everyone was sure Monae could make. Yesterday, Brittani Daniels said on Twitter that "Janelle Monae continues to have the most iconic non-coming out coming outs."

Anyway, enough about me. This this song is great. Put it in your ears.

word is that 2018 will bless us with both an album from janelle monae, who I am not entirely sure isn't the goddess athena, AND robyn. I feel like, we're gonna need it, and we're gonna get through.

Robyn's three-part album Bodytalk literally changed my life in a lot of ways I'm not even sure I can explain.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

And these doors all have locks on them

While we're all still thinking at least a little bit about professional association governance, I wanted to focus on something that surfaced at ALA Midwinter and which I suspect will be on our minds for a while to come: the working document put out by the Presidents and President-Elects of LLAMA, LITA, and ALCTS about future opportunities for growth and realignment. 

Because who doesn't want to think about professional association governance?

The divisions within the American Library Association are organized both the type of library (e.g., ACRL) and by functional units (e.g., ALCTS). Depending on where you're situated within your particular library, you may find your "ALA home" in multiple divisions. Given that money is often too tight to mention, ALA members often have to make choices about which part of the Association they want to support with their time and their money. ALA's functional divisions (LLAMA, LITA, ALCTS, and RUSA) have many of the same goals: recruitment and mentoring of new library workers, continuing education, advocacy, and standards. And given the concern at the Association level about the membership numbers and member engagement, it is noteworthy that the leadership and the Executive Directors of LLAMA, LITA, and ALCTS are talking about the best ways to work together to better realize the goals that are shared among the divisions.

One of the things we try to do over here in the Unified Library Scene is talk about the importance of relationships that lead to better outcomes for users. So, yes, let's talk about how we can realign our missions and our work to make better experiences for members. For example, imagine how valuable it could be to have library technologists and metadata creators working together to develop and implement standards related to the description of library resources and the automation of library technology.

One line in this document stands out to me, though: we have come to realize how much actual overlap in strategic mission, continuing education, and topical interest there is between our divisions, despite the different structural elements and the importance of member identities associated with being part of the division.

As much as we try to talk about relationship building here, we also talk about being clear about what you're doing and why. I'm glad that LLAMA, LITA, and ALCTS are thinking strategically about how to best adapt to a present where member needs are different than in the past and how to best move the Association forward into a future where we will need to prove value to our members as we compete for resources. But I also think that part of the reason that people to choose one functional division over another is because of the identities of each individual group. Just as blurring the lines between functional job duties in libraries has lead to identity crises for library workers, I worry that blurring the lines between divisions will lead to identity crises for the divisions and their members. It seems like the way that we, library workers, choose to respond to existential crises is to become more siloed and more territorial, and that's my fear about any kind of integration or realignment happening between these functional divisions. It's hard to bring groups with different goals and different constituencies to consensus on things, and I worry that while we're making hard choices that a lot of people will lose out.

Although the alternative to figuring out how to work more closely together is to watch all three divisions go extinct, so we definitely need to get to work.

I hope that as LLAMA, LITA, and ALCTS figure out how to navigate this present and this future, its leaders find ways to honor the parts of them that are what draw their members to them while jettisoning off the parts that are not as useful. And I hope that this future is member-driven and member-centric.

Stay positive,

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Post ALA Midwinter Jams

I have a lot of feelings (and work) coming out of this American Library Association Midwinter Meeting. Erin already shared some feelings I resonate with. But I am trying to take a moment to breathe before I dive right back into it. So here are two of my favorite jams which encompass how I feel after a conference or a meeting:

Two jams, eh? I can do that.

Jam the first:
Who can you trust
And who are your friends
Who is impossible
And who is the enemy
These are the halls that we're presently haunting
And these are the people we currently haunt

Jam the second:
I've been pulling on a wire, but it just won't break
I've been turning up the dial, but I hear no sound
I resist what I cannot change
And I wanna find what can't be found

You're pretty good with words, but words won't save your life

Have you even been in a moment and realized that you were witnessing a turning point in the life of a relationship or an organization? I just got back from Denver and, honestly, that's what ALA Midwinter felt like for me this year. It felt like the American Library Association is standing at a crossroads and its members and leaders are going to have to start having some hard conversations and making some tough choices if they want to organization to continue to be relevant in the current day and in a future that seems poised to leave the organization behind.

Attendance at ALA Midwinter has been declining steadily over the past few years and this year, attendance numbers fell just short of 8,000. Attendance at ALA Midwinter suffers from the fact that winter is a hard time to travel by airplane, given the chances of travel problems. But it also suffers from changing organizational norms. While ALA Council and some of the committees at various levels of the organization need to meet in person to do their business, many committees do not need to meet in person two times per year because their business can be conducted online. It was my experience that many committees where in-person attendance was not required had fewer than half of their members present. Add to that the fact that because ALA Midwinter has historically been a business meeting, there are significantly fewer opportunities at ALA Midwinter for engagement and learning. To their credit, it does seems like ALA and its leadership are trying to figure out how to reckon with these challenges. But to my untrained eye, it doesn't seem like the conference will be able to continue in its current form in perpetuity.

But beyond numbers, there was a significant dissonance that was hard to shake. Two things struck me. First, that the discussion about whether or not the ALA Executive Director should be a degreed librarian continues apace. In November, ALA Council voted to change the educational requirement for the ED from "required" to "preferred." A petition to overturn the Council's actions got enough votes to make it onto the ballot for ALA's spring elections and so here we are. The search committee will reconvene after the vote and I saw badge ribbons at ALA that read "Vote Librarian!" One of the pro-librarian talking points is that we need an ED with a MLIS because we want to find someone who is familiar with and represents our values. I have a hard time with this conversation, mostly because I feel like that's a slap in the face to the countless numbers of library workers who are not degreed and who keep our libraries running smoothly. I also wondered how those in the "Vote Librarian!" camp felt about having a non-degreed librarian as a featured speaker on the ALA Present's Program panel. Chris Bourg's comments were passionate and as representative of library values but do we discount them because she isn't a degree-holding librarian? I wonder how those in the "Vote Librarian!" camp would be able justify either discounting Bourg's words OR holding her in high esteem while also having a viewpoint that makes her less-than in the eyes of the organization. I wonder what kind of mental gymnastics that takes. Frankly, it seems exhausting.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, we have to talk about ALA's failure to walk its talk when it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion. ALA has declared that equity, diversity, and inclusion are core values of the organization. But it felt at this conference like the organization and its leaders weren't really walking the talk. It was noted by more than one person (and I experienced it myself) that gender-neutral restrooms were few and far between at this conference. And those restrooms that had been converted were in far off corners of the convention center. Given the size of the convention center, the surfeit of restrooms, and the dearth of gender-neutral restrooms in the convention center, it seemed like a choice to not have converted more of them. And choosing not to convert more of the restrooms to gender neutral is not a great way to live into your values which foreground equity, diversity, and inclusion. Also, let's circle back to the "Are Libraries Neutral?" debate that was the ALA President's Program. Neutrality has definitely been on the minds of many in the library community so I can understand wanting to devote a program to talking about it. But as I was watching this debate I couldn't help but think of the privilege required to have a space devoted to the idea of neutrality. Because nearly 90% of librarians are white, we have the luxury of being able to have theoretical discussions about whose points of view we are required to give space to in our collections and our spaces. But I couldn't help but think about our colleagues in marginalized communities for whom this conversation is not actually theoretical because including certain points of view in our collections and our spaces is dangerous for them. How must it feel for our colleagues from marginalized populations to walk into a ballroom filled with jaunty music and sit through a conversation that argues that the rights of people who do not believe in their right to exist are more important than, well, their rights to exist. How can we, members of the Association, claim walk the talk of equity, diversity, and inclusion when we make spaces hostile for those in marginalized communities?

At ALA Midwinter, Junot Diaz gave an impassioned speech that, among other things, held those working in libraries accountable for how we treat our colleagues of color. The blog post on the American Libraries' website suggests that he "got real" in this conversation. The quote that I saw retweeted was "I wish that libraries would finally have a reckoning and know that [staffs that are] 88% white means 5000% agony for people of color, no matter how liberal and enlightened you think you are. We have to decolonize [libraries]." And I saw a lot of my more privileged colleagues quote tweeting this with some kind of "Yes!" as part of their commentary. But wokeness is performative when we say one thing and then prove with our actions that we're not really committed to it.

I have much respect for the Association and its leaders and members. But I also feel like we are really good at performative wokeness and, as Diaz points out, feeling really liberal and enlightened. I don't know where we go from here, but I also feel like this posturing is not a sustainable long-term solution. Declining Association membership and dwindling attendance numbers should tell us that what we're currently doing isn't working and that reinvisioning how the Association and its meetings are structured won't be enough to save us.

Stay positive,

Friday, February 9, 2018

Friday jams (02/09/2018)

Good morning from Denver, friends of the Unified Library Scene!

We're presenting today about creating compelling stories about the value of metadata. If you're wandering around the conference center, you should come join us at the Hyatt in room Capital Peak B. We are committed to not taking ourselves seriously even as we take this topic super seriously. So you can imagine how much fun we'll be having. Join us!

Our jam for today:

Stay positive and keep rockin'
Erin and Rachel

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday jams (01/19/2018)

Everything is moving a little slower this week on account of the snow days, so there wasn't any new content on Ye Olde Blog this week. Sometimes resolving to be back on your shit means taking it slow and forgiving yourself when you fall short. Watch this space next week, I guess.

Tune-Yards have a new record out today. Enjoy this jaunty tune that never fails to make me chair dance when it comes on.

did you know there are people who spend their time putting popular music over the beats of children's cartoons? I did not know that. Rod from my main podcast, The Black Guy Who Tips, put me on to some new to me music this week that I have been mainlining. Here's an inspirational jam:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Jams (1/12/2018)

Erin loves to give me shit about not listening to new music, and it's true, I hardly ever go out and find the freshest newest music, even when it is music that I know for a fact that I will love. But sometimes I do, and that's why I can say I have a best new album of 2017. It is Darius Rucker's When Was the Last Time, in which he continues to get annoyingly better at country music which he was already really good at admit it. It's also annoyingly old people music about like grown up people shit and I am grown up people and I have grown up shit and sometimes I like to listen to music about it, so,

In 2017, I got to see Japandroids twice. And both times I was shocked by how two dudes could make that much noise and fill up so much space. This song is on my running playlist and it almost always comes on when I need something to help keep my feet moving.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Days of swim or sink

Two things happened this past week that got me thinking about technical services workflows--a scintillating topic to be sure.

The first thing that I noticed this past week is the program for the ALA Midwinter meeting of the ALCTS Technical Services Workflow Efficiency Interest Group. Three of the four presentations address how members of technical services units in academic libraries evaluated workflows and redesigned them in order to improve efficiency within their units.

The second thing was more a thing that happened to me than a thing that I noticed. When I was cataloging something this past week, I happened upon a record in Ye Olde Bibliographic Utility that seemed to have been created by a vendor. Stop me if you've heard this one before: it had many obvious errors, incomplete description, and sub-par subject analysis. I spent a lot of time working on this record in order to make it worth importing into my local bibliographic database. Though many people have griped about the issue of incomplete vendor records in public venues and listservs, I didn't necessarily mind doing the work because improving upon the work of others is at least one the purposes of a universal bibliographic utility. It did, however, get me thinking.

As the resources (both financial and personnel) of technical services units have dwindled, those who staff them have had to make choices about how to accomplish the nearly impossible task of doing more with less. And one obvious way that libraries can do more with less is to outsource the creation of metadata either to a metadata creation vendor or by using records provided by vendors. But, maybe now is a good time to ask ourselves that question that Rachel often poses to us: What is it we're trying to do here?

It isn't so much that I think that vendor-created metadata is universally bad. I don't. But I do think that the leaders of libraries who have chosen to move large portions of their collections off-site in an attempt to transform their spaces have to consider the fact that without the ability to browse, catalog records become the only means of discover for a large portion of a collection. And yes, while some disciplines have moved from monographs being the main way information is disseminated to serials being the information vehicle of choice, there are still those who find books a meaningful component of their research.

I can imagine it feels daunting to have the kinds of conversations that lead to the kind of workflow changes that the three libraries featured in the ALCTS Technical Services Workflow Efficiency IG program. People can be territorial about the processes that they manage and it's hard to give up the workflows that have become worn into our institutional memories over time. But it's the hard conversations and difficult introspection that comes with workflow evaluation that leads to real, lasting, and meaningful changes within organizations.

Technical services units and those who lead them are not doing their patrons any favors by choosing to pick off the low hanging fruit of metadata creation when it comes to reducing cost and increasing efficiency. The myth of the catalog as a useless and outdated relic of years past is perpetuated when the newly created metadata added to it is not useful or meaningful within the context of a user community. Sure, library leaders, you've save money buy accepting metadata of a lower quality that those who are trained in cataloging would have created. But you've also made more work for your public services staff and your users.

I propose that 2018 be the year that we in technical services librarianship stop choosing the lowest handing fruit. Instead, I propose that we embrace hard conversations, workflow evaluation, and identifying what we can let go of to take on the tasks that matter.

Stay positive,

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday jams (01/05/2018)

It's Friday, friends of the Unified Library Scene! Time for some Friday jams!

In case you missed it, I posted earlier in the week about my hopes for libraries and those who staff them in this new year.

In December, The Hold Steady (from whose song, "Constructive Summer," this blog takes its name) played a series of shows in Brooklyn to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their album Boys and Girls in America. I had tickets for two of those shows but, in what I fear is the first of many times where school got in the way, I didn't end up going.

Anyway...they put out two news songs in honor of the occasion and this is one of them. "Tequila takeoffs and Tecate landings" is a true The Hold Steady lyric if I ever heard one. Put your headphones on, crank it up, and enjoy!


I recently discovered a couple of Martin Zellar albums that I wasn't familiar with. They were released after I'd gone away to college and wasn't keeping up with local legends. Martin Zellar's "Born Under" and the collected works of his band The Geardaddies have been in heavy rotation since my high school days, so stumbling into these new songs was amazing to me. It isn't so much a jam, as Martin writes and sings some extremely sad songs about extremely sad stuff, but it is a comfort to hear these kinds of words in my kind of music, from a voice I've known and trusted for almost my whole life.

So, in a new years way, I present to you this selection from those songs. Moving on and growing can be like this, "I can't pretend that it wouldn't be like killing off a friend," "and I'm scared to let go of the only me I know."

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Don't call it a comeback

I was surprised to find that this blog has been quiet since September. While I had the best of intentions in keeping it up-to-date, the blog suffered as I spent my first semester of graduate school treading water. That first semester was such a humbling, challenging experience as I learned about how to balance my time, how to feel afraid and keep going, and how to make friends as an adult. And while I am glad I won't have to do the part of graduate school where you're just starting out again anytime soon, I wouldn't trade those formative experiences.

While I was busy doing graduate school things, I kept an eye on what was happening in libraryland. And as I stretch my blogging muscles in order to get into the groove of a regular writing practice, I wanted to offer my hopes for libraryland in 2018.

1. I hope that libraries and those who staff them will finally accept that libraries aren't neutral actors and, as such, can choose where they stand. I think that librarianship as a whole has bought into the idea vocational awe to the point that we believe that there is such a thing as neutrality within libraries and that it is our obligation to pursue that neutrality. But if 2017 taught us anything, it's that there isn't time for us to indulge these fantasies about neutrality. Those in our community, especially our most vulnerable, desperately need us to provide access to the information they need to live and they need us to provide spaces where they can exist without fear.

2. I hope that those of us in librarianship with privilege will stop using social media to be unkind about our colleagues and those who use our spaces. Look, I like hot takes as much as the next person and I've been guilty of being a jerk on social media. But I feel like a lot of spaces in social media have become an echo chamber for hot takes. And while there's room for dissent in social media, we should be willing to own our words instead of thinking that social media platforms give us the protection to say really awful things. In 2018, I hope more of us use our platforms to critique the systems and structures around us in a constructive way and to use our platforms to amplify marginalized voices.

3. I hope that all of us can make space for intentionally making space for the things that matter most to us. In my last Higher Ed. in the United States class of the semester, one of my classmates was talking about how much needs to change in higher education and how it feels really hopeless. Unsurprisingly, my comment was something along the lines of 'Okay, sure. But each one of us is passionate about a different aspect of higher education, right? What if we all put our greatest efforts into changing one aspect of higher education? That's how we change things.' Maybe the things you feel most passionate about are closely linked to librarianship and maybe they aren't. Whatever you're passionate about, find a way to talk about it or write about it or in some way give some of your energy to it. I have been had the privilege of being fixed in place from fear during most of 2017, but I want to practice what I preach so I'm going to start making space for the things that matter most and use my words and my work to try to create change.

I have the intention of getting back into posting more regularly in 2018. School starts up again next week, but I feel more confident in my abilities to prioritize and make space for the things that matter most to me.

Stay positive,