history of critical librarianship

two cats, one sitting and looking at camera, while a white cat stands in a vase
From Our domestic animals, their habits, intelligence and usefulness / by Gos de Voogt (1907)

67th chat, Tuesday October 11 2016: history of critical librarianship

Moderated by @ClaireB_LIS @violetbfox
Storify by @KristynMC83

Note: critlib follows in the footsteps of many critical, radical, progressive groups, while adding a unique voice. We’re using “critical librarianship” below as a shorthand to refer to all library workers who seek to promote social justice and question the commodification of libraries and the value of “neutrality”.

Suggested readings:

  • Morrone,  M., & Friedman, L. (2009). Radical reference : socially responsible librarianship collaborating with community. The Reference Librarian, 50(4). (pdf)
  • Harger, E. (2016). Which Side Are You On? : Seven Social Responsibility Debates in American Librarianship, 1990–2015. (link to WorldCat; especially the Introduction and chapter 1)

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. What are similarities or differences in current approaches to bringing social justice into libraries vs. previous efforts? #critlib
  • Q2. How is the work of previous critical librarians evident in library practices today? Is it more evident in some areas of practice? #critlib
  • Q3. What do the critical theory-focused elements of #critlib bring to the critical librarian conversation? How do they detract?
  • Q4. What do we lose if we aren’t aware of our critical librarianship history? #critlib

For further exploration:

  • Pettigrew, K., Fidel, R., & Bruce, H. (2001). Conceptual frameworks in information behaviour. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 35, 43–78.
  • Pettigrew, K., & McKechnie, L. (2001). The use of theory in information science research. Journal of the Association of Information Science and Technology, 52(1), 62–73.
  • Kagan, A. (2015). Progressive Library Organizations: A Worldwide History. (link to WorldCat)
  • Samek, T. (2001). Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967-1974 (link to WorldCat).

You can find more great resources suggested by @LibJuice Press.


#critcat read along of Sorting Things Out

Interested in the ethical dimension of classification? Here’s your chance to read one of the foundational texts!

Join the #critcat Slack group for a read along of Bowker & Star’s Sorting Things Out (1999). We’ll be reading the Introduction and Part I (pages 1-161) and have an asynchronous discussion on Slack during the week of October 17-23.  If you’re short on time, just read chapter 4 (pages 135-161) on “Classification, Coding, and Coordination” and join right in.

There will also be a synchronous Twitter chat held with the new Digitial Humanities #infraclub group to discuss Sorting Things Out. The Twitter chat is scheduled for Monday 31 October, 5pm GMT/1pm US Eastern/10am US Pacific.

Sorting Things Out delves into topics such as classifying disease and racial groups—it’s truly a standard in understanding how classification affects our society. Please spread the word and join us in discussing this important work!

cover of Sorting Things Out by Bowker & Star


From The Bluestocking / Mary Baldwin Seminary (1910)

66th chat, Tuesday September 13th 2016: #LIUlockout

Moderated by @ibeilin
Storify by @feministlib

This chat will be more open-ended than the standard chat, with the following questions being just the start of the conversation. Feel free to suggest questions using the #critlib hashtag!

Readings and background reference material (document created by @fiiidget):

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. The #LIUlockout has been horrifying to witness & much worse to go through; what have been your reactions as a librarian/fac. member/student? #critlib
  • Q2. Are there any groups/individuals who you’d like to see show more support for students & faculty affected by the #LIUlockout? #critlib
  • Q3. What can we do now to end the #LIUlockout, and to prevent it from happening again? #critlib

public/academic collaboration

From Kittens and cats : a first reader / by Eulalie Osgood Grover (1911)
From Kittens and cats : a first reader / by Eulalie Osgood Grover (1911)

65th chat, Tuesday September 6th 2016: collaborations between academic & public libraries
6pm Pacific / 7pm Mountain / 8pm Central / 9pm Eastern

Moderated by @AprilHathcock

Find more information about this chat at April’s blog: Public-Academic Library Collabs

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. How can academic libraries support public libraries with research?
  • Q2. How can academic libraries be more aware of and help out with public library advocacy?
  • Q3. How can big research university libraries share with community colleges as well as public libraries?

LIS Journal Club

LIS Journal Club, a new LIS research article reading group, is hosting a critlib-themed discussion! Their September article is “On Dark Continents and Digital Divides: Information Inequality and the Reproduction of Racial Otherness in Library and Information Studies” by Dave Hudson. Discussion includes asynchronous commenting via a web annotation tool (Hypothes.is) as well as a live Twitter chat on Thursday September 22. Find more information at lisjournalclub.tumblr.com and follow along on Twitter with #LISjc!

Wikipedia & #critlib

striped angora cat on a pedestal with caption "Tiger and white male, weight 16 lbs."
From The Angora cat : how to breed, train and keep it / edited by Robert Kent James (1898)

64th chat, Tuesday August 23rd 2016: Wikipedia & #critlib

Moderated by @oksveta @fiiidget @nora_almeida
Storify by @poorcharlotte

Suggested readings:

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. What is your stance towards/relationship with Wikipedia (WP) & what experiences have brought you to that stance? #critlib
  • Q2. In what ways could Wikipedia be a potential resource or site for enacting #critlib?
  • Q3. In what ways are the pillars (i.e. Neutral Point of View) and/or organizational structures of WP in tension with #critlib? http://bit.ly/2b3HO7d [link to Wikipedia page for the 5 pillars]
  • Q4. Do librarians have a responsibility to address pitfalls of WP like gender/race/identity gaps? #critlib
  • Q5. What accounts for historic maligning of WP by libs and what does this tell us about our own stance towards information? #critlib

For further exploration:

ethics of digitization

line drawing of a fluffy Persian cat
From Alumnae Recorder / Pennsylvania Female College Alumnae Association (1888)

63rd chat, Monday August 8th 2016: ethics of digitization

Moderated by @tararobertson and @zinelib
Storify by @tararobertson

Suggested readings:

Discussion questions:

  • Q1 What are pros & cons of make digitization decisions informed by personal & community ethics, in addition to/instead of The Law? #critlib
  • Q2 When making digitization decisions, how do we balance the needs of (living) subjects & (future) scholars, now vs. 100s from now? #critlib
  • Q3 What are some #critlib models of providing community/research access to a collection, vs. protecting privacy?
  • Q4 How should #critlib digitization decisions differ with regard to  race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc. vs. those of default identities?
  • Q5 How should #critlib digitization decisions differ with regard to porn vs. other content like newspapers, books, or historical photos?

“offensive” items in the collection

startled looking kitten on a cat-sized wooden chair
From Kittens and cats : a first reader / by Eulalie Osgood Grover (1911)

62nd chat, Tuesday July 26th 2016: “offensive” items in the collection
6pm Pacific / 7pm Mountain / 8pm Central / 9pm Eastern

Moderated by @zoh_zoh
Storify by @violetbfox

Suggested readings:

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. What kinds of materials in your library have offended your users?
  • Q2. What kinds of materials in your library have you & your staff found offensive?
  • Q3. Is it censorship to relocate/reclassify items?
  • Q4. How do you empower your users to be directly involved in collection development and maintenance?

value sensitive design

black and white cat sitting on upholstered furniture
From The Angora cat : how to breed, train and keep it / edited by Robert Kent James (1898)

61st chat, Tuesday July 19th 2016: value sensitive design

Moderated by @metageeky
Storify by @violetbfox

In multiple discussions, twitter chats, and conference presentations, the need for library work to understand, respect, and address issues of diversity is continually brought up. We talk about the need to not only re-design our cataloging methods but also questioning the underlying technology that drives discovery. This requires navigating, balancing, and integrating diverse aspects of academics, society, and technology. Value sensitive design (VSD) is one design approach to consider for tackling these challenges. VSD emphasizes identifying and respecting human values throughout the interactions of society and technology. Using a multidisciplinary perspective that draws on philosophy, social sciences, and engineering, VSD has been applied to many domains, including city planning, assistive technologies, and Internet privacy policies. Let’s explore its potential for innovation and progress in library work, especially in regards to critical librarianship.

Suggested readings:

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. How would you define Value Sensitive Design?
  • Q2. What are some explicitly-supported values in library work?
  • Q2b. In VSD, designers need to recognize if there are any values they explicitly support. Are there explicitly-supported values in #critlib work?
  • Q3. How can VSD be applied to #critlib? What areas of library work could VSD and #critlib benefit?
  • Q4. What might be some challenges in applying VSD to library work? How could those challenges be overcome?

Additional resources: