recommended readings

Critlib consists of the space where theory meets practice (or “praxis”). You don’t need to be a philosopher or a scholar to participate in critlib (really!), but conversations can sometimes delve into theory. If you’re interested in finding out more about some of the theoretical underpinnings of critlib, there are plenty of excellent resources out there.

A fantastic list of resources can be found on the critlib Zotero group: https://www.zotero.org/groups/critlib

For those seeking guidance on where to start (there’s a lot out there!), we’re featuring starter recommendation lists by those in the critlib community! Please feel free to submit your own so that we can share resources (contact @violetbfox).

First up are three suggestions from @sofiayleung:

  • Elmborg, J. (2006). Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), 192–199. As a newcomer to the concepts of critical pedagogy and librarianship (although the more I read on it the more I find it reflects the values that brought me to librarianship), Elmborg’s article was a great starting point. It provided me with the theoretical framework to understand the goals of critical librarianship—“to critically evaluate the system”—and helped to transform the way I think about my work as a librarian.
  • Doherty, J. (2007). No Shhing: Giving Voice to the Silenced: An Essay in Support of Critical Information Literacy. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-Journal). Doherty’s article takes Elmborg’s ideas one step further from theory to application and is a bit more accessible, although he still approaches it from a theoretical perpective. He challenges the reader to take action towards critical information literacy and suggests that libraries can be “content creators, rather than content hoarders”. Another good starting place for those new to critlib.
  • Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly, 83(2), 94–111. I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that Drabinski’s “Queering the Catalog” is already a critlib classic. She engages queer theory to get public services librarians to think about how our work as teachers/educators should be to teach patrons how “to critically evaluate the system”, to borrow Elmborg’s words again. I thought this article was really fantastic in laying out how cataloging itself is a problematic endeavor, and that knowledge structures are always created within a particular context—there’s no separating one from the other.

For those who would rather learn via videos or blogs than academic papers, @schomj points out these wonderful resources:

  • Gradient Lair: Black women + art, media, social media, socio-politics & culture (blog). Hosted by Trudy (@thetrudz), a Black Womanist. She wrote on topics including Womanism, Mental Health, LGBT issues, Popular Culture, Politics, Racism, Cultural Appropriation, and more. She clearly has a strong theoretical foundation, and is able to connect that theory to real life situations. A lot of what she writes about is in response to some jacked-up situations, and one of the things I like about reading her is that she’s straightforward, unapologetic about setting boundaries, and cites her sources (or shows receipts, if you prefer).
  • Kimberlé Crenshaw Discusses “Intersectional Feminism” (10-minute video, 2015). There are a lot of videos featuring her, but this seems like a good starting place. Explains what intersectional feminism is and how she was inspired to do work in this area.
  • BlogHer 2014 Intersectionality: Race, Gender, Feminism, and the Internet (45-minute video, 2014).  Moderated by Cheryl Contee with guests; Feminista Jones, Kelly Wickham, Kristen Howerton, Grace Hwang-Lynch, Patrice Lee and Natalia Oberti Noguera.
  • What Is a Sociological Theory? (6 -minute video, 2013). Briefly explains what sociological theories are and offers a quick overview of Functionalism, Marxism, Social Actionism, Feminism, and PostModernism. It is too short to have any nuance at all, but I haven’t found a better general starting place.
  • How Can We Not Be Racist (20-minute video, 1992). Jane Elliott on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992 talking about racism. “We are afraid of sharing power.”
  • Introduction to Disability Studies (10-minute video, 2010). Questions how inclusion is working. “As soon as you’ve identified someone who’s included, you’ve excluded them in some way.” Also talks about normative violence and medical vs social views of disability.

For those seeking an excellent starter guide, check out @professorcaz’s reading list for a course on Critical LIS Praxis. It covers such topics as Marx & LIS labor, decolonizing & indigenizing LIS, feminist ethics & critical library instruction, critical race theory, information organization, and much more.

The University of Sheffield’s Information School has a Critical Theory Reading Group run by postgraduate research students which discusses critical theory in library/information studies. They have a list of the reading they’ve done available here: criticalischool.wordpress.com/reading-list.