#critlib chat: Working from within the system to create change

Storify of the #critlib chat from 8/11/2015 on creating change from within the system, moderated by @fiiidget. For more information about #critlib, including past & future chats, see http://tinyurl.com/critlibx

  1. [Borrowing from @oksveta's disclaimer: I attempted to include all of the relevant tweets from the chat and put them together. Retweets, favorites, & tweets without the hashtag are omitted on purpose. Misreadings and all other mistakes are all my own.]
  2. Readings

  3. What’s Next: The Radical, Unrealized Potential of Digital Humanities - Miram Posner
    While this talk addresses DH specifically, it frames well the struggle between some of the inherent biases of the systems that we work with and within, and the potential and urgency of learning how to subvert and transform those systems into something that is more equitable across the board.
  4. Now hiring smiling faces (and who cares about your insides) - Maria Accardi - Academic Librarian Instruction Burnout
    And on the flipside, this blog post (and the entire excellent blog!) addresses well the difficulty of trying to do good work in places that don't always support you.
  5. Yo #critlib!! Are you Puuuumped Upppp for tonight's chat?!!
  6. Introductions

  7. Ok, hi #critlib! I'm Sarah, & I'll be mod'ing tonight. Take a few minutes for intros & to look over the readings:  http://bit.ly/1Mn3tTp 
  8. As I said, I'm Sarah. LIS student at @PrattSILS, currently at my parent's house in rural NC #critlib
  9. Hi! I'm Gina & I work as Project Coordinator, Oregon Digital Newspaper Program, at the Univ of Oregon. SO ready for tonight's #critlib!
  10. Hi #critlib! Kevin here. Academic info lit person in Denver.
  11. Hi #critlib! I'm Lee Ann, Health & Enviro Sciences Librarian at Brooklyn College, CUNY
  12. Hi #critlib, I'm Dinah from NYC. Currently work as a processing archivist, soon to be AV archivist as an NDSR-NY fellow.
  13. Hi everyone! I'm Jo, instruction coordinator and ref lib at UMBC. Go retrievers! #critlib
  14. Hi @fiiidget @kshockey04 & all! This is Jenna tweeting for the Barnard Library, where I wear a lot of hats & often a scarf. #critlib
  15. Hi #critlib! Academic instruction coordinator in Brooklyn, mostly thinking about marathon training, but up for listening in!
  16. Hi #critlib! I’m Patrick, a humanities subject specialist at Syracuse University and stuff.
  17. Just to confirm, 90% of tonight's #critlib people are from/in NYC... right?
  18. Hello #critlib. Baharak from Vancouver (not NYC, sadly!). Academic library type.
  19. Hi #critlib! I'm an academic librarian in NYC. Wrangling kiddos bedtime, as usual, but keeping an eye over here too
  20. Hello. I'm an academic librarian checking in from Brooklyn. #critlib
  21. @AprilHathcock I'm in Jersey City right now, but I suppose that's close enough for NYC domination? haha #critlib
  22. Hi #critlib 2nite I am putting my toddler to bed but most wks @ this hour I'm an acad instruction libr*n in PA;fav/RTing tweets mostly 2nite
  23. Heya #critlib. Librarian-in-training eavesdropping from DC.
  24. Oops, jumping in late to #critlib again. Charlotte, academic librarian in NYC, forever delayed
  25. Coming to #critlib late, after helping the 15yo pick out a new hairstyle :)
  26. #critlib! I have only been skulking tonight because everything is darkness, but y'all make me want to fight the darkness.
  27. Questions

  28. Q1: By working in places such as academia, govt or public libraries, do we implicitly endorse their oppressive systems and histories?
  29. #critlib A1 sadly, yes, in many cases. I always say good people can be part of bad institutions. Think of all the people who go to church!
  30. A1 We can if we're not careful. If we just go with the status quo, then def. Anything less than active resistance basically. #critlib
  31. To kick it off, I'd say... yes... and no? Yes, but that doesn't have to be the end of the story. #critlib  https://twitter.com/fiiidget/status/631270374160764928 
  32. A1 We legitimize oppressive histories & systems through participation, but participating also means we can call attention to them #critlib
  33. @EamonTewell being able to "speak the language" as it were makes what we have to say resonate #critlib
  34. A1 @fiiidget Yes! I appreciate that perspective. Unless we move off-the-grid we're part of capitalism regardless of what we do. #critlib
  35. @fiiidget yes! Hadn't considered the language/vocabulary dimension, but absolutely part of it #critlib
  36. A!. My main focus is to be of service to students, first, foremost, wholeheartedly. It's rare I step back to look at the big pic #critlib
  37. @lalaleefull Couldn't looking at big pic be part of service to students? In some cases, even necessary? #critlib
  38. A1 I'd say that it is complicated. Yes, we likely do implicitly support oppressive systems, but we can also challenge them. #critlib
  39. A1 I hate that my currently insitution is an oppressive force geographically wrt gentrification but I can also call attention to it #critlib
  40. A1: I like to think not. But I wonder if being employed by a system (even as a temp) automatically makes you part of that system. #critlib
  41. @GinaMurrell1 Is it possible to be "in" but not "part of" ... and how do you draw that distinction #critlib
  42. @fiiidget That's a definite grey area. I'm not sure if you can, no matter how strong your personal belief system/politics are. #critlib
  43. A1 I completely reject the idea that working in those places is an automatic personal endorsement of histories of oppression #critlib
  44. #critlib Q1 Real challenge for me. Much I don't like abt way my institution does business, but then, it's the job I got...
  45. A1 I say we do, but we have to be diligent and aware and ready to challenge & support #critlib
  46. A1 (cont’d) we can also try to connect w/ activist communities w/in our institutions (even then I still feel like an employee 1st) #critlib
  47. @activitystory building on that, I'd say align self with other groups/depts struggles against oppression/marginalization. #critlib
  48. @activitystory I agree. outreach and connecting with activist groups is a great way to work against/within #critlib
  49. @activitystory feeling like an "employee" can diminish feeling like a "human" which can mean making radical connections is harder #critlib
  50. .@fiiidget right! I feel much more a person/part of our communities when I am not inside my cubicle! #critlib
  51. A1 I'd like to think I subvert as much as I uphold, but then there's all that upholding. #critlib
  52. A1- This is a tough question. I'd like to think labor ≠ endorsement, but I struggle with it. I def benefit from those legacies. #critlib
  53. A1 I think this also could go down to the individual level- I think if you have power w/in institution, use it to make changes. #critlib
  54. A1 I'm still struck by how many ppl in the most 'elite' institutions are the most radically against them - how does this work? #critlib
  55. A1 I guess I'd (humbly) include myself among that group, at least I'm trying #critlib
  56. @ibeilin Right? How does this structure continue to uphold itself? Are we all doing it against our will?? #critlib
  57. @fiiidget well the cynical answer is that the system thrives off radical opposition to itself #critlib
  58. @fiiidget @ibeilin so true. But if you like/feel like the work you get to do is important... #critlib
  59. @DinahHandel @fiiidget the way I see it is that we have a responsibility to change it, given the (limited) power we've been given #critlib
  60. @ibeilin @DinahHandel Agreed. Like Spider-man. (except I don't particularly like Spider-man) #critlib
  61. @ibeilin @fiiidget I totally agree. And, I think there's so many ways to do that, even though its hard and frustrating, often. #critlib
  62. A1: it's essential to be self-critical & acknowledge our role in perpetuating oppressive systems, but do we self-flagellate 4ever? #critlib
  63. @barnlib yeah the wording of this question creeps into some creepy original sin type territory, which I'm sorry but no. #critlib
  64. #critlib Q1 I also don't think there's any outside, don't think we can opt out of the structures that produce us/we're imbricated in.
  65. But it's not all frowny face! We get to resist/counter those structures! #critlib
  66. #critlib A1 I think ab this question since I work 4 NYU. We don't have a sterling record, but there are many places to intervene w teaching
  67. @rawdeal85 oh, it is! And they certainly don't want you to forget it, either. #critlib
  68. A1 thinking abt. public libs/institutions and their role in the expansion of postwar social welfare state. Good and bad histories #critlib
  69. A1 Actually maybe not so much abt endorse as just know that you benefit from it. Own that priv and then address it with action. #critlib
  70. Reminds me of allies fighting oppression. 1st step: recognize priv. Then move on to action. Don't drown in guilt. Not productive. #critlib
  71. A1 @fiiidget The Q is great--thought provoking & conversation starting. It's a necessary jumping off point to "what comes after." #critlib
  72. A1 Like, I was seriously considering moving to a full time assessment role. Me! Wild! But could I make a diff in how we measure? #critlib
  73. Q2: How do you separate yourself from policies and structures that you disagree with? How do you indicate that to others?
  74. A2- Step one is acknowledging those oppressive structures even exist. Shouldn't be such a big step, but it often is. #critlib
  75. Q2 I struggle with this around things like assessment. I have profound reservations abt that project, but recognize it must be done #critlib
  76. Q2 So I work to make it all take less time, so institutional demands can be met more easily. But def reads as endorsement to many. #critlib
  77. @edrabinski yes, I'm still figuring that out at my new instit. Have expressed skepticism but this is a sensitive area. #critlib
  78. @edrabinski I was told that an assessment survey was based on positive psychology and I maybe over-reacted! #critlib
  79. Q2 And when does strategic just become compliance/reproduction? This is a real puzzle for me. #critlib
  80. @edrabinski Do those things look different from the outside? If not, is there a difference? #critlib
  81. @fiiidget interesting Q, and I wonder if there's a diff btw how a thing looks and what a thing does. Maybe too abstract! #critlib
  82. @edrabinski I'm learning more about your position on this issue tonight! this is great (the learning/sharing), thx for sharing #critlib
  83. A2 Talking about it with others, actually naming problems, incorporating the changing/work as part of your job. #critlib
  84. @DinahHandel Naming is SO important. Language makes things what they are. Changing a name, naming an unnamed thing can be radical #critlib
  85. @DinahHandel Good point! I'm very proud of the work I'm doing w/ ODNP but feel conflicted about some UO actions. @fiiidget @ibeilin #critlib
  86. #critlib A2 There are lots of ways, big and small. Getting students to think critically about what makes their experience possible is huge
  87. #critlib A2 that means assigning things like @marc_bousquet's How the University Works, no matter what class you are teaching!
  88. Q2 Adjusting teaching style. Encouraging and listening to others. Reminding folks that we've all been aimless screwups aka students #critlib
  89. A2 This is hard. I wonder if it's better to minimize involvement in things I disagree with, or work to "improve" these things #critlib
  90. A2 Minimizing involvement can mean abdication of responsibility; making improvements can just strengthen oppressive structures #critlib
  91. @EamonTewell Right- I get caught up in the "fix it from inside" narrative, but at some point I think I'll just get lost in it. #critlib
  92. @EamonTewell I tend to ignore, but I suspect that ppl don't 'get' the point of my ignoring #critlib
  93. @fiiidget this is my usual orientation too, but if I don't make my position clear it just comes across as non-interest #critlib
  94. A2 I really like strategies that have students interrogate relations of power, like questioning how databases/searching works... #critlib
  95. A2 and then, having practitioners re-think how databases are built/constructed and what their contents mean, a la tonight's reading #critlib
  96. @DinahHandel IME students are much more prepared to question the DBs than the librarians are. Our job = stay out of the way. #critlib
  97. @kevinseeber sure, but we should definitely listen to what they say and consider how it could impact our work! #critlib
  98. @DinahHandel Right! Seems strange that listening to students could be considered disruptive, but it somehow is? #critlib
  99. A2 ibrarians may be in a better position to distance ourselves from power structures in the instit. than others (admin/teach fac) #critlib
  100. @ibeilin oh, this is a great point. we may have more 'autonomy' as we fly under the proverbial radar? #critlib
  101. @lalaleefull @ibeilin Sometimes I worry I rely on being under the radar too much and should be more vocal about what I'm doing. #critlib
  102. @jkgadsby yeah, that's the downside, and the part we experience more frequently IMO @lalaleefull #critlib
  103. @jkgadsby @ibeilin This too is a process. I'm still working on finding my voice. I'm one year into my position at BC #critlib
  104. A2 try to pick issues that I think my my voice can have an impact. But the precarious nature of employment plays a limiting role #critlib
  105. @stupidplover this is what chat 40 may touch on regarding tenure/non and social justice ;) #critlib
  106. A2: Is indicating it to others worth it? Do you feel your job would be in jeopardy? Or is having a clear conscious more important? #critlib
  107. @fiiidget @stupidplover @GinaMurrell1 this will be chat 40! tenure/security and social justice. :) perfect pairing! #critlib
  108. Part of what we can do is awareness raising. I like to phrase it as a Q: "What abt X?" Gets ppl thinking even if nothing concrete. #critlib
  109. A2 I think you have to make yourself vulnerable sometimes. The more privilege you have, the more you should stick your neck out. #critlib
  110. @barnlib This is more and more clear to me since I was granted permanent status. Time to get loud. #critlib
  111. @jkgadsby @barnlib (it actually feels like perm status compels me to be in those convos, otherwise what cred do I have to be perm) #critlib
  112. Q2 feel like separating from structures (& modeling same) is a primary aim in my ref, cd, & instruction; but cd foreground it more #critlib
  113. Q2 I also realize that because of the outward-focus of my work, it may be possible for me in ways not available to colleagues #critlib
  114. @fiiidget I think it's all about being as vocal as you can be, while still being respectful/reasonable towards others & yourself. #critlib
  115. @nicholsonkp sometimes hard to know or tell! but the question of respecting oneself is really important #critlib
  116. A2 Sometimes you have to do what you think is right. Other times, you focus on harm reduction. #critlib You can take turns with allies.
  117. A2 Sense of responsibility that comes with having academic freedom & positional power makes me get into it even if I'd rather not. #critlib
  118. A2 This is a constant struggle. Trying to help where I can, sometimes quietly undermining harmful policies #critlib
  119. Q3: How do you balance desire for personal enrichment (and a paying job) with the harmful structures of the institutions we engage with?
  120. Q3: As the original Q that sparked this #critlib said: Is it selfish to get a PhD? (Or to pursue a personal interest professionally)
  121. @fiiidget why would this be? can you elaborate? (says she who didn't do the readings so apologies in advance if dumb Q) #critlib
  122. @fiiidget A3 why are these dichotomous options? I find so many fields feed into LIS #critlib
  123. .@fiiidget A3 doing a PhD helped me see pockets of exploitation & oppression on campus I’d missed in library work, so there’s that #critlib
  124. @fiiidget A3: I'm doing it to be a lil subversive, in a way. Not getting the degree to get a job, I just fucking love learning #critlib
  125. A3 Who knows?! All I do know is that I love to work, currently I love going to work because it is fulfilling, and I needed $ obvi #critlib
  126. A3 Again, it's about putting students first and not being afraid of tough discussions at ref desk or in classroom. encourage the Qs #critlib
  127. A3 I think part of personal enrichmt is feeling good abt the work I do. So making space where I can for that in instit. #critlib
  128. A3: This where job security comes in, to my mind. Am I keeping my head down to keep my job? #critlib
  129. A3 It may be awfully American of me, but I'm having a hard time with the word "selfish." #critlib
  130. @barnlib yeah, being 'selfless' very often serves the interests of your oppressors/exploiters #critlib
  131. @barnlib tbh I think my personal (v. X-ian) upbringing has a big influence on the way I see selfishness/service #critlib
  132. @barnlib @fiiidget yeah, can't formulate a brief, pithy response to what I think about him/that.#critlib
  133. Concrete A3: stipends for doing admin scut work. How to say no? #critlib
  134. @edrabinski actually, I began admin work b/c thought I could "make a difference" not b/c of $. reality check came hard & early tho #critlib
  135. A3: The world is effed up. Does that mean I can't pursue a bit of happiness while in it? I think seeking fulfillment isn't selfish. #critlib
  136. @GinaMurrell1 Yes! And in @fiiidget's case, getting a PhD could actually do the world a lot of good! #critlib
  137. @ibeilin At the very least, it could make you feel better about your place in it. Grab happiness where you can! @fiiidget #critlib
  138. A3 One thing I've done is to make sure other staff (outside the lib.) know they can use lib. resources. There's a divide too often #critlib
  139. A3 (cont) and staff that already feel excluded from academia shldnt be made to feel the libraries are closed to them too #critlib
  140. A3 (cont 3).. but as for balancing, I honestly haven't found that yet. I tend towards too much guilt, imposter syndrome, etc. #critlib
  141. @PoorCharlotte ah - yes I definitely teach friends and family about ways to find health answers #critlib despite confusing health system
  142. But can I fulfill myself? Yes, absolutely, let's make that possible for everybody, redistribute opportunity so all have some. A3 #critlib
  143. A3 I'm skeptical of Qs that place onus on individual choices. Transformation has gotta be a collective struggle #critlib
  144. @stupidplover oh, I read a great article about this recently......... will have to find link again. #critlib
  145. A3 I think if we feel fulfilled we're more likely to continue doing difficult work... So finding personal fulfillment is important. #critlib
  146. @DinahHandel I love that we can use personal fulfillment in service of others through our library work. #critlib
  147. Q4: In what ways can we stop the cycle of wanting to create change and then falling away as the pressures of the system get us down?
  148. Q4 Taking time to reflect and breathe. Reflect, reposition, recharge as needed. #critlib
  149. A4 also make connections with others outside of your insitution. keep each other sane. check in. only connect. #critlib
  150. Q4: In what ways can we stop the cycle of wanting to create change & then falling away as the pressures of the system get us down? #critlib
  151. .@fiiidget never accept too high of a salary. And recognize limits. It's ok not to do everything. It's not OK to do nothing #critlib
  152. I feel like we see a cycle of generations of librarians/academics being part of critical work & then phasing out as burnout happens #critlib
  153. @fiiidget Sometimes it's burn out, but sometimes it's a change of tactics as one gets older, evolves, whatever. #ihope #critlib
  154. @edrabinski but if elders aren't communicating with the newcomers, then a gap can develop, which can be schismatic. #critlib
  155. @fiiidget @edrabinski my best advice to students going on interviews is watch out for libraries w/ age gulfs (there are so many) #critlib
  156. A4 I don't know about stopping it, but we can alleviate it by supporting each other, listening, suggesting, helping #critlib
  157. A4- By getting involved w/ people outside of those systems. #critlib
  158. A4 Related to Q3: By not being afraid to be seflish. By engaging in self-care before burn-out and fatigue set in. #critlib
  159. A4: Realize that just because you point to problems, doesn't mean you have to solve them all (by yourself) #critlib
  160. A3, pt 2: i mean, i study whiteness, but am I going to "solve" it? No. myopic and selfish to think so. Same goes 4 other issues #critlib
  161. @ginaschless agree. been wondering tho if you become labelled as "problem" & then lose whatever influence you have #critlib
  162. @ginaschless not so much killjoy but being "the radical" can mean being ostracized. so working w/in system becomes "strategic" #critlib
  163. A4 More broadly, practice self care in whatever form that takes for you. #critlib #essential
  164. A4 make a pt to be accountable to jr colleagues & anyone less-institutionalized than you (LIS students are a good group for this) #critlib
  165. A4: Try to find balance in other areas of your life. Take time to play. Form meaningful relationships w/ those outside the system. #critlib
  166. A4 Stay curious and have people around you who aren't afraid to tell you that you're wrong or push you to be better #critlib
  167. A4: Having a community to come to, to be accountable to, and to create, play, eat, share with is a big, & radical part of this #critlib
  168. A4: Trying to mentor and support new colleagues in the profession, help warn them of pitfalls, help them guard themselves #critlib
  169. Also, and this is really real and serious, spread around the clerical work. Take turns. Everybody gets a job. #critlib A4
  170. A4: I honestly think having a creative outlet is so important. Different places for your mind to move to when needed. #critlib
  171. A4 I feel like watching out for other colleagues who seem on verge of burnout is super necessary #critlib
  172. @eiratansey @carolynthelib letting others know it's okay to step back and recharge for a bit! #critlib
  173. A4 my mom (public lib of 30+ years) pitches in: Why stop? You work either within the system or bide until the time is right. Adapt #critlib
  174. A4 (pt. 2 from mom) My lib. is v small, so I went outside & collab. w/ neighbors on programs together that we couldnt succeed alone #critlib
  175. Any library directors here tonight who can speak to what happens when you're running the place? #critlib
  176. jvinopal: A4 It's so impt to me to have a few ppl at work whom I really trust, to help keep focus on ethical, feminist approach. #critlib
  177. Just attended an anti-racism workshop where we never got into convo about how to work from *within* the system. #critlib
  178. A4 Encourage your colleagues to take vacation w/o apology and not check their email. For their health & for setting culture shift #critlib
  179. #critlib So aside from self-care (important), how to enact change from within the system? Building consensus @ grassroots?
  180. #critlib Modeling the behavior we want to see in the workplace? Calling out/in when need be?
  181. @jvinopal I'd also say you can work to revise value structure via tenure/promotion committees - ex: more value in OA pubs #critlib
  182. .@carolynthelib yes! good point. Also on search committees — make it a point to speak out and push for the right decision. #critlib
  183. Pitch: Know of any resources, lists, blogs, zines, communities that deal with these questions? Want to start one?
  184. Time for #critlib pitches: Know of any resources, lists, blogs, zines, communities that deal with these questions? Want to start one?
  185. chat 40 will be about the tenure/job security side of all this, moderated by yours truly and @AprilHathcock :) #critlib
  186. I'm... thinking about making a zine about this topic???? #critlib Wanna get in on this party???
  187. (late to #critlib, sry) anybody read The Undercommons? I'm finally getting around to starting it and it seems pretty germane +
  188. #critlib my gist of the intro at least is, hey, let's steal shit. Let's have unruly classrooms. Let's organize thru disorganization.
  189. @JessicaCritten I love an unruly classroom. I never thought I would, but I do. #critlib
  190. Thanks to the mod!
  191. Y'all, this has been a wonderful chat! Thank you. I appreciate knowing that you are all out there fighting the good fight <3 <3 #critlib
  192. Okay #critlib tapping out a touch early! @fiiidget thank you for a fantastic chat!!
  193. @fiiidget Thank you for a great topic and moderating so fabulously! :) #critlib
  194. Thanks for moderating @fiiidget really good, reflective discussion. #critlib
  195. Thanks @fiiidget and participants, it is nice to get back into thinking critically about these things after a bit of a summer break #critlib
  196. Thanks @fiiidget for the great questions and moderation tonight! #critlib
  197. have a lovely night, y'all. it's nearly time for Dodger baseball #critbaseball #critlib
  198. Thanks, @fiiidget, for moderating! This #critlib was so important. "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."~Audre Lorde
  199. Thank you #critlib. You are all wonderful humans & definitely part of how I manage to stick around.