It’s time for spring cleaning, and your editors here at In the Library with the Lead Pipe are cleaning out our bookmarks, bedside reading piles, and saved articles folders. We’re revisiting some great recent reads in the process. Here’s a selection of things we’ve been reading and that we think you might enjoy, too. Feel free to add your own spring reading recommendations in the comments.
“On ‘Diversity’ as Anti-Racism in Library and Information Studies: A Critique” by David James Hudson
I feel like this is the article on “diversity” that everyone should read. Hudson looks at the literature that talks about diversity as the primary discursive mode of anti-racism in LIS and pushes us to think deeper on these issues. His article is also published in the very first issue of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, which he states is a “potential site of critical exchange from which to articulate a sustained critique of race in and through our field.”
“Considerations on Mainstreaming Intersectionality” by Rita Kaur Dhamoon*
I read this article in preparation for a presentation that I did at ACRL, and I feel it gives a really good overview of how theorists have applied and built upon the theory of intersectionality. Dhamoon goes on to detail five considerations ”when operationalizing an intersectional-type research paradigm.” As Lead Pipe publishes more articles that discuss identity, structural inequities, and relationships of power and difference, I find that taking an intersectional approach would help people understand the complexities of these relationships.
*I realize that this is a paywalled article, but if you want to read more of her writing that is published in an OA journal, check out “A Feminist Approach to Decolonizing Anti-Racism: Rethinking Transnationalism, Intersectionality, and Settler Colonialism.”
Right now I’m reading up on cultivating shared physical spaces because I am at a campus where four academic institutions reside collectively. I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve found some great nuggets of insight so far. My favorite quote to date is: “Whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environments for the purpose makes a great difference” (p. 22).
Learning Spaces: Creating Opportunities for Knowledge Creation in Academic Life by Maggi Savin-Baden
This book gets to the heart of what I believe academics work to nurture in higher education. I’ve been reading through it to develop a solid literature review for an upcoming article I’m planning to write. I appreciate the correlation the author makes between learning spaces and their ability to transform individuals’ perspectives. According to Savin-Baden, “Learning spaces are often places of transition, and sometimes transformation, where the individual experiences some kind of shift or reorientation in their life world” (p. 8).
“Gendered Labor and Library Instruction Coordinators: The Undervaluing of Feminized Work” by Veronica Arellano Douglas and Joanna Gadsby
This paper from a presentation at ACRL 2017 explores the ways in which the feminization of librarianship has influenced institutional organization structures, resulting in the proliferation of coordinator positions with responsibilities that tend more toward administrative and relational work than do other higher-level roles like managers and supervisors. This paper may be speaking specifically about instruction coordinators in academic libraries, but I see a lot here that speaks to my position in a public library, where a large part of my job is program coordination. The authors have me reflecting in particular on the amount of relationship maintenance I do in my work.
“Why ‘Rock Star Librarian’ is an Oxymoron” by Allie Jane Bruce
The team of contributors at Reading While White always gets me thinking about a perspective I’ve thus far missed in my own reading and critical evaluation, but this piece particularly resonates—especially as invitations to publisher events at ALA Annual begin to trickle in. This editorial is in response to the Wall Street Journal’s March 5 article about “rock star” librarians, and more specifically in response to the outcry against that article by youth-focused librarians. Critics of the original WSJ article claimed youth librarianship is grossly misrepresented by the article’s inclusion of only white men as their “rock stars,” but Bruce’s response digs deeper to explore ways that those very same youth-focused librarians may be contributing to and shoring up a system that continually underrepresents us.
“Critical Directions for Archival Approaches to Social Justice” by Richardo L. Punzalan and Michelle Caswell
A colleague of mine, Michelle Baildon, recommended this really thoughtful article to me. Punzalan and Caswell examine the relationship between archives and social justice and suggest further explorations to move the archival field forward. They also make an argument for the fact that social justice has long been a part of archival work and that it is clear that social justice should be a central tenet of the archival field. I read it recently to help prepare for a workshop I’ll be co-teaching using materials from our archives. The students will also be reading it to provide a framing for the workshop, which is for a class on activism. I’m excited for our class discussion on this article!
Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed
I love Sara Ahmed’s work, particularly On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, so when I saw that she just came out with a new book, I had to get it. If you aren’t familiar with her work, check out her blog Feminist Killjoys, which she wrote in conjunction with Living a Feminist Life. This book really resonated with a lot of things I’ve been thinking about and struggling with, as her work always does for me. She’s already struggled through the same issues and is generously sharing her wisdom and hope. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a quote from bell hooks saying “everyone should read this book.”
“Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?” by Mike Caulfield
This article has been passed around quite a bit by some librarians and other instructors I follow, and with good reason. Caulfield makes a persuasive case that, while useful starting points, information literacy acronyms like CRAAP and RADCAB are insufficient. Then he demonstrates a few types of domain knowledge and technical skills that could add up to a robust digital literacy. He argues that in addition to emphasizing the abstract values reinforced by various acronyms, instructors would better serve students by explaining the various ideologies one might encounter in the world of research, then giving them models, processes, and specific tools that help people act on abstract values. Not only did I learn some specific skills and tricks—I knew of Wolfram Alpha but never thought to use it how Caulfield suggests—the challenges he lays out have remained on my mind as I’ve been thinking about how to work with faculty on information literacy. His post provides an abstract appeal and some workable models, a combination I can’t help but appreciate.
Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness by Krista Ratcliffe
We read this rather quickly in a pedagogy class I took last semester, and it’s a layered enough book that I’m still re-reading it as I can make the time. Ratcliffe’s arguments persuasively situate listening within rhetorical traditions, feminist theory, and critical race theory. What I keep coming back to is her emphasis on an ethics of accountability and the need to listen both to the claims people make and the cultural logics within which people make those claims. Her chapters focus on different tactics for listening, including for public debates, scholarly debates, and within classrooms—all places potentially quite relevant for librarians. Instead of trying to recapitulate her book in a paragraph, I’ll quote her motivation for writing the book: she was struck by the complications of her “own standpoint as a white feminist who had an abhorrence of racism and who had considered how racism works in the lives of non-white people but who had never really been taught nor had taken it upon herself to learn how racism functions in relation to whiteness and/or white people beyond the narrative that begins, ‘Once upon a time, white people were racists’” (p. 35). If that starting point resonates with you, this book will amply reward your reading with both specific tactics for listening and the inviting introductions she provides to a host of other thinkers.
@jacobsberg Twitter feed by Jacob Berg
My reading routine for the past few months has been especially bifurcated. Mornings are dominated by a wide variety of political news, much of which comes through my Twitter feed, especially @jacobsberg’s seemingly endless stream of links to articles and posts mostly having to do with perpetual catastrophe of U.S. national politics. This daily breakfast diet usually does not put me in an optimal mood for a day’s librarianship (or maybe it does—thanks, Jake!).
Speaking of librarianship, my mood has been lifted recently by these two posts about the academic library hiring process (which I’ve shared with colleagues working on this issue at MPOW) [both of these posts cite Lead Pipe articles, but that’s honestly not the reason I’m plugging them!]. Both Douglas and Pashia describe the institutionalized oppressions that continue to structure and define much of our profession, but they also offer determination, hope, and advice about how to create, in Douglas’s words, “a feminist, inclusive practice of librarianship.”
Vinyl Records and Analog Culture in the Digital Age: Pressing Matters by Paul E. Winters & Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age by Dominik Bartmanski and Ian Woodward
Over those same last few months my days usually conclude with readings in the history of music recording and record collecting. These two books in particular have impressed me. The studies share a fascination with (and participation in) the recent “vinyl revival,” of which I’ve been a half-hearted participant. Although the books provide very thoughtful and theoretically informed discussions of the place of vinyl records in their cultural and social contexts, the cumulative effect of their analyses was (for me) to demystify the vinyl record and reduce its fetish value. I’m more fascinated by the practice of collecting (regardless of format) and the ways that collecting creates communities of knowledge and structures knowledge, and these studies shed light on this phenomenon as well.