– Rubin, Foundations of Library and Information Science, Chapter 10
This chapter focused on the values and ethics of librarianship, and most of the material overlapped with points brought up in earlier chapters such as in discussions of the mission of libraries in the beginning of the textbook. Much of the material seems most useful for consulting in detail later on if I want to examine the ALA Code of Ethics, for instance, or to think about how different codes from various professional organizations put slightly different emphasis on particular ethical issues. One of the biggest take-away points for me from the chapter, especially in the ethics section, is the reminder that librarianship thinks of itself as a profession (more than just a job), and that there are norms policed by the field at large for the ethical behavior of information professionals. Though librarians do not necessarily face the kind of censure of medical or legal malpractice, there are still expectations for levels of competent service that librarians should meet to maintain good standing within the working community.
The values and ethics themselves–focusing on access, intellectual freedom, and the like–were all pretty well covered in earlier readings, and I don’t have much more to say about them. Rubin does explain that ethical dilemmas seem to arise when there is conflict at or between three perspectives (drawing from Froehlich ): individual, organization, and environment (p. 416). And this comment reminded me of the presentation we heard on the challenge to Bone in which one of the media specialists mentioned that there have been parents who have wanted to donate intelligent design books to their libraries, and they have declined. In that situation, the librarian seemed to be clear about her individual beliefs about promoters of intelligent design. But what was most interesting was how she then went on to defend a decision not to put books about intelligent design on their shelves through the selection process that they use. She emphasized the importance of picking books that meet selection criteria such as quality and professional standards (intelligent design doesn’t meet the standards of scientific communities though they may be fine as religious texts). Here, the ethical issue might have been whether it is right or wrong to include intellectual design books as a right of religious freedom, but the media specialist was able to state clearly that the standards of selection help her state a case against such inclusion.
Essential question: Can you think of other particular situations where there might be ethical conflicts arising within and between these three perspectives of self, organization, and environment (particularly for yourself)?
We live in heady times for the visibility and acceptance of lgbtq peoples in the United States, certainly. The last couple of days, I came across a couple of instances of media presence/absence that are telling about the ambivalent status of gay America, and I thought I’d note them here. What is particularly interesting to me is the juxtaposition of the two.
The first is an example from the MTV teen supernatural drama Teen Wolf, which Mr. Frog and I have been watching on Netflix the last few days. There is an openly gay jock character in the show named Danny who seems perfectly well-accepted by his teammates (and is indeed the best friend of the team captain). But that’s not the most interesting part, especially since he has very little screen time, really. The interesting part comes in a couple of scenes in that first season. The first scene involves Danny ogling the hot, shirtless werewolf in his classmate’s bedroom, and it is played off not as farce nor for a grossness quotient but as if he were a straight teen ogling a hot girl–in other words, his sexuality is noted as both appropriate and enticing, if not debilitating. His classmate Stiles says something to the effect of, “Oh, I see. You may play for the other team, but you still definitely play.” There is an affirmation of gay sexuality here rather than a downplaying of gay identity and a desexualization of gay characters. (Still waiting for a make out scene between male characters on the show, though…)
The second scene is perhaps more startling, especially since the show in general already embraces the homoeroticism of hot, shirtless male bodies in every episode. It is perhaps one of the only good things to come of the Twilight phenomenon, I would say, to rescript and revisualize werewolves as hot, shirtless men. The second scene registers at the level of social mores. It takes place during the high school formal. Our main character Scott, the teen wolf, has been banned from the dance because of his failing grades, and he has been told explicitly by his lacrosse coach that there will be dire consequences if he shows up. Of course, Scott goes to the dance anyways to watch over his estranged girlfriend Alison (there is quite a bit of problematic stalking in this show). And then, of course, the coach sees him across the crowded gym floor and sets off in pursuit, yelling at Scott to stop and saying that he shouldn’t be there. What Scott does is grab Danny, the openly gay character, and start dancing with him (a slow dance). When the coach makes his way across to the gym to chew out Scott, what happens is that the entire gym goes silent, including the live music performance on stage. Everyone’s eyes turn towards the coach yelling at Scott, and it looks like he is yelling at the gay couple for slow dancing together. No one says anything, but the coach backtracks in his comments immediately, and under the silent censure of the pro-gay community, he allows Scott to stay in the arms of Danny.
In contrast, last night on the season finale of The Sing-Off, the a capella singing competition, we saw one of the finalist groups, Pentatonix, choose as their charity The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for lgbt youth. Already throughout the show, it seems that the Pentatonix have been “covered” in Kenji Yoshino’s definition of the term, meaning their queer identities, while potentially visible to the audience, remain unremarked upon and circumscribed. (Note: I haven’t watched all the episodes of the show to verify if they have not ever mentioned the queer sexuality for Pentatonix or others. But, for the love of gods, it’s an a capella show!). On its own, this is a kind of covering. There are well-known examples of openly gay singers on other competitions whose backstories were deliberately scrubbed of any references to queer identity (Adam Lambert on American Idol, for instance, was quite flamboyant on the show though it seems his sexuality was covered as much as possible throughout his season).
The thing that really stood out to me about covering, though, came when Pentatonix sang to The Trevor Project, which was described in the little video segment as a service for kids who are bullied. At no point was anything specific to lgbt identity ever mentioned! There were a few people involved in the project who talked about how they are/were bullied, and the examples we got were being bullied because a girl is too tall and a guy is Jewish. One of the Pentatonix members says that he was bullied because his voice is very high. But at no point did anyone mention anything about being bullied because they are gay (or perceived as such). What a telling omission, right? Even focusing on “bullying” rather than the larger scope of The Trevor Project’s work on crisis intervention and suicide prevention seems to be a kind of sanitizing of the project into language that is safe.
(The assignment was to read a library-related blog or wiki and write up a review of it.)
I’m a sucker for clever names, and the blog/online journal In the Library with the Lead Pipe certainly fits the bill for me. Suggestive of the murder mystery board game Clue, wherein players must name the murderer, the location of the murder, and the murder weapon, this blog’s title leads us directly to the library and a heavy, blunt object as the weapon. No murder suspect is named, however, and the tagline notes, “It could have been any of us.”
On the About page, the authors state:
In the Library with the Lead Pipe is intended to help improve our communities, our libraries, and our professional organizations. Our goal is to explore new ideas and start conversations; to document our concerns and argue for solutions.
Their mission is fairly broad, and the topics of their essays range across the library science profession rather than focusing on particular issues within the field such as other blogs that are particularly interested in technology, for instance, or those that deal with just one specific kind of library like public libraries. The posts on the blog tend to focus on large-scale issues in the profession and to explore what librarianship means. Some of the biggest tags in the tag cloud, for instance, are ALA, information literacy, instruction, and librarianship. This interest in assessing the state of the profession is what drives many of the posts.
I found out about this blog at the CLIC (Cooperating Libraries in Consortium) professional development workshop in October. The workshop facilitator, Char Booth, praised the blog at least a handful of times over the course of the day, and I was curious what was so extraordinary about it that would warrant such attention (she didn’t mention other blogs that I recall). I looked up the blog shortly after and discovered an incredibly well-written and thoughtful group blog. Its format is on the formal end of the spectrum for blogs, with longer posts at less frequent intervals than other blogs. The blog strives for a degree of peer-reviewed quality, too, with each article post reviewed by at least one internal and one external reviewer. The blog has a Creative Commons license that allows for non-profit reproduction and circulation of its material and an ISSN that marks it as more akin to an online periodical than more informal blogs.
In the Library with the Lead Pipe has a core group of bloggers who are library professionals in academic, public, and school media libraries. There are also guest posts by information professionals in archives and special libraries who speak to their particular work environments. The seven authors currently listed for the site include Brett Bonfield, Ellie Collier, Hilary Davis, Emily Ford, Eric Frierson, Kim Leeder, and Leigh Anne Vrabel. The bio pages for each author include details of where they work as well as contact information and links to other online material such as résumés, social networking profiles, and personal blogs. Their authority stems from their status as professionals working in the field in their communities, and the openness with which they engage readers in comments and other forums helps to validate their trustworthiness.
The blog makes full use of tagging to help users find posts on particular issues. Most of the posts have at least a handful of tags. The sidebar in the right column also includes a tag cloud that visualizes the most common tags for posts. The sidebar also includes lists of the most recent posts, recent comments, and twitter updates for the site (@libraryleadpipe).
Each blog post reads much like a fully-formed essay or journal article. Many of them have distinct sections and a references list for further reading. I’ll mention a few posts that I read that seem to characterize the blog’s scope particularly well:
Renovation as a Catalyst for Change, November 9, 2011
The most recent essay from November 9, 2011, discusses renovations at two academic libraries as a catalyst for change. Erin Dorney and Eric Frierson write,
For an entire year, the library [at St. Edward’s University] will exist without a reference desk, a print collection, or dedicated computing and study spaces. “If we don’t have those things… who are we, exactly?” asks Frierson and countless others.
While many conversations about the current state of libraries often veer towards bemoaning the changes that make libraries unrecognizable as spaces that house books and reference services, Dorney and Frierson instead look at this moment of the library’s physical dissolution as a chance to assess what librarianship means in the 21st century as patrons’ concept of reference services shift, as physical collections of books and journals disappear, and as even the buildings that we call libraries transform. The authors suggest that the renovations offer a chance for a radical break from the assumptions that drive many librarians to cling to tradition rather than to embrace new forms of librarianship that are possible in a more technologically-dependent world and a substantively different social milieu in which people interact with each other in new and startling ways.
A Conversation with Char Booth, June 10, 2009
I noticed Char Booth’s name in the tag, and clicking on it took me to a few posts that mention her. Booth is a librarian at the Claremont Colleges, and she specializes in instructional literacy. She previously worked at UC Berkeley, and she draws from her experiences reaching out to faculty and students at these two very different institutions (small liberal arts colleges versus large research university) in formulating her discussions about librarianship. In the Library with a Lead Pipe interviewed Booth a couple years ago and offer a recording of that interview as an audio post (with text transcript). This use of multimedia technology demonstrates the blog’s interest in presenting discussions of the library science profession in a range of formats and genres. The interview focuses on Booth’s path to librarianship and her expertise in education and technology.
The book we read for the CLIC professional development workshop is Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators (ALA Editions, 2011). One of the things I find most refreshing in Booth’s work is her emphasis on needing to learn how to teach and how to learn from teaching to improve. Often, people just assume that teaching either comes naturally or doesn’t, and by extension, you either can figure out for yourself how to become a better teacher or not. Instead, Booth rehearses some important work in theories of learning and pedagogy that help educators in any context understand what it is that we do. I wanted to mention Booth’s work in particular because one of the trends I see in current library science discussions is about shifting the conception of librarianship away from books and even reference work towards a broader understanding of education. I’ve heard a few librarians suggest that MLIS degrees should require some coursework in pedagogical training, for instance, and others like R. David Lankes in The Atlas of New Librarianship state that we should define librarianship not as stewardship of information but as facilitation of knowledge creation. (Another post on ILLP, “Sense of Self: Embracing Your Teacher Identity” by Carrie Donovan, also argues for librarian’s self-conception to inhabit a teacher identity more fully.)
Collaborating with Faculty Part 1: A Five-Step Program, April 7, 2011
Collaborating with Faculty Part 2: What Our Partnerships Look Like, July 13, 2011
Finally, I want to mention a two-part essay on collaborating with faculty written by Kim Leeder. Since I was previously a faculty member in an English department on a college campus, I have participated in the faculty-librarian partnership but from the other direction. It remains one of my interests to explore how faculty and librarians collaborate, from the typical library instruction days for classes to longer-term projects that might involve multiple points of contact with students, librarian, and professor over the course of one semester. I am also interested in how librarians and faculty communicate and what we know about each other (or think we know about each other).
Leeder’s posts are especially interesting to me since she writes from the perspective of librarians who have to establish contact with faculty and explain what kind of expertise they can offer for students. In the second post, Leeder breaks down librarian-faculty partnerships into three types: communication (exchange of information between partners about students’ work but no consultation about how they do their own jobs), cooperation (working together on a project with one way support, as in the typical library instruction session), and collaboration (a dynamic, equal partnership in which librarians and faculty set objectives and curriculum together). Acknowledging these different levels of engagement is useful, and I particularly like how Leeder offers examples of how partners might go about carrying out these shared projects.
To wrap up this review, I should say that though this blog has only been around a few years, there is a substantial amount of conversation in its archives that I will have to read through in the next few months. The depth of the discussions is what is most refreshing in this blog. While brevity is generally a strength of the blog format, it often leaves much to be desired in terms of a thorough thinking through of topics. ILLP solves that problem by offering longer, more formal essays that are peer-reviewed. What comes across on the site is that these posts are carefully-considered, and that they are already the result of much conversation between the authors and other professionals in the field rather than just the off-the-cuff thoughts of an individual. I highly recommend checking out the site and perhaps searching the archives to see if they have covered a topic you are particularly interested in exploring.
I’ve been beset occasionally in the past year with moments of sheer frustration and anger. The things that I am angry about are never truly worthy of the level of anger, but I still can’t seem to stop myself from seething. It’s gotten to the point where my body feels on the verge of falling apart, like my blood pressure is through the roof.
I really need to learn how to de-escalate these feelings in more productive ways. The only thing that helps right now is lashing out at the people causing me frustration. But as I’m thinking about things now, it really is the case that these moments come after many weeks where I’m reacting sanely to a whole host of frustrations and those little things in life that are just annoying and less simple than they could be. Much of this is just a fact of life, I suppose, but I’m also seeing that a lot of the way I perceive these frustrations is tied to the idea of microaggressions. “Microaggression” is essentially a term for a less explicit racism/sexism/homophobia. These are moments in daily encounters where instead of outright violence, say, having your head bashed in with a baseball bat or getting told to “go home” (meaning, back to whatever foreign country you are supposedly from), you are faced with subtler gestures, facial expressions, or comments about your “foreignness,” like constant questions about where you are from. I like that psychologists and other researchers are studying the cumulative impact of experiencing microaggression because it certainly adds up, and it does not help to have people tell you just to forget about it or not to take it all so seriously. An article I just read, for example, mentioned that one of the things that happens in microaggression is that a person of color’s reality is called into question, and that can have such profound consequences for mental health and for the ability of people to interact socially.