All posts filed under “Race/Ethnicity

[one person giving another person a bowl of cherry tomatoes] - Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash
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My Service is Not Selfless

This past Friday I attended the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium (GSISC18) at Simmons College in Boston, MA. It was an empowering, invigorating, and thoughtful conference that left my heart and mind so so full. Please forgive me as I spend the next few blog posts working through some of the thoughts and and feelings that surfaced during this day and have been percolating ever since.

I had the privilege of presenting at the end of the day with my colleagues Joanna Gadsby, Sofia Leung, and Jennifer Brown on Deconstructing Service: Identity and Expectations. We wanted to have an informal, semi-structured discussion on the idea of service in libraries, and the ways in which it is complicated by different facets of our identities and expectations surrounding people like us in libraries. I feel like I could listen to Jo, Sofia, and Jen talk for hours about anything and everything. They are brilliant women. One theme that kept resurfacing as I listened to them address different topics we raised during our presentation was something I mentioned early on in our panel session:

My service is not selfless.

I don’t see myself as selfless or giving to a fault. I do the work of helping and teaching in libraries because I gain satisfaction from this work. I enjoy facilitating learning in and out of the classroom because I want to help people recognize the critical thinkers and researchers inside themselves. I feel like in doing this, I am doing some good in the world. I am helping to build an educated, critical populace. In helping to empower others I am also empowering myself.

BUT (of course there is a “but”), I want to be valued for this work. I want to be paid adequately. I want to feel as though the relationships I engage in through my work are reciprocal and genuine, not exploitative. This is a job I enjoy, but it is still my job. I offer my care and good work at this job, and I expect care in return.

How does service play out in practice?

That was my ideal. This is my reality: I feel as though service is performative. The ethos of service in libraries makes it solely for the benefit of others. I have to actively work to prevent my service from becoming a drain. Maria Accardi and Megan Browndorf have both explored the phenomenon of librarian burnout, which is often rooted in a mismatch in affect (performative vs. genuine), job ambiguity, and overwork. Fobazi Ettarh’s groundbreaking article on vocational awe talks about the dangers of this selfless altruism, and the ways in which it is used to silence critique and further exploit library workers.

Jo, Jen, and Sofia all brought up the ways in which our service-oriented job culture contributes to the exploitation of librarian hidden labor, particularly for women of color. The effort behind our service remains hidden, because we don’t want to show, or, more likely, people don’t want to see, the hard work that goes into reproducing the work of libraries, scholarship, teaching, and learning. At one point, a conference participant stated that she often felt like The Giving Tree, giving of herself to others at work until there was nothing left! I don’t want to be that tree.

A feminist version of service

I want to reframe my service through a relational-cultural lens. I want my service to be rooted in empowerment for myself and others. I want libraries to value service when it comes time to promotion and pay increases, and not just traditional service on committees within the library, university/college, and profession. I think we need to value the emotional work we do as teachers, researchers, and librarians and compensate it accordingly. Just because we can’t quantify our relational work doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It is the bedrock of our profession.

I understand we are working within the confines of patriarchal academia, and that academic libraries often replicate that structure, but I also see opportunity–thanks to adrienne marie brown’s Emergent Strategy–to start small and begin a culture change within our libraries/departments/units. I want to be the start of a new fractal that replicates outward, replacing a harmful version of service with one that feeds and nurtures ourselves. I want to see libraries replicating the helping behavior we want to put our into the world within our own working structure. Our ethic of care should be ourselves as well as others.

More to come

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this is likely going to be the first of many reflections from GSISC18. I’d love to hear from other participants and continue conversations we started on Friday. Also, many thanks to the conference organizers:

Emily Drabinski, Long Island University, Brooklyn
Derrick Jefferson, American University
Allison Gofman, Tufts University
Rebecka Sheffield, Simmons College
Stacie Williams, Case Western Reserve University

If you didn’t get a chance to attend, you can also read through the live notes from the conference thanks to the many volunteer note-takers. Your service is appreciated and valued!

 

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Acculturation, Integration, Assimilation

I’m at the end of week three in my new job and have been thinking a lot about the process of on-boarding new employees. UH Libraries has a very comprehensive on-boarding and orientation program. With 50+ librarians that’s not surprising. I’ve had one-on-one meetings with everyone in my department, other supervisors within the library, and am looking forward to meeting people outside the library in the next few weeks (summer just makes for fewer folks on campus). There is a big stress on understanding the library’s organizational culture and strong encouragement to ask questions and offer feedback on the orientation / on-boarding process, which I appreciate.

I’ve had some interesting, open conversations with my colleagues about what it means to a) come back to work after being on sabbatical for 8 months, and b) come back to an entirely new place of work. There’s a fair amount of culture shock happening, which is to be expected when moving from a small liberal arts college to an R1 university. Thankfully I feel like I can talk about this at work.

I can also talk about what it means to be a new employee at a library without simultaneously being a new librarian. This is the first job I’ve started as an established librarian. My first subject librarian position at the UH Libraries was my first job out of library school, and I was green, green, greenie-green. When I started working at St. Mary’s I was relatively early career (about 2.5 years in). But now, as I settle into this new Instruction Coordinator role, I realize I’ve been doing this for more than a hot minute. I have a much stronger sense of who I am as a person and as a librarian. I have my own values, beliefs, hopes, and goals. I have established ideas about librarianship, teaching, and scholarship. I bring my own culture. I don’t want to be so rigid that I espouse my own values and culture as the right values and culture. I always want to be open to learning and to new experiences. I also want to recognize that I have something to bring to the table and that my own identity matters.

I’ve been the latina who anglicized my name in college because I was tired of hearing my professors and fellow students stumble over it. In my early twenties I struggled to reconcile my own latinidad with the whiter world around me and just ended up feeling alone and confused. I wish I could go back and tell 20-year-old me to stop code switching and take pride in myself and my culture (and for the love of God stop tweezing your eyebrows so much). These are lessons I’ve tried to keep with me over the years (including the brow-shaping). I bring them with me as I start this new job, and think about ways I can integrate myself into this new library. I don’t want to assimilate, and I don’t feel pressure to do so. I want to continue to question, reflect, act, and practice librarianship in an intentional way that aligns with my own values. I want to learn new ways to be in this profession from my colleagues. It’s a very different approach to starting a new job for me, but it’s one I’m committed to pursuing in the months to come.

 

 

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Self-Care & Relief via Podcasts

Thank you, Kelly McElroyJessica SchombergKate DeibelCourt, and Cecily Walker for #LISMentalHealth week 2017. I missed last year’s events at a time when I probably could have really used them, and I feel so fortunate to be able to connect with other LIS workers about the daily continuing struggles of coping with mental illness, maintaining mental health, and seeking support. This post isn’t about my own mental health, as I don’t completely feel comfortable sharing all of that out in the open for reasons that lots of folks have already described on Twitter. But if you’ve read a few of my posts on this blog, you’ll know that I’ve dealt with my fair share of burnout, anxiety, insecurity, imposter syndrome, and life challenges. Everyone makes their own treatment choices, whether it’s therapy, medication, neither or both, and we all have different strategies for coping with particularly difficult days/weeks/months/years. I know that the term “self-care” has a tendency to be used to describe everything from a cup of tea to a mani/pedi to taking a mental health day from work. I don’t want to diminish the concept of “self-care” by divorcing it from its roots in political activism. I do want to say that as a woman, as a woman of color, as a WOC in a field heavy on emotional labor, self-care is important to me and many of my colleagues.

A big part of my own self-care toolkit is taking the time to listen to podcasts made by women, people of color, and queer folks (sometimes all three at once!). Hearing a familiar accent or cadence of speech, listening to experiences that resonate with me, and feeling validated in my own thoughts, fears, and hopes are all things that I get from podcasts. They lift my spirit but also make me smile, nod my head, and shake my fist in anger. Sometimes I laugh so hard I have to pull over if I’m listening while driving.

I know not everyone is a podcast fan. It might not be your thing. But if you are not listening to podcasts because they don’t seem relevant to you, or you’re just tired of NPR-voice (no shade, I love NPR), try browsing through the Podcasts in Color directory. Berry has done an amazing job curating a fantastic collection of black and POC podcasts, and even hosts her own podcast about POC podcasts. Everyone has their favorites, but here are a few that have a special place in my heart:

 

In no particular order, they are:

What podcasts help you get through the day?