ACRLPNW 2017

Did you know the ACRL Oregon/Washington joint conference has been held annually since 1981? A little history lesson from University of Puget Sound Science Liaison Librarian Eli Gandour-Rood, ACRL Washington chapter President:

I am happy to share that some digging into our respective chapter archives revealed that the Oregon ACRL chapter, started in 1975, held its first two day conference at Menucha in 1980, followed by the first joint conference in 1981 with the newly-formed Washington chapter (founded in 1980). All records indicate that the two chapters have been holding joint conferences in alternating years ever since; the first meeting at Pack Forest appears to have occurred in 1983.

(Received via e-mail, 25 October 2017)

My favorites from this year’s 37th (!) #acrlpnw at Pack Forest in Eatonville, WA:

Favorite session: “Contemplative Pedagogy: An Ancient Solution to a Modern Problem” with Heather Newcomer (Olympic College) and Nicole Gustavsen (UW Bothell/Cascadia College). Heather and Nicole reminded me about the importance of breathing. Their session illustrated that a 1-minute breathing exercise at the beginning of an instruction session can help students feel centered and focused. I also loved learning about the Contemplative Practices Tree.

Close second: “Built to Last: Integrating OER into Your Library’s Framework” with Candice Watkins and Jennifer Snoek-Brown (Tacoma Community College). Candice and Jennifer highlighted how much labor goes into OER work, and how the Library can be a role model for other faculty on campus for integrating open practices (right down to adding open licenses to the work that librarians create).

Favorite poster: “Revealing and Concealing Information: Arising Tensions in Using Geoinformation Services for Academic Research” with Leah Airt (Seattle Pacific University). I am really excited about Leah’s research which looks at the practical and ethical implications of using Google Street View in lieu of direct observation in research, especially in the study of gentrification, disaster recovery, and urban planning.

Close second: Penelope Wood presented a poster about team-building across Library departments at UW Bothell/Cascadia College through sharing communal lunches. The unique feature of this program was that folks across departments prepared lunch for each other—rather than each person bringing their own brown bag lunch, one person made lunch for two other coworkers and brought enough to share. Feeding one another brought people closer!

Also really great: “Just in Time Assessment: Flexible peer observation during classroom instruction” by Laura Dimmit, Caitlan Maxwell, and Chelsea Nesvig (UW Bothell/Cascadia College).

Favorite mealtime conversation: Sitting across from Amy Hofer at dinner on Thursday night, I asked her how to respond to librarians whose only OER outreach is pushing resources from the Library’s collections. She shrugged. “It’s not OER,” she said. “But it’s still a good thing.”

Favorite format: The fail talks! These were quick, seven-minute lightning talks about failure. Topics included technological failure in information literacy instruction (made meta by slides not loading during the talk), assessment mishaps, student advisory groups disbanding, and the dangers of trying to get student feedback using rolling white boards.

Favorite panel that I moderated:Changing Tides: Exploring Current Trends in Information Literacy Programs” with Lizzie Brown (CWU Ellensberg), Ryan Randall (College of Western Idaho), Dani Rowland (UW Bothell/Cascadia College), and Megan Smithling (Cornish College of the Arts). These four folks graciously agreed to discuss the information literacy programs on their campuses, and their answers highlighted the varying approaches to integrating information literacy in different contexts.

You can find more information about the fabulous sessions at the ACRL WA & OR 2017 Joint Conference Program website.

Disclaimer: As of October 2017, I am the new ACRL Washington chapter Web Manager, replacing Nicholas Schiller. These views reflect my own personal opinions and are not intended to represent the ACRL Washington chapter Board in any capacity. I would also like to clarify that I was not involved in the selection of sessions or the planning of the 2017 conference.

On social media.

I don’t know why I stay.

Every day, I check Facebook and Twitter. Usually multiple times a day. And every time, I read something heinous that turns my stomach or makes me anxious.

Why do I stay? How do I justify continuing to give my most valuable commodity — my data, my ideas, my words, my photos — to Jack and Zuck, with all the terror they’ve endorsed?

Jack has never protected his users. Ever. He has chosen his business over human lives, every time. He chose data over GamerGate, over Pepe, over our President’s daily threats of nuclear war. Women and people of color are continuously harassed and stalked on his platform. He shrugs. Calls it free speech. Puts it back on the victim. Report. Block. Mute. Maybe it’s all in your head.

And Zuck? He sold ads to Russians, and those ads were shared and liked endlessly by our own family members, you know, the aunt or the grandparent that you hope you won’t have to sit next to at the holidays. You unfollowed their posts on Facebook so you don’t have to see the Breitbart posts they share.

In such a short amount of time, Jack and Zuck have made the Internet a terrifying place for women and for people of color. And yet we stay. Why?

It feels hard to justify.

It feels hard to justify my Gmail account, knowing that Google is reading every word that comes and goes from my inbox, and that Google uses that information to feed an algorithm they keep secret. But I know it’s the same algorithm that told Dylann Roof what he wanted to hear before he murdered Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, and Daniel Simmons.

And the sick part is–and this is what really makes me angry–I tell myself the dumbest things. I say things to myself like, “This never would have happened if librarians were in charge.” Because I know it’s bullshit. I hold librarians on some higher pedestal, blindly believing some nonsense about how good we are, how our well-meaning (and generally socialist) ideals would have kept people safe from their worst selves. I know it’s true that libraries are in a continuous budget crisis, but still, I think, we never would have sold ads to the Russians!

These things are also true: Melvil Dewey was a rampant sexist. White librarians kept people with dark skin out of libraries until forced to integrate. The President of the American Library Association was quick to announce her willingness to work with the new administration. Some librarians think we should do outreach to the KKK. Others think we should just “be neutral”, as though neutrality is attainable. We are advised to develop strategies for dealing with “difficult patrons” (librarian-lingo for people living in poverty, or with mental illness, or without housing, or anything else that makes them “difficult”). Until very recently we still organized books about undocumented immigration using the pejorative phrase “illegal aliens” and, when it was finally changed, at least one librarian made it well-known that they couldn’t care less. The whiteness of librarianship, especially in colleges and universities, is oppressive and unyielding. So the idea that librarians could have somehow done better, that Twitter would be a better space if we had designed it, or that Facebook wouldn’t be full of racist memes if we curated the content as well as we curate our collections–well, all of that is a symptom of my own white wishful thinking.

I don’t have children. Yet. But I hope to, someday. And what will I say to them, when they ask me to explain why I stayed on Twitter, why I gave my information so freely to Jack and Zuck? Why I continued to endorse a platform exploited by Russian operatives to disrupt our democracy? Why I kept clicking on Facebook, knowing that Facebook profited from ads that spread lies like a virus?

Will it be enough when I say that my mom liked to see my pictures on Facebook, and I liked to talk to my librarian friends on Twitter?

I can see it now: they will scoff, twist their multi-colored bangs, and sigh, “How could you have been so stupid?”

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Photo by Justin Main on Unsplash

What would it look like?

Here’s an exercise.

Try to imagine a library that does not care about its users.

What would it look like?

Let’s say that it’s an academic library on a large, urban campus, that serves tens of thousands of students.

What kind of library would it be if it didn’t care about those students?

It might look like this.

There would be no consequences. It wouldn’t really matter what the library did, or if it did it well. The library would have vague statements about its mission and goals, but there would be no measurable outcomes associated with any of the library’s spaces, services, or collections. This would include the library’s multimillion-dollar budget, which would only have a single budget code, so there would be no way to itemize how the library spends its funds. If you ask where the money comes from and how the budget is determined, someone will laugh and say, “Oh, that number is written down in a drawer somewhere.”

There would be no consequences for leaving obscenely large amounts of money unspent, year after year. Unused budget funds would be put into an ongoing, never-ending renovation that leaves the building in a constant state of uncertainty, chaos, physical disarray, and distracting noise. New spaces would be built without description, purpose, or plans to staff them. The library would celebrate the “substantial completion” of the renovation, complete with a ribbon-cutting and replica cake made of fondant, and then the renovation would continue for another year.

There would be no consequences for employees, whose low performance would never be punished and whose outstanding performance would never be rewarded. Non-tenure track library faculty would be employed continuously without appointment letters or contracts. Salaried employees would come and go as they please, sometimes being late to meetings in the afternoon because they simply hadn’t come to work yet that day. Instruction librarians would be late to classes, leaving students and course faculty waiting. The instruction scheduler would be baffled by Microsoft Outlook and its calendaring system; they would assign classes incorrectly, neglect to send instruction confirmations, and humiliate the teaching team. The scholarly communication librarian would hate Open Access. Public services staff would really prefer to work in the back of the library. Instruction librarians would be afraid of speaking to large groups. Collection development librarians would look at crumbling books and say smugly, “A worn collection is a used collection.” Student workers, without supervision or guidance, would ride skateboards through the staff area.

There would be no consequences for not having a faculty handbook, for not following the established rules of shared governance, and for deliberately violating by-laws. Decisions would be made based on an e-mail someone sent once, or how things were done last year, or  something someone overheard in a meeting. Promotions would be given based on individual employees and their needs and desires, rather than the goals of the organization (there are no measurable goals, anyway). Knowledge management would be practically non-existent, with documents scattered between a shared drive, an intranet, and cloud-based software. Policies and procedures would refer to individuals by name, rather than by their position or role.

The university responsible for this library wouldn’t particularly care who was in charge of it, and would leave interim leadership in place for years. Interim reporting lines would cascade as mid-level management left the organization, so employees would be in “continuity of operations” plans indefinitely. The university would open and close a search for a Library Director, declaring none of the candidates “viable” because they do not meet the requirements of the rank of Full Professor. Nevermind, of course, that no one in the library has ever been promoted to Full Professor, and nevermind that only three of the library’s two dozen faculty are tenured or tenure-track. Nevermind that what the library really needs is an effective manager, not a scholar.

If this library didn’t care about students, they might or might not keep any data about how the library is used, and if such data were recorded, it probably wouldn’t be regularly reported or used to make decisions in any way. The library’s operating hours and its services would be available randomly at the whims of the library, whenever it felt like staffing things, whenever employees were available. On-boarding for new hires would be random and haphazard. There would be no orientations or procedures or checklists or training manuals. There would be no quality checks to see if things were being done well because who would decide what that looks like?

Who is actually in charge? Look at the staff directory, it says vacant.

If this library didn’t care about students, it wouldn’t keep them safe. Intoxicated people would interrupt instruction sessions and refuse to leave the classroom. People would camp in the building overnight. Security guards would gently nudge sleepers, then let them fall back asleep. It’s understandable, of course, that the library would be a popular place for anyone seeking refuge-the library is the only building on campus where community members cannot be trespassed. Students would leave the library, complaining about these safety issues, and study somewhere else.

If this library didn’t care about students, it would be impossible to retain faculty and staff who do care about them. Those people will get angry and exhausted. New hires would be undermined and sabotaged. Competent employees would be labeled as “over-ambitious.” People would leave this library, choosing lower-paying jobs, longer commutes, positions outside of libraries, expensive cross-country moves, or outright unemployment, simply to get away from the dysfunction.

The turnover rate would be high, but the remaining employees would tell themselves it’s somehow normal. “That person really wanted to get back into public libraries,” they would say. Or, “Their spouse got a new job out-of-state, so they had to go.” Some people stay just long enough to get a better job title to put on their CV, a reward for putting in their time, and then they would move on, too.

So the leftovers would settle in, determined to outlast all of the perky people with new ideas, and wait. What is there to lose? There are no consequences, anyway.

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Featured image by NeONBRAND

On Angie Manfredi’s resignation from the Newbery Committee.

To the ALSC Executive Committee & Directors,

I was extremely disappointed to read Angie Manfredi’s blog post explaining her resignation from the 2018 Newbery Committee.

Some people might say that the details behind Angie’s resignation don’t matter. I believe the details do matter, and they matter a lot. In fact, it’s the details of this story that make my stomach turn.

I understand that Angie was asked to resign because she shared a story about her job as a children’s librarian on Twitter. Specifically, she shared a story about a young reader of color at her library who was excited to read a book that reflected his life and interests. Yes, Angie praised the author and publisher of the book for providing a story that connected with this young reader. This brief anecdote was widely shared as an example of the importance of diversity in children’s literature. And for this attention, for this highlighting of the need for diverse books, you determined that Angie gave the appearance of an inappropriate relationship with the author and publisher.

Shame on you. It can’t be said enough, so I’ll say it again. Shame on you.

Let’s consider all the messages that are sent by Angie’s resignation:

Celebrating diversity in children’s literature is an inappropriate activity for ALSC award committee members.

ALSC award committees are only interested in librarians who can comply with outdated procedures that silence and limit a librarian’s professional contributions.

White supremacy is the highest value in librarianship.

With your decision, you have left no room for otherness. What I mean is, how could you expect a librarian of color to want to participate in an ALSC award committee after this decision? Or a queer librarian? Or a librarian living with a disability, or a mental health issue? If they speak out publicly, in any way, about their work, their patrons, their excitement for diverse representations in children’s literature, they will be asked to resign. Because of the appearance of bias.

I hope it is has been made very clear to all of us in 2017 that there is no neutrality in librarianship. I am personally humiliated by the resignation of Angie Manfredi from the Newbery Committee because I feel it cheapens the reputation of librarians everywhere. How can we claim to support our communities when we punish librarians like Angie for doing their job, for celebrating literature, and for acknowledging the work of authors and publishers to make the world a better place?

I share the opinion with many others that Angie is one of the most valuable librarians we have working today because she actively criticizes and critiques the field of librarianship. We need more librarians like Angie Manfredi, and we need them to serve on more committees, and we need them to provide examples of how to lead.

I look forward to a public response from ALSC that acknowledges a plan to update the policy for service on awards committees to avoid situations like this in the future.

Sincerely,

Zoe Fisher
Stonewall Award Committee Member, 2018
MLS, Emporia State University, 2010
BA, Oberlin College, 2008
www.quickaskzoe.com

Time to go.

I started a mutual admiration society with Kevin Seeber on or about July 2014, when we were both at Library Instruction West in Portland, Oregon. At that time, I was a tenure-track librarian at Pierce College in Puyallup, Washington and he was a librarian at Colorado State University – Pueblo. He came to my lightning talk about inquiry-based learning, which included the following slides about microfilm (illustrating the most common question I received from my students):

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Even though I made fun of microfilm, he still had nice things to say about me on his blog.

Fast forward two years. It’s April 2016 and I’m a tenured librarian at Pierce and Kevin is Foundational Experiences Librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. He invites me to apply for a newly-created opening: Pedagogy & Assessment Librarian. I apply and, in a turn of events that surprises only me, I’m offered the position. My husband and I have a quickie wedding on the beach in Tacoma, throw our stuff in a car, and drive east to Denver.

For the past thirteen months, I have had the daily thrill of working with Kevin. He is, in my opinion, one of the most passionate and thoughtful information literacy librarians alive.  I love every second of every conversation I have with him, especially when we disagree. Over the past year, we have debated topics ranging from neoliberalism in higher education to assessment procedures and active learning strategies. We have regular conversations about mentorship, lesson planning, approaches to internal professional development, and the praxis of critical librarianship. We both care deeply about students, and we both see ourselves as teachers. We love a good Negroni. We agree that Pilot G2 pens are the best. Working with him has made me a better librarian in a hundred ways.

But it’s time for me to go. And if I’m honest, it’s been time for me to go for a while. Denver is not a good fit for me or my family. I’m a Pacific Northwest native and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. While it’s been a blast to work with Kevin, I haven’t been happy in my job. I had no idea how much I would miss teaching community college students.

Thanks to my talented software engineer spouse, we have a reason to move back to Washington. He starts his new job in Seattle on August 21.

Friday, August 11 is my last day in Denver.

 

 

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For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I don’t take back the microfilm joke, the Max Fischer tweets, or the decision to take a new job in an unfamiliar city. I may not fully understand yet all the lessons I’m supposed to learn from this experience, but I am grateful.

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t have a job lined up in Seattle. This is the first time in my adult life that I’ll be unemployed. I worked non-stop all through college and graduate school and I have held a full-time job in some form since I was 21 years old. I realize this makes me incredibly lucky. But it will also make the next few months pretty challenging.

I’m interested in working on my writing, learning how to play professional poker, and teaching community college classes like Reading and College Success. Of course, I’d love to be a community college librarian again, but I recognize that those opportunities are rare, so I may need to wait it out for a while. My librarian life won’t stop, though. I have a couple of research projects in the works and I’m reading dozens of books for the Stonewall Book Award Committee. I plan to attend local conferences like the UW Critical Librarianship in Practice Unconference and ACRL OR/WA Joint Conference. I know I’ll see a lot of familiar faces when I’m back in Denver in February for ALA Midwinter, and I’ll be back in Colorado in July for Library Instruction West 2018.

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I got my first (and only) tarot deck when I was 12 years old. I purchased the classic Rider Waite deck at the Goddess Gallery on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. In the seventh grade, I would practice reading the cards on the school bus, which yielded accusations of Satanism from my classmates. I have always thought the Strength card was one of the most beautiful cards in the deck. Salem Tarot suggests it can be interpreted that the lion and the woman are the same: You may imagine the two figures on the card as the two sides of yourself: the woman is your superego, and the lion is your id.

You are the Goddess and the beast, the tamed and the tamer, the rage and the joy. It’s a helpful image, a reminder that something can be more than one thing at once. That I can be heartbroken to leave and excited to go home. That I can know and not know. That it’s okay, and it will be.

 

 

 

What I want for my birthday.

I am 31 years old today, and here’s what I want for my birthday:

I want a frozen Negroni. Okay, maybe I want a couple of them. I want to drink them with my favorite librarians.

I want to not have to worry about your healthcare, or mine, or the idea that the only people who will survive are the people who can afford to get sick.

I want a flat of chocolate Costco muffins, and I want to eat them by myself.

I want you to read my essay at The Rumpus, but I also want you to listen to Fobazi Ettarh’s keynote about vocational awe. For my birthday, I want a future with fewer white librarians.

I want abortion funding.

I want the Pacific Ocean and I want it to love me back.

I want Ted Berrigan to read his sonnets to me.

I want what I’ve already got–friends and family who adore me exactly as I am, feminine marvelous and tough, wild and loud, breathless and exuberant, freckled and fierce.

If I could ask you for one thing for my birthday, it’s this.

Stop repeating the mantra that defeats you. Stop telling yourself the lie that holds you back. Even if just for one minute today, tell yourself that you are enough, you have enough, and you do enough.

For my birthday, I want you to wear that sleeveless shirt, the one that you’ve been afraid to wear because you’re embarrassed of how your arms look. I want you to sing even if your voice warbles. Write that thing that scares you. Kiss that girl even if you know she can’t love you back. See what it feels like to forgive the person who hurt you. I want you to do whatever you need to do to feel completely free, even if it’s only for a moment.

You don’t need to get me anything else. I would trade a mountain of shiny, wrapped packages to share that feeling of being free. Free of guilt, free of shame, free of the Not-Enoughs. And that’s what I want for you.

Happy birthday to me.

Featured image by Annie Spratt

Tell me it’s more than a t-shirt.

On Friday, January 20th, I was on my way to Atlanta for the American Library Association Midwinter meeting, and I was looking forward to two things: staying with my friend Jessica and filling my suitcase with free books.

Things I was not looking forward to included: crowds, long lines for the bathroom, awkward exhibit hall interactions where vendors try to force stuff into my hands, and dragging aforementioned free books across the convention center.

I did not anticipate that the highlight of ALA Midwinter would be Carla Hayden touching my arm.

I also did not anticipate that I would completely lose all respect for Neil Patrick Harris before leaving Atlanta.

 

Let’s back up a second.

There’s a reason they call ALA Midwinter a “meeting” instead of a conference. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the deep inner workings of librarianship in America today, the Midwinter meeting is when the professional association for librarians conducts its organizational business. This means that librarians meet with their colleagues from around the country and give updates or make decisions about their agendas for the year. There are a lot of sub-groups within ALA, including Divisions (like the Association of College and Research Libraries), Round Tables (like the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table), and Offices (the Office for Intellectual Freedom is probably the most well-known since it promotes the Banned Books Week observed by libraries around the country every year). This doesn’t include all of the committees and task forces within these groups.  Approximately 5,000 librarians attended Midwinter this year, and most of those folks were there to fulfill their service commitments to the organization.

For me, the most important meeting at Midwinter was the CHOICE Editorial Board meeting. I’ve been a member of the CHOICE Magazine Editorial Board since 2014, but I hadn’t met most of the other Board members in person. We had a great conversation about CHOICE’s initiatives with Open Educational Resources (OER), their successful webinar series, the new ACRL-Choice app, and other exciting developments for 2017.

Before I explain why I won’t be watching “A Series of Unfortunate Events” any time soon, let me mention a few other Midwinter highlights:

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Proof of our #critlib meat feast.

So what did Neil Patrick Harris do?

Harris was our closing session speaker at Midwinter. He was there to promote his new book, The Magic Misfits, which should have been a simple task, but he managed to simultaneously disrespect Muslims, the deaf, and trans people all in one joke. Bravo, sir.

Harris’s session was interpreted by two ASL interpreters: a person in a hijab and another person in a suit jacket. Harris decided that it would be funny to flirt with, joke, and harass the interpreters rather than let them focus on their work. For example, he mentioned that Lemony Snicket didn’t like his new book, so he wouldn’t be asking him for a pull quote.

“Wait a second,” Harris said. “Let me see how you sign ‘pull quote’.” He paused and turned to the interpreter in the hijab.

The interpreter repeated the gesture, hooking her fingers and pulling them toward her chest.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said salaciously. I barfed a little in my mouth. Somehow, it got worse.

A few moments later, while Harris was distracted by a question from the audience, the interpreters switched places with one another. The interpreter in the suit jacket was busy signing when Harris noticed the switch and made the joke,

“That’s what was under there? Wow.”

In just a few painful words, Harris managed to:

  • Insult the person dressed in a hijab, stoking Islamophobic fears that there’s something “hidden” under their clothing.
  • Insult both of the interpreters’ gender presentations. Hyuk, hyuk, men don’t look like women, hyuk.
  • Distract the interpreters, yet again, from their important work of serving the people in the audience who needed them to interpret.

The worst part was the laughter.

Everyone laughed.

A room full of librarians thought this joke was funny. My stomach sank. I was disgusted.

It was hard to watch as librarians hustled out of the theater, his die-hard fans in a hurry to get in line for him.

Seeing folks pour to the exits before he was finished, Harris joked, “Why’s everyone leaving?”

“Because you made fun of the interpreters!” I yelled, loud enough for all to hear. Harris  paused. Then he let out a half-chuckle, trying to feign disbelief, and said, “What? No way! I wasn’t making fun of them.” He jerked his thumb toward the interpreter in the suit jacket. “He’s cute!”

Whatever and ever, dude. I walked out. And whatever and ever to all the librarians who laughed at his joke, waited in line, and fawned over him.

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Later, at the airport, I overhead a woman in a “Library Folks in Solidarity with…” t-shirt bragging about getting her tote bag signed by Harris, and the moment burned itself into my brain. What is solidarity to you, I wondered? Just a goddamn t-shirt?