Fall Update/Reckoning (1/2)

2012/09/19

Well, well… just when it seemed this blog was utterly dormant…

We have been quite busy since our last post in, er, February, too busy to post it seems. I thought I’d write a longish update on where we’ve been and in my next post, talk about where we’re going with this project.

Since the last post on building solidarity in academic librarianship, we have not held any further teach-ins or workshops. We got pulled into a whirlwind of writing about this project and decided to go with it. This work helped clarify our principles and goals, and the new research we were doing helped to productively complicate the project as well. And of course simultaneously we’ve been watching the ongoing mayoral drama in our city, the education problems in our province and also in Quebec, the ongoing devastation at Library and Archives Canada, and various efforts to resist austerity across the world. We live in interesting times.

Anyway, in the last seven months or so in regards to this particular project we:

1) Wrote a book chapter for a new Library Juice Press book called Information Literacy for Social Justice:Radical Professional Praxis (eds Shana Higgins and Lua Gregory). The book will be out in Spring 2013 and we’ll share a link to the book chapter at that time. We’re really pleased with how this thing turned out… we did a bunch of reading and thinking about neoliberalism and how it impacts our work as librarians, as well as trying to describe the Occupy your Mind event as the exact sort of IL activity that might disrupt our otherwise techno-managerial positions within the academy and open the possibility of meaningful dialogue and community building in and out of our ivory towers. The chapter is called “The Public Academic Library: Creating Friction in the Teflon Funnel.” Subsequently, we’ve been thinking and talking amongst ourselves about how to bring the public-ness back into the academic library, both in terms of opening access to our collections, but also in terms of being a community reference and referral resource for student/faculty needs beyond the academic. And while thinking about the public library and the academic library, we also found ourselves out walking the line with our striking colleagues at the Toronto Public Library, and writing frustrated letters to the mayor.

2) Presented locally at our institution’s annual information literacy retreat. This was reasonably well-received, although we were a little puzzled by evaluations of our session which rated our presentation highly  but struggled to see how our work related to information literacy at all. Wondering if we need to do more internal professional development about more robust understandings of IL, or if we should just devote a post to clarifying the issue on this blog? If, hypothetically, there were readers of this blog, would they also desire such clarification?

3) I wrote an article with Mita Williams for Access: The Magazine of the Ontario Library Association on “Social Justice Librarianship for the 21st Century.” I’ll put in a link when it comes online. The article wasn’t about the project per se, but it rests on the same political/theoretical foundation.

4) Patti presented our work nationally at WILU in Edmonton in May on a panel with Richard Hayman and Amanda Wakaruk. See the slides here. The panel was called “Using our Voice:Bringing a Socially Conscious Approach to Information Literacy Practice.” There were a lot of people there, approximately 55-60; it was rumoured to be one of the best attended sessions of the conference. I was sad to miss it, but I was presenting at another conference on another pet research project. I took a peek at their session evaluations afterwards and they were almost uniformly glowing and the word “inspiring” was used a lot…so I hope that other librarians/libraries take up the gauntlet this year and offer similar programming in their libraries and in so doing – inspire us as well. (And congrats to Patti, Amanda and Richard!)

5) And lastly, while it’s not exactly tied to this project, I think it’s relevant, or at least in the ballpark, that we got involved in the formation of a local node of the PLG. The PLGGTA to be exact. Good things are coming out of there already.

We were also really excited to be credited as the inspiration for a great research guide out of McGill on the Quebec student movement. And our own Occupy subject guide was linked to here and, very excitingly, here.

This project is not dead! Or even dormant (unlike this blog). Time for some praxis though… to be outlined in our next post. In the meantime, a couple of things we’ve been reading:

A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey

The Combustible Campus – Enda Brophy

Bare pedagogy and the scourge of neoliberalism: Rethinking higher education as a democratic public sphere. – Henry Giroux.

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