At the OLA Superconference last week I spoke about solidarity for and amongst academic librarians, and tried to make the case that we needed to connect ourselves to citizen/activist movements, and not just focus on advocating amongst “decision-makers.” I tried to make the case that librarians are about more than our graduate degrees, but the profession needs to emphasize (or return to) our  core democratic values  – knowledge, sharing, common space, and freedom of expression. As these issues are near and dear to the goals of this research for citizenship project, I thought I’d attach my talk here for people to read at their leisure. Apologies to those who attended for the break neck pace at which I read the paper, I  was, perhaps, overly excited! Many thanks to Nick Ruest and Krista Godfrey for organizing the session and the workshop which followed, and to Francesca Holyoke and Sam Trosow, my co-panelists. The discussion got a bit lively during and after, with not everyone on the same page, of course – it’s my hope that the panel provoked a conversation which will continue. The speech is in presentation format – which is to say it’s not carefully formatted for publication, reader beware.


Just a brief update – taking our cue from the Open Library at Occupy Toronto – our current plan is to host a knowledge sharing circle about the Occupy movement here at the Scott Library. Recognizing that people are curious about what it is all about, and that this a great pedagogical opportunity to occupy their curiosity… we’ll invite York people who have been to the occupation to come and talk about what they saw there, why they think it’s important (or not), etc. Very casual, probably held in the collaboratory.  The library tie in is pretty obvious:  knowledge sharing, social engagement of students in particular, York’s social justice focus… perhaps we were overthinking it in the previous post. Or not… the issues raised there will hopefully surface in the knowledge sharing circle.

So, next we have to figure out how to advertise it and who to get out! Excited!

Also stay tuned for our next post on “radical irrelevancy” as professional praxis in librarianship.



Over the last few days Patti and I have been hacking around ideas for a library panel/session/workshop/teach in on the OccupyBaySt (or Wall St or where-ever) movement.  For each possible session we consider timeliness and social relevance – but also what about the issue is relevant to information literacy and/or the democratic values we see animating librarianship (for instance … knowledge, sharing, common space).  So we’ve been asking ourselves the question… what is the information issue here?

A few thoughts.

1. Media literacy … the lack of coverage of the protest initially, except via blogs, twitter etc. How does one discover what’s going on when mainstream press isn’t covering it?  Or does this protest show us that mainstream press coverage is not so important any more?

2. What is this thing about? It is a very different kind of movement/protest with no single message. It is not a rally or a march but an occupation. What does that mean? Why is the movement being attacked on both sides of the political spectrum? So that’s a basic information question we could try and answer … what is this thing about? I think maybe it’s about an opening up of public discourse on a very broad level – and of course this is one of the aims of our series as well. So could we get all meta and run a session on the opening up of public discourse by opening up some public discourse in our library? Get someone to talk about Habermas and public discourse? Get someone else to come in and talk about social movements and how this is different?

3.The People’s Library. What is it and why is it there? The role of libraries/librarians not only as knowledge sharers but as archivists… who are preserving the written and oral history of the movement. Obviously we wouldn’t have a whole session re the library – but we could fold it into the above panel somehow, remembering that advocacy for libraries IS information literacy.

4. The information sharing purposes of social protest … often people think a protest has failed because it didn’t change a law or an action of the state. But there are multiple purposes of social protest, some of which are creating space for sharing information, self-education and meeting people from diverse backgrounds and forming coalitions.

5. We need the tumblr We are the 99 Percent floating in the background perhaps. Or at least on our guide. Our guide would link out to the various occupy pages, the libraries, places with good media coverage?

6. Space. Common space. What does it mean to occupy a space? What does it mean to occupy Wall St? Who owns Wall St? Opportunity to talk about common space, importance of it for democracy, how to reclaim it, and of course… importance of libraries as common space.

It also suddenly occurs to me that in inviting panelists in to speak on these issues – we are connecting with and building a network of scholars and librarians interested in these issues on campus, and building solidarity amongst them as well.