Yesterday the Slow Scholarship Reading Group at York University Libraries met and we discussed Baharak Yousefi’s recent book chapter On the Disparity Between What We Say and What We Do in Libraries. It’s from Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership (2017), which Yousefi edited with Shirley Lew. (Disclosure: That was published by Library Juice Press, and a chapter I co-wrote will be coming out very soon in a new book from them. Details when it’s out.)
Uses Keller Easterling’s concept of infrastructure space to probe the discrepancies between what we state to be our core purpose and values and what we do in libraries.
Here’s one of the many bits that grabbed me:
Since the beginning of my work as a practitioner in Canadian libraries almost a decade ago, I have been interested in the details of how the culture and disposition of the profession is set, communicated, sometimes obscured, and policed in our everyday practice. More recently, after I became a middle manager with a significant amount of decision- making power, this interest became more pronounced as I struggled to reconcile the belief that our decisions are made in accordance with our values, policies, and resources with the reality that there are significant disparities between what we say and what we do. For example, at the 2015 Association of College and Research Libraries Conference in Portland, Oregon, a ballroom full of librarians sat listening to Lawrence Lessig talk about the tragic death of American computer programmer, activist, and open access advocate Aaron Swartz at a conference sponsored by library vendors who actively oppose Lessig’s call for equality and equal access to knowledge. There is something disconcerting about our ability to dissociate ourselves personally from our collective actions and responsibilities.
The article led to some great discussion. I recommend it, and if you like it, try getting some other people to read it and then get together to talk about it. If you work in a library, I bet you, like me, will see a lot of examples at your own institution of how what you say does not equal what you do.