Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Becoming #critlib

Tonight there will be a #critlib chat in which my colleague-friend Kevin has assigned a homework writing reflection. I'm not sure if I will finish this in time for the chat, which starts in 30 minutes, but I decided to give it a go. I am brain fried due to a 9-hour day of (awesome) librarian collaboration today, so I'm not sure how much sense I will make.

Kevin proposed three questions as prompts for reflection, which some have chosen to use to frame their reflections. I am choosing to do the same. Let's see what I wind up typing in response to his questions.

Why are you a critical librarian? Why do you identify with these ideas? Why do you participate in these chats?

I'm not sure that I am a critical librarian. But I want to be.

I believe it is important--no, essential--to approach work in libraries (or any kind of work, really) in a way that includes working to see the structures and systems in which we all--including and especially our students--aim to thrive (but often can't). These structures and systems can be technical and physical, but they can also be social and economic. We need to see these structures and systems, and then we need to critique and try to make them better and more just.

The thing is, I'm not sure how good I am at this. I need help seeing the structures and systems. I know it's because I am privileged within these structures and systems, which makes it hard for me to see them. I know all this. But I choose to try to see them anyway. Then I choose to try to develop the vocabulary and relationships with others necessary to critique them. And then I really, really want to make them better and more just.

But on my own I will never learn how to do these things, things that I understand to be necessary to grow into a whole human being. Because if my humanity is at the expense of the humanity of others, then it isn't humanity as I understand it.

So I identify with these ideas because to say the stakes are high is an understatement.

And I participate in these chats because, through listening to others who live this critical work because they have to (i.e., embody this critical work through their lived experiences), I learn more and better about how to see, critique, and try to make better and more just.

I need help with these things. I am a baby at them. I am not a critical librarian, but I am trying to become one. And the #critlib chats--and way more importantly, the incredible persons who constitute them--are helping me to do so.

In addition, the relationships I have developed as a result of my participation in the chats have grown invaluable to me as a person, let alone as a librarian in this profession. I am so grateful I get to do this incredibly important work in and through our relationships with each other.

I'm brain fried so I can't think of a summative way to end this post. So I will just end it here and click publish, not even sure what all I wrote here. You all are beyond lovely as persons in the world. Thank you for being. *sparkly heart emoji*

Edited on 12/17/15 to add: I consider the community of #critlib librarians to include way more librarians than those who participate in the chats. Some of the most critical, #critlib parts of my experience on Twitter do not include the hashtag, and happen outside the chats (and most often involve me listening, not tweeting). This was what I meant above by "the relationships I have developed as a result of my participation in the chats": the idea being, through the chats I started to see the systems and structures that oppress, and as a result of that seeing I have sought to connect with those who, through lived experience, make what I'm seeing real within my humanity--whether or not they ever tweet using the #critlib hashtag. Many of those connections have become relationships--both professional and personal--for which I am incredibly grateful, and because of which I am becoming more human. To be frank, usually the real critical work is happening outside the chats, which is not to say the chats aren't worthwhile, but that they serve a different purpose from "containing the bulk of the critical library work happening on and through Twitter". They don't. And I'm grateful this is so because it means one mode of participation does not hold the monopoly on what it means to do critical library work, on and through Twitter or otherwise.

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