Monday, August 29, 2016

On ACRL, Motherhood, and Social Justice

I did not propose for ACRL 2017 this year. The call for participation was in spring, and it was a bit surreal to not propose when the biennial conference is on my coast, taking place in Baltimore next March.

It was the right decision for a variety of reasons, and I admit that being able to root everyone on, and review and offer feedback on proposal drafts for my colleagues, without the stress of considering my own positioning in the competition for presentation spots, was a nourishing and happy experience for me. My plan was to see what the summer brought me, and if in fall I decided I wanted to attend and have a chance at travel funding to do so, I would propose a poster in time for the October deadline.

Well, the summer brought me something, that’s for sure! I won’t be attending ACRL 2017 this year because, God willing, I’ll be snuggling a newborn here at home while everyone is gathering in Baltimore next March.

That’s right, I’m returning from my summer sabbatical well rested (“sabbatical” comes from the word “sabbath” after all), with quite a few writing projects on their way to publication, and pregnant with my second child. To say I’m excited would be an understatement...this baby is very wanted, and with my daughter Bookie* having just turned four years old, the timing is right for us to seek to welcome another little person into our family.

The details so far are these: I’m eleven weeks along at this point, just one week away from the glorious second trimester in which my appetite will hopefully return and I will feel better. The baby is healthy as of our dating ultrasound scan on August 15, with a strong heartbeat and measuring well.

And, the baby is due in mid-March 2017, literally a few days before ACRL 2017! So, I’m hoping all of my colleague-friends in library land will send prayers and good thoughts north to Scranton as many of you congregate in Baltimore. While I will be somewhat distracted, I can guarantee I will think of you all at times that week, and the awesome work that will be shared at my favorite conference.

It’s hard to miss this meeting, but I looked back on my pattern of attendance and was tickled to see there is a method to the sometimes-chaos of my life.

  • ACRL 2011, Philadelphia, PA, attended: This was my first ever ACRL, and Teresa and I presented a conference paper (pdf) about our work with the ACRL Standards and WPA Outcomes.
  • ACRL 2013, Indianapolis, IN, did not attend: Bookie was born the previous summer, and was under a year old. I skipped this one because I didn’t want to travel during her first year.
  • ACRL 2015, Portland, OR, attended: After missing in 2013, I wanted to get to ACRL 2015 no matter what, and proposed three different things to help raise my chances of an acceptance (and the travel funding it would yield). Not sure I’d recommend this approach moving forward, as two were accepted (here and here), making it an incredibly exhausting conference; however, it was also one of the best conference experiences I’ve had so far in my career.
  • ACRL 2017, Baltimore, MD, will not attend: Literally giving birth to my second child, God willing, right when this conference is going down.

So, if the pattern holds, here’s to getting back to ACRL in 2019! But who knows what could happen between now and then...I only know that it’s one of my favorite and most useful meetings, and getting back after missing in 2017 will be a priority for me.

Tired, happy, and pregnant,
my first week back at work
Regardless, I’m one week into the fall semester at my university, and gradually feeling better after a pretty rough first trimester this summer. In many ways, I’m in my glory: doing a job I love, and growing a human person while doing so. My ability to double or triple task is severely limited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

And I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge the extremely positive working environment of my university and my library, with incredibly supportive colleagues and administrators, as well as faculty union protected rights that enable me to grow my family in this way. Without them and the privilege I experience as a result, being a librarian who is also a parent would be extremely challenging. Would I do it anyway? It’s very likely I would try, but my outlook, my sense of autonomy and self-advocacy, and my ability to put back into my job the fruit of being a woman who is also a mother (or, a librarian who is also a parent), would be severely limited.

And the question of why more library workers (or workers more broadly) don’t share these rights and privileges weighs on me… Within my personal framework of values, it’s one of the most important social justice issues we face, and it intersects with so many others of equal importance.

Perhaps becoming a mother again will lead me to finally map and write my thoughts on working motherhood and its relationship to social justice, since lived experience should always inform our work, whether in the library or on the blog.

In the meantime, here’s to the next seven months until baby (and ACRL 2017 *wink*) are here!


*I'm still refraining from sharing my children's real names on the blog and on Twitter. Though my daughter's nickname "Bookie" has passed from frequent use in our household, it's as good pseudonym for her as any for my public writing spaces.

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