Tag Archives: librarianship

Making a New Table: Intersectional Librarianship

Reviewed By: Jodi dela Pena, Katie Vanous, Crystal Lanoucha, Melissa-Ann Reyes, Sean Smith

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/making-a-new-table-intersectional-librarianship-3/

SYNOPSIS
In “Making a New Table: Intersectional Librarianship,” Ettarh elucidates the concept of diversity or lack thereof in the MLS/MLIS profession. The article explores how libraries and those within the profession often discuss the lack of minority populations or people of color in libraries, yet still fail to understand how this discussion impedes progress. The author asserts that segregating diverse and underrepresented populations into distinct categories, or silos, does nothing to alleviate the problem. Ways in which diversity can be increased in the MLS/MLIS profession are addressed within the article through the theoretical framework of intersectionality. Intersectionality is described as “the study of how different power structures interact in the lives of minorities, specifically black women, a theory Crenshaw coined in the 1980s” (2014, http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/04/kimberl-crenshaw-intersectionality-i-wanted-come-everyday-metaphor-anyone-could/). This theoretical framework was first used to describe the lived experiences of battered black women and domestic violence survivors and the ways that sexism and racism intersected in their stories. It was later adopted in the academic feminist community and as the author asserts, “Intersectionality is a tool for studying, understanding, and responding to the ways in which axes of identities intersect and how these intersections contribute to unique experiences of oppression and privilege.”

RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Rather than attempting to answer a question or to prove her point through statistics, Ettarh broaches this topic by posing questions and explaining why it is important to rethink how we approach the concepts of diversity and neutrality in the library. Ettarh asks, “What is intersectionality?”, “How do we make sure that both existing and aspiring librarians interact with patrons and other librarians in a manner that is respectful?”, “Why does [intersectionality] matter?”, “How can librarians make their respective libraries safe for these populations, if people in the field don’t feel safe?”, “Whose table [are we sitting at]?”and “What now?”

METHODS TO ANSWER RESEARCH QUESTIONS
From experience, our group is aware that librarians can adhere to the role of an ally by “educat[ing] ourselves on how these intersecting oppressions affect our community.” Ettarh says, “LIS theory is based on a foundation of understanding and interpreting the information seeking practices, behaviors, and needs of patrons.” As librarians/associates we find ourselves interacting with patrons of many backgrounds and identifiers, both in gender and race. Librarians need to welcome all who walk through their library doors with a variety of techniques including, but not limited to, Ettarh’s suggestions like “[Challenging] all of the assumptions about your patrons, your collections, and your attitudes toward your employees and coworkers.” Openness and advocacy will provide a safe space. Libraries must enforce the policies that ensure that open, diverse spaces are maintained. Upholding library policies and making the public aware of them is important. These policies should stem from a familiarity of the community and the needs of patrons. Rules protecting the rights of all who wish to use the library should be emphasized.
Additionally, librarianship in the 21st century is about service. Service is for all who can benefit from it, without prejudice. Hiding behind the terms “neutrality” and “objectivity” are no longer viable in the current model for librarian behavior. In order to best serve those who wish to use our services, we must advocate for all. Instead of representing no specific group, we must provide resources and service for all, including those who come from communities who may experience intersecting oppressions.

CONCLUSION
Ettarh states, “No one lives a single-axis life” meaning humans are intersectional, multidimensional, and created and defined by a multitude of factors that make an individual unique. The author suggests librarians should “no longer hide behind neutrality and objectivity” especially because an Americanized neutrality is not necessarily neutral. By making a “new table,” librarians are no longer inviting patrons to sit at a table previously set by a “dominant white, heterosexual male society.” Current-day librarians are instead inviting patrons to a table that will take shape via the variety of influences, personalities, cultures, and beliefs brought to the table by the “guests.” With the theory of intersectionality influencing discussions, conversation between librarians are more versatile, taking into consideration not just a single factor or trait of an individual or population, but a combination of qualities that make up an individual or group. Ettarh states, “Engaging in conversations and then turning those conversations into action is paramount. If librarianship at its core is a service profession, then we must do everything to ensure that the culture in the libraries and archives and in the field serves all populations.” In essence, the larger the scope in library conversation, the more response and positivity will flow between patron and institution.

QUESTIONS
While Ettarh makes a strong argument for what is to be done in the context of furthering diversity and intersectionality among libraries, some unanswered questions we had and what we feel future research can and should address include documenting the experiences of minority groups or people of color (POC) currently working in these libraries and how they feel libraries overall can advocate for more diverse collections and develop programming that meet the needs of our communities’ intersectional experiences, which could then address critiques of neutrality raised in this article. Additionally, further research that interrogates and problematizes the concept of neutrality in libraries needs to be done, as this concept is foundational within the core values of the contemporary American library. In order for librarians to shift or deepen the concept of diversity, how can trainings be systematized across different libraries that can influence the way libraries operate? How can we help librarians internalize that the work we do is actually deeply political and not neutral? All of these questions connect to what Ettarh has outlined, including which collections are selected and how marginalized experiences are tokenized or only featured during certain months or seasons. How can libraries better represent the intersectional experiences of our communities in more authentic ways? How do we individually and collectively develop an intersectional perspective and practical framework for it?

ANSWERING THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
The good news is that there are ways to start with a fresh perspective and rehash what already exists. The author suggests,“While it is not their job to educate you, engaging in a dialogue with people from underrepresented communities and listening to how their oppressions intersect can go a long way.” By inquiring about the needs within an underrepresented community, a library can begin by having a thorough understanding of the population as a whole, like traits unique to individuals within a particular group. Ettarh also recommends a change in perspective and states, “By treating these issues as separate entities, we as librarians fail to fully understands how oppressions work in various contexts.” To resolve this issue, “We need to educate ourselves on how these intersecting oppressions affect our community.”
In order to both begin with an intersectional perspective and reconfigure old ways, Ettarh says libraries should, “Provide staff with diversity training, address signs of microaggression and injustice in the workplace, investigate complaints quickly, thoroughly, and sensitively, and take disciplinary action against those who break the policy.” You might also consider defining the term “neutrality” within your work space. What does it mean? What should it mean? How do we eliminate bias?
In total, the article recommended creating what the author calls a “new table” where everyone is invited and there isn’t preconceived influence. The author sections the theory of intersectionality the idea that both identity and marginalism exist simultaneously and interact on many levels (Ettarh, 2014). Librarians should form a perspective and sense of neutrality alongside this multidimensional theory in order to best serve their patrons and the community.

REFERENCES
Adewunmi, B. (2014, April 2). Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: “I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use”. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/04/kimberl-crenshaw-intersectionality-i-wanted-come-everyday-metaphor-anyone-could

Ettarh, F. (2014). Making a new table: Intersectional librarianship.
In the library with the lead pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/making-a-new-table-intersectional-librarianship-3/

. Indigenous Australians’ information behavior and internet use in everyday life: An exploratory study.

Reviewed By: Emilee Harrison, Ashleigh Torres, Robin Rogers, Mathew Chase, Ashley Montes

Link to article: http://www.informationr.net/ir/22-1/paper737.html

Synopsis

In “Indigenous Australian’s Information Behaviour and Internet use in Everyday Life: An Exploratory Study,” the authors discuss the beginning stages of an “information behaviour research project undertaken with a rural Indigenous community in South Australia” (Du & Haines, 2017). The study explores the following research questions:
1. What types of information do indigenous people need in their daily lives?
2. How do indigenous people choose information sources?
3. What interactions do indigenous people have with the Internet?
4. How do indigenous people perceive the role of the Internet for the community? (Du & Haines, 2017)

Du and Haines provide a literature review of the relevant literature and previous studies that have been conducted on similar topics (2017). They also provide the research design of their study including how they intended to conduct ethical research, how the data would be collected and how it would be analyzed (Du & Haines, 2017). The results of the study are shown and discussed throughout the latter half of the article. The results are displayed in tables along with each source of information that is within the study carefully described and talked about in detail. The authors also conclude the article and discuss the need for further research (Du & Haines, 2017). In this discussion, Du and Haines include that they were able to conduct this research by “accessing local people and seeking their thoughts and insights” (2017). At the end of this article, the authors include a copy of the survey questions they included on their questionnaire for the audience to see and use in conjunction with the article itself (Du & Haines, 2017).

Methodology

The authors, as they were not indigenous themselves, sought to achieve an ethical research standard that required trust and respect with the Ngarrindjeri community through regular consultation with the Elders as well as exchanging honorary gifts of print-out copies of research results and weekend computer training. Du and Haines (2017) actively recruited Ngarrindjeri participants through snowball sampling by distributing promotional materials at local community centers, workplaces, and on social media. Recruited participants were asked to recommend people who might be interested in participating in the study. Twenty-one total participants were recruited (10 men; 11 women). Data collection was designed using a dual-method qualitative framework. First, participants answered a questionnaire regarding their everyday information behaviors and Internet interactions. Second, the questionnaire followed up with semi-structured interviews to deepen and clarify understanding of participants’ Internet experiences and attitudes in relation to their community needs. Narrative interviewing was employed as the primary technique to reveal participant insights, which were audio recorded and transcribed for analysis (Du & Haines, 2017). Participants who declined to be audio recorded instead had the researchers take interview notes during the session. As the participants were fluent in both Ngarrindjeri and English, both the questionnaire and the interviews were provided in English. Field observations and notes by researchers through time spent with the community also supplemented the data collection.

Findings

The author’s found that the Ngarrindjeri rely on multiple sources (Du & Haines, 2017) to find information relevant to their daily lives such as weather, news, and work related information (Du & Haines, 2017). Researchers organized the resources used by the community into four main categories: internet, interpersonal, mass media, and physical organizations (Du & Haines, 2017). Although Internet and Interpersonal are the most common, researchers found that participants tended to rely on multiple sources for information (Du & Haines, 2017). Participants consider interpersonal resources more reliable because the information is local (Du & Haines, 2017). Particular value is placed on information from Elders and from friends and family (Du & Haines, 2017).
Many participants said they would try interpersonal resources first, and use the internet if that did not work (Du & Haines, 2017). Reliance on social activities for information is consistent with the community’s tradition of sharing indigenous knowledge through basket weaving led by the Elders (Du & Haines, 2017). When they use the internet, non-home internet access accounts for more than half the participants’ internet usage (Du & Haines, 2017). Desktops and mobile phones are the most commonly used devices (Du & Haines, 2017). The “main barriers” to internet usage are “low computer literacy, costs, and the slowness of internet access” (Du & Haines, 2017). The authors found that participants regardless of age tended to believe the internet could be a valuable tool to “communicate local knowledge to a broad community, [and] to encourage cultural sharing” but were concerned about “inappropriate online dissemination” (Du & Haines, 2017).

Unanswered Questions and Future Research

The study conducted by Du and Haines brought to light some interesting unanswered questions and areas of future research as well. Some future areas of research can include if certain members within the indigenous tribe thinks about having some of their knowledge that they are willing to share available in online platforms. Similarly, other indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand have developed online platforms that makes certain types of information available to those within the tribe and the public, such as photos or recordings (State Library of Queensland, “Indigenous Knowledge Centres,” 2016). While some Elders in the study did mention this possibility and were hesitant about this aspect of certain types traditional knowledge being accessed to the larger public, it would be interesting to see what other Elders and people in the community would have to say about this aspect, especially in terms of knowledge/information they would like to share. Also, the study itself did not tackle the issue concerning traditional indigenous knowledge either, so there are many types of unanswered questions relating to traditional knowledge, technology, and culture as well.
This study also had some unanswered questions. Some unanswered questions from this study include if any type of solutions were given to the community concerning information gaps, such as a lack of knowledge on how to use certain types of technology, as well as there being few service providers in the community. Also, it was mentioned that about 11% of people in the study use physical organizations, including libraries (Du & Haines, 2017). Since library use was not widely accessed by people in the study, it would be interesting to note any reasons why this may be the case, especially if the library offers the use of their internet/computer resources and other resources as well. Is it the distance, the lack of trust in the institution, the lack of resources pertaining to indigenous needs, or any other factors that may influence their lack of use, especially since people in rural and remote areas tend to use the library to their advantage? This is not only an unanswered question pertaining to the study, but a possible area for future research as well.

Conclusion

There are a number of unanswered questions in this study, primarily pertaining to what barriers are preventing indigenous persons from taking advantage of library resources and what attempts at outreach and restructuring of library systems have been done in order to better meet the needs of these potential patrons.
Given that 21% of indigenous Australians report living in remote or very remote locations it is reasonable to suspect that distance may provide them with a barrier when it comes to accessing information resources through the countries library networks. While the National Library of Australia does have a subsection which focuses on Indigenous culture, that does not mean that it is necessarily accessible to the indigenous communities through the country as it is located in Canberra (National Library of Australia, 2017).
It should also be noted that the sample size for this study was very small, at only 21 people, which means that when the study indicates that 11% of responses reported using library services that amounts to fewer than three participants. The indigenous population of Australia is estimated to be about 669,881 or 3% of the country’s total population, which indicates that further research would be beneficial in order to gain a more thorough understanding of usage practices and community needs (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Estimates of aboriginal and torres strait islander Australians. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3238.0.55.001

Du, J. T., and Haines, J. (2017). Indigenous Australians’ information behavior and internet use in everyday life: An exploratory study. Information Research, 22(1). Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/22-1/paper737.html

National Library of Australia. (2017). Collections: Indigenous. Retrieved from https://www.nla.gov.au/what-we-collect/indigenous

State Library of Queensland. (2016). Indigenous Knowledge Centres. Retrieved from

http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/about-us/indigenous-knowledge-centres

Legislation Without Empathy: Race and Ethnicity in LIS

Reviewed By: Christopher Diaz and Allison Hostler

Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/download/3565/3649

Article Review

In the article, Legislation Without Empathy: Race and Ethnicity in LIS, Visconti examines the current status of diversity in the field of librarianship. Specifically he claims that ethnic and racial diversity is an “unresolved diversity issue in LIS,” acknowledging the concentration of the article on race rather than on the diversity of gender or sexual orientation in the library workplace.

The article begins with Visconti recounting a recent library leadership course that he took in which a slide show was presented that discussed “myths” about leadership in the library. During the lecture one slide in particular caught Visconti’s attention. The slide claimed that the idea that one has to be an old white male in order to obtain a leadership role in the library, was a myth. Visconti argues that this may in fact, not be a myth.

Visconti continues by remarking how there has been no growth in the diversity of library professionals in the past two decades. This is attributed to a “disconnect between official policy and our everyday practices.” Essentially, Visconti is stating that although many of our official institutions such as the ALA, have it in writing that their goal is to embrace and enhance a diverse workplace, the field of librarianship is not actually acting on this ideal.

In order to show the lack of growth within the field, Visconti used statistical data from the ALA from the 1990’s and compared it to recent data. The statistics he found supported his claim that there has been no growth in the diversity in the field of librarianship. The statistics also revealed just how unbalanced the diversity is. While African Americans and Hispanics make up 40% of the population, these groups don’t even make up 10% of librarians.

Visconti expands in this idea by noting the difference between diversity and inclusion. The author claims that although the institution of libraries has hired people of color, they are simply meeting a quota because they are not practicing inclusion. Inclusion, to Visconti, includes actually assimilating everything that comes along with adding people of color instead of forcing those people of color to conform to the sustained and officiated “whiteness,” of the profession.

Microaggressions against people of color in the library workforce is also talked about in the article. Visconti notes studies that show people of color are often the target of such aggressions while their White counterparts are not. He continues by noticing that there is specific lack of study on the subject of racism in the library which could be considered racist in itself.

Visconti concludes by noting how librarians always strive to provide services to a diverse patronage but fail to include diversity within their own profession. The author call out for an increase in inclusion and for a more diverse profession.

Article Expansion

Visconti does an excellent job of providing facts and evidence of issues regarding diversity and inclusion in library environments. His article clearly describes the issues in the LIS profession but what the article lacks is a possible solution to the problem. The library must be an environment that makes all feel safe and respected, both patrons and staff, and in order to successfully provide services to the community. Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are not issues that can be solved quickly or even easily. Instead, these issues should be part of a long term goal that the library community is constantly and actively striving towards. Moving forward, we would like to expand this article to explore possible solutions to these issues to further promote diversity in all areas in the library profession.

Possible Solutions

After reading this article it is clear that something must be done in order to assist in eliminating racism and discrimination in the library environment for both patrons and staff. In his conclusion, Visconti mentions the possibility for LIS students to take a course in library diversity during their programs in order to be more cognisant of problems in the area of diversity and inclusion. He also mentions that although some programs offer these courses, students aren’t always taking them as they are offered as electives only. Perhaps these courses should be considered a required course rather than an elective. This way, LIS programs are ensuring that their students are being educated in the subject areas of diversity and inclusion in the library.

Another way in which diversity can be supported through the library community is through programming. Culturally diverse programming could be offered through the library’s services. These events could be centered around a holiday or simply to raise awareness. Programs could also be centered around books, movies, or other materials that feature themes of diversity. Programs that already established in the library, such as story time or art activities, could incorporate diversity into their programs. Patrons could take part in these events and directly benefit from them while library staff would benefit through means of supporting the program and its participants.