Monthly Archives: December 2015

Why I #critlib

In response to the questions posted by Kevin Seeber for tonight’s #critlib chat:

Why are you a critical librarian?

After two years as an academic librarian (and side gigs and internships in school, public, museum, and music libraries), I still see myself as an aspiring critical librarian. I see #critlib broadly in terms of critical pedagogy, and my positions at small universities have involved more reference than instruction. Though I’m not in the closet, if I don’t see the scope to practice something, I only lay claim to its definition “at heart”.

In my first career in museums, I practiced advocating for visitors, creating opportunities for individual and group reflection on the work, using nonviolent communication techniques to let my colleagues know I took their ideas seriously, and asking a lot of questions.

Why do you identify with these ideas?

I haven’t latched onto critical theory per se. My sweetheart is fully immersed in it, and my eyes glaze over at most of his references. My thinking on social justice is informed by a lifetime of Quaker faith and practice, and periodic deep dives into reading things I’ve long thought I should. #fergusonsyllabus guided my recreational reading for many months.

My first master’s degree in Museum Education steeped me in learning theories: Vygotsky, Dewey, Csikszentmihalyi, and Gardner leap to mind. The writings that inspired me most in library school were by S. R. Ranganathan, Sandy Berman, Jim Elmborg, the Working Together Project in Canada, Char Booth, Mandy Henk and other bloggers from the libraries of the Occupy movement.

Why do you participate in these chats?

They give me a sense of community, whether or not I can travel to conferences. (Free professional development!) Most of the time, they’re about issues I care about, that I’ve studied or witnessed or worked on in libraries or museums. They give me a place to develop a voice on social media, to weigh what I’m willing to say out loud, to notice what others amplify or challenge. In the speed of a one-hour chat, it seems to me that it is the ideas that matter, whether they come from people with tenure or publications, from students on Twitter for the first time, or from a career-shifter like me.

I miss my past involvement in the museum field, giving papers at conferences and serving on boards and committees. I get to do some of that as a volunteer with Quaker education and youth programs. I’m still finding my way in the library field, and #critlib feels like a welcoming door, being held open by good colleagues who work in a spirit that matters to me.