Tuesday, March 24, 2015 – #critlib unconference
I got into Portland Tuesday afternoon and made my way to the hotel, met up with my awesome roommate, and headed to registration. That evening I had dinner with the In the Library with the Lead Pipe editors that were in town. We do all our work online so it’s always nice to get to meet up in person.
Wednesday was the #critlib unconference which was incredibly fantastic. Mad props to that whole crew and everyone in attendance. I haven’t had such a wonderful wave of “my people” flow over me since I went to a weaving conference many moons ago. I had volunteered to help set up and break down, but they had things super under control. I think all I managed to help with was cutting some donuts in half.
I’m afraid my note taking was at an all time low for this conference. But thankfully both the #critlib archives and the ACRL website are robust.
My first session at #critlib was the one I had requested: Intro to Critical Theory [public notes][slides]. I was really excited that this was so well attended, both because it meant I was not the only one who wanted this background grounding (it’s not just me!) and because I had correctly identified a need. So yay to that. And kudos to whoever it was that realized it should have the first slot in the morning.
There was some interesting discussion that parallels discussions of library jargon about whether participants in #critlib chats (and presumably other spaces) should adjust their language to be more welcoming to newcomers or whether learning the language of the discourse community was important, words matter, having precise language matters. I also left reassured that even though I personally didn’t know all the names of specific theorists or even some specific terms (hello simulacrum and panopticon), I actually did already have a pretty good grasp on all of the theories that were covered. [I think my film and media studies background helped me a bit here.] There was also discussion of starting a book group, which I believe has been moved forward a bit since then.
Between sessions I quick grabbed Emily Drabinski to ask her for tips on onboarding new editors to open access journals. It was intended as more of a, hey, let’s talk about this later, but she was able to quickly share that assigning specific tasks was key. Possibly one of the most important concrete nuggets of conference for me.
I was very sad to miss the 1st session on open access, labor, and knowledge production [side note: the organization and notes from this are phenomenal]. So a few of us had our own impromptu research justice and labor production session. My only note from that discussion is “daytime #critlib chat? on the clock” Night time is off the clock for many of us, requiring unpaid labor. (also, just inconvenient for some) Some would be more able to participate while at work. Obviously the opposite is also true for many, their jobs may not consider Twitter chats, however relevant, to be part of their job. I do remember I was interested in this topic from many angles, I am an editor at an open access, open peer review journal that runs entirely on volunteer labor. I also volunteer with a group blog that is investigating trying to specifically pay authors of color and I’ve been reading things from communities of color such as Gradient Lair’s Content Use Policy. As well as, specifically, arguments that they do not want their freely available publicly visible online content being used in academic research – effectively making them research subjects without informed consent. I’m lucky enough that so far, all of my jobs have encouraged me to do Lead Pipe work on the clock, but we’ve definitely had editors on our board who had to do all of their Lead Pipe work on their own time. No answers here, just a lot of competing beliefs and realities. We also rehashed some of the ideas around exclusionary language from the first session.
Lunch break! The food carts were great and I got to catch up with several awesome friends.
For session #3 I went to #critlib Instruction Fails. I feel like I should have used my rule of two feet on this one. I have a couple of good take aways, but overall it seems to me that library instruction conversations always devolve to the same place and this was no exception. The bits I found particularly useful were the yoga analogy of not turning away from resistance, but rather focus your attention on the tension. The specific moment it was in reference to was dealing with conflict in the classroom and challenges from students. There was a nice story of allowing the student to share his expertise and how it set a really good tone for the class. Another librarian talked about starting class with the question, “How many types of information did you use today?” as a way to put the session in context. Another librarian shared teaching LC by saying, “You are anthropologists, what can you tell me about this culture?” Which I loved conceptually, but can’t see actually working into my instruction.
The unconference ended with lightning talks and a report back/take aways/feelings. There were lots of comments about how great it was to find a room of like-minded individuals as well as a critique of the whiteness of the room. Whose voices were missing and why? We also did the typical pitches. I stood up to share that Lead Pipe specifically views itself as a place that nurtures writers and Lead Pipe got such a round of applause that I got so emotional I forgot half of what I meant to say and had to come back later to put in a pitch for the “find a research partner” doc that some of the #critlib people put together.
One of my renewed interests from this day was learning to become a more skilled facilitator. I believe it’s something I have a general aptitude for, but seeing it done masterfully as well as seeing when it is sorely missed had this returning to top of mind. An evening chat left me with many resources to investigate, including: The Catalyst Project, specifically their Anne Braden Program; restorative justice groups; the NCORE conference; the White Privilege Conference; and radical K-12 groups.
One of the librarians followed up later with a few more resources:
Training the Trainers Manual by the School of Unity & Liberation (SOUL): “I can’t say enough good things about SOUL! One of my Catalyst Project buddies told me about this manual.”
Little Books of Justice and Peace Building: “Great series of books on restorative justice. The “Dialogue for Difficult Subjects” book is a nice place to start for facilitation tips.”
Teacher Action Group–Philadelphia: “TAG is sponsoring an Education as Liberation Conference in Philly next month. They are part of a network teacher activists groups, which includes Teachers 4 Social Justice (SF) and many others: http://www.teacheractivistgroups.org
I have a lot of reading ahead of me!