Can’t Stay Neutral on a Moving Train

Image source: sophia.smith.eduMy ALA Annual Conference sessions began bright and early at 8:30 on a Saturday. For some reason I decided diving right in with a serious session was a good idea. That’s because it was. Here are my notes. If you were there and have anything to add or correct please do! If you weren’t there but the topic is your passion and have something to say, please do!


Critical Librarianship– movement to recognize we all work under regimes of white supremacy, capitalism, and social injustice.

  • Hashtag to see the movement #critlib
  • The movement can also help you develop a collection by being aware of the diversity of your patrons
  • “My work as a librarian is social justice work”
  • Provide patrons with materials to facilitate conversation on social issues:
    • Black Lives Matter
    • Climate Change
    • Gay Rights
    • Reproductive Rights
    • Etc…
  • Example: https://skokielibrary.info/resources/civic-lab/
  • “Good info allows you to make up your mind, bad info means someone is making up your mind for you” (paraphrased)
  • The Library provides a space to break down hierarchies and help people to relate to each other across boundaries
  • “Pop-up Library” seems to be the label for those microcollections focusing on social justice issues
    • Our Buzzell Pop-up seems to be an example because it’s temp but not a #critlib example.
    • Get guest speaker with first-hand experience?
  • Example: https://sophia.smith.edu/undesign/sample-page/
    • Redlining is a nasty example of Jim Crow Gov’t in action:
    • “Redlining is the practice of denying loans or services to a person or a community based on their race, class, or ethnic background.” (from site above)
  • Setting up a critlib program or pop-up library is a great way to build relationships with other organizations and/or businesses
  • Libs aren’t responsible for giving all sides of the argument, but rather give you the tools to do the research to find the opposing viewpoints yourself.
  • Lessons Learned
    • Balance buy-in with being subversive
    • Take care of yourself
    • Recognize the benefits of both passive and active programming
    • Build equitable relationships with people who share your motivations
    • Advocates and Sponsors may not come from places you’d expect
    • Document everything- keep track of the contributions made by yourself and others
  • Questions to ask before DIY
    • What social justice topics are coming up in your community?
    • What type of program might you be able to offer to address one of these topics?
    • What/Who are some of the resources/allies/partners you might turn to for help?
    • What is an obstacle you might encounter in pursuing this program?
    • Who in your network can you count on for brainstorming, troubleshooting, and support as you pursue this program?
  • Great Q: I live in a conservative community whose members don’t agree with a lot of this, am I going to do any good? A: Maybe Maybe not. Me: It’s worth a shot.
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