Floetry: Be still 

Sitting quietly and still until the dust settles

Until the roaring and thundering fades

Peering into the gentle waves, I can see the bottom so clearly

Straining my ears to the sudden quiet, I hear the whisper of the still, small voice 

And imagine:

All that dust, all that noise 

Comes directly from me;

I stir up the tempest with my fears, anxieties

With my desperate attempts to scratch my way to truth beneath the surface 

With my desperate attempts to scream my way to a perfectly pitched calling

It is I who obscures 

When all You ask is that I be still 

And know You 

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What’s Legal Is Not What’s Ethical

I’m at an archival tour for a health sciences special collection at an institution that will be unnamed, and I am extremely uncomfortable.

My group and I have been shown patient records for children and senior citizens and immigrants and transgender and intersex people from as recent the 1980s. Some of these people are still alive. I may have passed them on the street on my way in.

My group has heard a lot about how HIPAA is not being violated and how legal counsel has okayed this practice and that practice. We’ve been shown some signed forms. But I still feel incredibly gross about all this. It’s exploitative and wrong. It may be legal, but it’s certainly unethical.

Did these patients understand how their personal materials would be used? Did they know that in 2017, a group of scholars would be pawing through their procedure images and notes and photos? Are they okay with that? I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anyone knows. And that’s the problem.

I’ve talked about this before and others have talked about this, but I just had to share. I don’t have anything else to add really; just the same thing I’ve been repeating over and over:

WHAT IS LEGAL IS NOT WHAT IS ETHICAL AND VICE VERSA.

Please, fellow library and archive folks, let’s be more thoughtful, more critical about our work.

One of the only records I felt comfortable seeing and sharing. An autopsy report from 1918 during the flu epidemic.

Floetry: I love walking through graveyards 


I love walking through graveyardsThe dead don’t say much

Don’t get me wrong 

I didn’t say they don’t say anything

I said they don’t say much

They understand the value of silence 

Of time

They’re in no hurry to explain accuse exculpate 

There are no arguments debates soliloquies 

Just quiet

And the occasional whisper 

A reminder to honor the dead

And the living

And time

Open Access Week 2017: Launch of LIS Scholarship Archive

This Open Access Week, I’m proud to help spread the word about a new platform for sharing library and archive work, the newly launching (as of October 25) LIS Scholarship Archive, or LISSA.

Screenshot of LISSA landing page

Set on the Open Scince Framework platform and with the support of the Center for Open Science, LISSA is meant to be a place for providing secure, easy, and most important, open access to the broad range of materials that information workers produce—everything from data sets, to posters, to image collections, to oral history files, and yes, even traditional article preprints. In addition to welcoming a broad range of materials, we also eagerly welcome submissions from library and archives workers and students of all types, from the public library circulation clerk, to the archive and museum studies student, to the early career special librarian. Our hope is that LISSA can become a repository for those who otherwise do not have access to one.

In particular, we are proud to be providing a service alongside the longstanding and internationally renowned  eLIS preprint server. While eLIS has long provided a place for depositing traditional LIS scholarship, we look to provide an option for a broader range of works.  We look forward to possible future collaboration with eLIS in sharing the LIS disciplinary repository space.

On behalf of our steering committee—which I admit is for now very North American, but rest assured we will be working intentionally to lead with more global inclusivity—we invite you to check out LISSA and consider using it as a home for your information work.

For more info, find us at lissarchive.org.

Floetry: That was a good book

I’ve recently gotten back into my poetry writing. So I’ll be dropping some lines in here for you all from time to time as the Spirit moves. 

****

“That was a good book”

I read that book and now I just wanna eat it

Cram it in my mouth and chew sop it up with a biscuit

Roast it on an open spit drizzle it in gravy plough right through

Rip it apart page by page at the spine and suck the marrow dry

Take the binding soak it in broth get a good stew going

That book was so good I wanna dice it up fine slice mince sprinkle it on some chips serve it with carrot sticks

I devoured it with my eyes my mind but that’s not enough it was a really good book 

Open my center pour it in I wanna start it all over again 

Columbus Day 2017: Tear It All Down

Today is Columbus Day, but I’m in the midst of a social media break so you won’t see this post until much later. Still, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and it’s really come to a point where I’ve got to get the thoughts down.

I just eavesdropped on a white woman talking about her family’s participation in the New York City Italian-American community’s Columbus Day celebrations. (Columbus Day became a holiday in the U.S. initially as a way for marginalized Italian immigrants to celebrate their heritage.) There will be protest by native folks and allies against the settler colonization and genocide that Christopher Columbus represents. In the words of this woman, “I get it, but I don’t get it.” Then, she proceeded to give all the usual trite arguments:

  1. It’s a celebration of Italians in America, not Columbus per se (though he was Italian in America and a genocidal one at that).
  2. You can’t judge historical figures by today’s standards of morality.
  3. I supported the taking down of the Confederate monuments, but where do we draw the line?
  4. Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t mean to rag on this woman. She’s only saying what many other well-meaning, white, liberal Americans say. But this thinking is the very epitome of why we will likely never decolonize and dismantle white supremacy in the country (or anywhere else really).

White people are just too married to their own supremacy and privilege. Even the well-meaning, so-called “liberal” and “progressive” ones.

Over the last few months with all the hullabaloo about taking down Confederate monuments, so many well-meaning liberal white folks took to their thinkpieces to explain why it’s the white (do I mean “right”? Is that really a typo?) thing to do to take down the Confederate monuments, and why it’s okay to leave monuments to other well-known slave-owners and native murderers because of “all the good they did in founding our great country.”

Huh. Cue thinking-face emoji.

What “good” did they do? For whom? What “great country”? For whom?

Because from where I sit, I see native peoples being chased by dogs and teargassed for trying to protect the sanctity of their (and all of our) water.

From where I sit, I see black athletes, whose very bodies are owned by wealthy white men (sound familiar?) being castigated and Black-balled (quite literally) for engaging in peaceful protest against state-sanctioned, racist violence.

From where I sit, I see Spanish-speaking, colonized Americans, Black, Brown, and every shade in between, being left to die of thirst and disease in the midst of one of the worst natural disasters in their living history.

But yes, let’s please preserve the racist legacy of the racist people who built this racist country. By all means.

I say tear it all down. I say this as a proud American who wants to be even prouder of her country. I say this as a Black woman, most of whose ancestors didn’t choose to be here, but here we are, so deal with me. I say this sincerely and unequivocally.

Until we’re willing to, figuratively and literally, tear down every vestige of our nation’s racist, white supremacist history—from Washington to Jackson to Tr*mp—we will never attain the equality and equity we like to talk so glibly about. We need to confront our history and our present, and then we need to tear it down.

Until then, enjoy your ridiculous parades and bank holidays. I’ve got better things to do.

 

Pipeline as Meat Grinder

I just got off a group videoconference with members of We Here, a collective of librarians of color who gather every month online to chat about issues related to being one of only a few in a profession that’s 88% white. As we were talking, the topic of diversity initiatives, recruitment, and retention came up (as it often does). I’ve written quite a bit about our profession’s diversity initiatives in the past, but in the course of this conversation, I had a new thought:

Me: Y’all. Listening to this conversation makes me think that the so-called pipeline, when it comes to diversity, isn’t a pipeline at all but is actual a meat grinder. *shudders*

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“Der Fleischwolf bei der Arbeit” which I’m pretty sure is German for “white supremacy meat grinder for diversity” (just kidding…a little); by Anfuehrer on Flickr.com, CC-BY-SA 2.0

It’s true. We take people from marginalized backgrounds and shove them into the meat grinder we call a pipeline. We churn them up in diversity residencies and diversity temp hires and diversity programs and diversity trainings. And then we spew out little white-sized (no, that’s not a typo) chunks for our organizations. We tell them to be people of color but not too much color. Be disabled but not too disabled. Be native but not too native. Be queer but not too queer. Be poor and working class but not too poor, not too working class. Just be a good little chunk with just enough quirk to make our organizational diversity look good.

Finally, we congratulate ourselves on how diverse we’re making our professional sausage, with no regard to the identities and backgrounds these folks held before they entered our grinding pipeline machine.

No wonder so many of our most talented leave the profession after a short while.

We assume that assimilating folks from marginalized backgrounds into our professional sausage is enough. We don’t work on our inclusionary practices or organizational cultures. We don’t work on providing systemic, long-term professional and personal development support. We don’t work on changing the ways we think about and treat people historically oppressed people in our workplaces. All of that is just way too hard. So meat grinder, it is.

I’m sick of the meat grinder mentality. We’ve got to do better. Many of us are starting to make those changes in our organizations from recruitment to staffing and leadership training. But we gotta do more. We’ve gotta do so much more.

That’s it. End of blog post. I’m not giving you any solutions here because quite frankly I (and many others) have done that already in other places. (Hello, click on all the links I put in this post for a start.) But also I’m not doing it because that’s not my job. This black woman is not here to save you. Save yourselves. Do the work. Go.

Hamilton and the White Gaze

After shelling out way too much on a ticket about a year ago, I finally went to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton last week. It was amazing, of course. And yet.

I have such conflicted feelings about the experience of sitting in an audience that looked like this:

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Tweet of emojis about what it felt like being the only POC in my section at Hamilton.

Here I was at a f-cking brilliant Broadway show that borrowed heavily from black musical traditions, written by a genius of a latinx man, with a cast full of people of color, and all of it, all of it, taking place under the laser focus of the ever-present white gaze.

Especially given the period-ness of the piece and the references to black enslavement, it made me think about how white slave owners, like Washington or Jefferson, used to make their enslaved folks perform songs and dance from their native traditions for the amusement of white folks on the plantation. Even today the white gaze voraciously lays claim to the cultural heritage of us “others”: white people designate their “spirit animals” as they sit back and listen to jazz, rock, or pop and contemplate checking out the latest film featuring ancient traditions from this or that culture that has been white-washed beyond recognition. Yet, for many, never once do they stop and reflect on the cultural appropriation taking place to make their chosen entertainment possible.

“It must be nice, it must be niiice…” to be able to use your gaze to claim ownership to the creations of others. To mark that territory as your own just as surely as your ancestors planted flags in inhabited lands and killed the native “scourge” in the names of their kings and queens.

All of this felt so real to me sitting there with all those white folks, watching this amazing show that showcased so much of what people of color bring to culture, and sensing that so much of that simply bounced off their privileged white bubbles. To my dismay, my seat-mates sat stone-faced while I rejoiced openly at all the sampling and references to music my people have created, most of which I recognized right away. (Except, good grief, I don’t know where I was when Biggie released the “Ten Crack Commandments” cuz I didn’t catch that one and my sis had to set me straight. Forgive me, y’all.) I cried “Amen!” when Jefferson got called out on his ownership of slaves and watched as the folks sitting next to me shifted uncomfortably in their seats. I hooted and whistled, much to the annoyance of those around me, when someone successfully spat a particular witty and fast-paced set of lyrics. I groaned out loud when a character said or did something stupid, thereby catching side-eye from those to my left and my right.

To them, I was disrupting their enjoyment of this show on the “Great White Way” (oh, so much loaded into that phrase)—this show that was their show, created for their amusement. Just made me shake my damn head.

I wish I had millions of dollars—with the gentrified ticket prices to this show, it would take that much at least—to buy up the Rodgers Theater and hand out tickets in my Harlem neighborhood (“Hey, neighbors! Did you know Hamilton lived right up the street? You can still visit his house. Also, this show is great!); “In the Heights” that Miranda has always called home; in Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy where Biggie grew up (well, what’s left of his neighborhood given the rampant gentrification of Brooklyn); in the Bronx where hip hop was born; throughout all the communities of color in this city that witnessed the actual events on which Hamilton is based. “Folks, come on in! Feel free to whoop and holler and dance! Make some noise! Enjoy! Relish in seeing folks who look like you on stage. Live the experience. See what it’s like to finally recognize yourself in the story of a Founding Father. Delight in this brilliant show. ‘History has its eye on you’…but maybe, just maybe, this can be a moment for you to enjoy outside the white gaze.”

This Is What (Straight, Cis, Capitalist, Christian, White Male) Democracy Looks Like 

If I hear one more white person whine about free speech, I will scream with a deep primal yell borne out of the viscera of my enslaved ancestors down through the ages on whose blood, sweat, and stolen tears this mock-democracy of a country was founded and built. 

A little while ago, the almost-ironically named American Library Association Think Tank on Facebook was full of white people determined that we should go out of our way to do outreach to the KKK, and other white supremacy terrorist groups, in the hopes of promoting free speech and intellectual freedom. Not just allow them to use public facilities, mind you, but do active outreach. Because their opportunities to share their hate-filled message are so limited. 

Lately, many white people have decried the negative response from many black folks and allies to a proposed new HBO show, from the makers of the already problematic Game of Thrones, about an “imaginary” world in which the confederacy won the Civil War and slavery still existed. As if the white supremacist legacy of slavery and settler colonialism and genocide isn’t still very much alive and well in this, the real world. These folks falsely, though typically, equate the #NoConfederate response as a form of “censorship” and call for all of us to relive the spectacle of black subjugation for the sake of “free speech.”

Just recently there’s been literal outrage about the firing a white dude from a big private company for releasing a statement about the so-called “biological inferiority” of women in his field and the need to do away with calls for more diversity and inclusion. Because, ya know, when your private employer fires you from your at-will job for behaving in the job as a racist, sexist jerk, that’s such a travesty of the constitutional protection against government sanction of speech. (Please note the intense sarcasm here.)

Apparently, white people care a LOT about free speech. 

They care so much that a couple of weeks ago many of them took to calling administration at my workplace, sending me heinous emails and tweets, and leaving me threatening voicemails to demand my firing because I dare to exercise free speech to call out white supremacy and racial oppression. 

They care so much that when researchers of color across the country are faced with reprisal, including job loss, for speaking up about oppression, many celebrate the destruction of these professional lives as the cost for speaking the truth. 

They care so much that some of them, who are long-time members of the Society of American Archivists, are quitting in a huff because the SAA dared to allow a program on dismantling white supremacy in archives, in which archivists of color and white allies exercise their freedom of speech to educate others about the inherent oppression of the profession. 

(Again, please note the sarcasm.)

The fact is, these fighters for free speech only care about free speech that serves to maintain the white supremacist status quo. Freedom and democracy for all comes with an unspoken asterisk.* (*Only straight, cis, upper-class, Christian white men need apply.)

I’m tired of these proponents of oppressive democracy. Folks who pretend to care about equity and inclusion but only care about keeping whiteness front and center. 

But I appreciate the work of those who continue to speak up and speak out, even when it’s made clear that freedom of expression is just not for us. Those who take on the burden and personal risk on behalf of their communities or as allies, or both. Let’s continue to support them and each other. Let’s make “freedom for all” really mean something. 

Compartir Conocimiento: Force11 en Chile

English translation is below.

El mes pasado, partcipé en la organización y discusión de un “descongreso” sobre la comunicación científica y académica en Latinoamérica. Formando una colaboración entre el sub-grupo de inclusión global del grupo de Scholarly Commons de Force11 y un grupo de investigadores y estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile, este evento nos permitió cambiar ideas, cuestiones, y soluciones sobre el tema de la comunicación y el compartir de conocimiento.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.23.52 AM.png

“Compartir Conocimiento”

Los participantes del descongreso incluyeron bibliotecarios de la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe de las Naciones Unidas, estudiantes e investigadores de varias disciplinas de Chile y otras partes de Latinoamérica, y mis colegas y yo de universidades de Norteamérica. La localidad fue significada como Latinoamérica es tan adelante del resto del mundo en el movimiento de open access y conocimiento abierto. De hecho, los investigadores y los públicos de Latinoamérica han sido disfrutando de open access, sin APCs (“author processing charges” o pagos de autor) por décadas.

Como fue un descongreso, no había un programa antes de este evento; los participantes hicieron el programa y seleccionaron los temas específicos en el momento. Elegimos cinco gran temas de discusión:

  1. Comunicación científica/académica y sus sistemas
  2. Valorización e incentivos
  3. Gestión de datos
  4. Capacitación
  5. Inclusión/igualdad y conocimiento colectivo

Temas del día

La discusión del día fue rica y al fin del día, nosotros identificamos cuatro problemas para investigar en conversaciones y colaboraciones siguientes:

  1. Para cruzar la división entre la investigación académica y no académica, debemos agrandar nuestros conceptos de “expertos” como generadores de conocimiento.
  2. Para mejorar las prácticas, necesitamos una relación más significada entre la política y los incentivos.
  3. Para potenciar la colaboración, debemos recursos y prácticas más interoperables.
  4. Es necesario un cambio cultural en las instituciones para crear una política de openness en nuestras organizaciones (las universidades, el gobierno, etc.).

Problemas identificados

 

El objetivo es de construir una narrativa alternativa para conceptualizar cómo se comparte el conocimiento.

Realizamos un buen inicio pero hay mucho más trabajo a hacer. Ahora mismo, comenzamos a continuar nuestra colaboración y planear las etapas próximas. Adelante juntos!

Nuestro grupo sin Charlotte y yo (ya estábamos al aeropuerto)

 


Last month, I helped to organize and participated in an unconference on scholarly communication in Latin America. Based on collaboration between the global inclusion sub-group of the Force11 Scholarly Commons Working Group and a group of researchers and students from the University of Chile, this event was an opportunity to exchange ideas, issues, and solutions regarding scholarly communication and the sharing of knowledge.

Unconference participants included librarians from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, multidisciplinary students and researchers from Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, and my colleagues and me from North American universities. The location of the unconference was significant as Latin America is far ahead of the rest of the world in the open access and open knowledge movement. In fact, researchers and the public in Latin America have been enjoying open access, without APCs (“author processing charges”), for decades.

As it was an unconference, there was no set program before the event; participants decided on the day’s agenda and specific issues for discussion in the moment. Overall, we chose five major topics of discussion:

  1. Scholarly communication and its systems
  2. Valuation and incentives
  3. Data management
  4. Training
  5. Inclusion / equity and collective knowledge

The day’s discussion was incredibly fulfilling, and at the end of the day, we identified four issues to pursue in continuing conversations and collaborations:

  1. To cross the divide between academic and non-academic research, we must expand our conception of “experts” as creators of knowledge.
  2. To improve practices, there needs to be a meaningful relationship between policies and incentives.
  3. To foster collaboration, we need more interoperable resources and practices.
  4. A cultural change in institutions is needed to create a policy of openness in our organizations (universities, government, etc.).

The goal is to build an alternative narrative to conceptualize how knowledge is shared.

We made a great start but there is much more work to do. Even now, we are beginning to continue our collaborative work and plan next steps. Onward together!