Deconstructing Service

Intersections of Identity

GSISC 2018 Boston, MA

Moderator to introduce panel and read our bios. Jo will then do another brief intro and show the next slide with our info.

Deconstructing Service

VERONICA ARELLANO DOUGLAS
she/hers

Instruction Coordinator
University of Houston Libraries
vadouglas@uh.edu
@arellanover

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JOANNA GADSBY
she/hers

Instruction Coordinator & Reference Librarian
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
gadsby@umbc.edu
@jkgadsby

JENNIFER BROWN
she/hers

Design & Technologies Librarian
Barnard College
jencalbear@gmail.com
@jeninthelib

SOFIA LEUNG

she/hers

Teaching & Learning Program Manager

MIT

sofial@mit.edu

@sofiayleung

Land Acknowledgement

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“Moving beyond territorial acknowledgments means asking hard questions about what needs to be done once we’re ‘aware of Indigenous presence’. It requires that we remain uncomfortable, and it means making concrete, disruptive change.”

Vowel, Chelsea. (2016, September 23). “Beyond Territorial Acknowledgements.” âpihtawikosisân.

We would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the unceded, traditional territory of the Massachusett, Pequot [pee-kwot] , and Wampanoag [wahm-puh-noh-ag] and that Massachusetts state (or New England) is still home to many Native American peoples. We would like to acknowledge our positionalities as Black, Latinx, an Asian American settler and white settler and to recognize the history of violence and genocide that led to the colonization of this land and our eventual inhabitance of it.

This is our own acknowledgement, based on our limited understanding of Indigenous land and history. This acknowledgement is also a way to hold ourselves publicly accountable to continued self education about the theft of Indigenous lands and active participation in the ongoing Indigenous struggles for decolonization, as this quote from Chelsea Vowel, Métis writer/educator from the Plains Cree speaking community of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, asks us to do:

“Moving beyond territorial acknowledgments means asking hard questions about what needs to be done once we’re ‘aware of Indigenous presence’. It requires that we remain uncomfortable, and it means making concrete, disruptive change.”

“Service, broadly defined, [is] often considered to be the essence of librarianship.”

Hicks, 2014, The Construction of Librarians’ Professional Identities

[Veronica]

According a study of librarians’ constructed identities published by Deborah Hicks in 2014, “Service, broadly defined, was often considered to be the essence of librarianship.” It’s one of the Core Values of Librarianship as defined by the American Library Association, which states: “We provide the highest level of service to all library users.” We often refer to librarianship as a helping or a service profession. But definitions of “service” among LIS workers are inconsistent, contradictory, or unclear in both audience and intent.

Identity & Service

Examining the intersections

[Veronica]

We aren’t here today to denigrate or dismiss the notion of service, but we do want to interrogate it in a thoughtful way.

It’s a value associated with women, being enacted in a feminized profession that exists within the hierarchical structures of academica and the world in which we live.

We are women, women of color, and people with various life and professional experiences on this panel, and we want to explore & deconstruct service as it intersects with the different features of our identity. The way we each experience (or don’t!) service as LIS professionals is unique and dependent on experiences, identities, and the expectations that surround them.

Q:

What is service and who is it for?

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[Veronica]

Given that there isn’t a good agreed upon definition of service in librarianship, we found ourselves discussing the following question among ourselves during one of our many google hangouts [read question on slide]. The second half of the question is, I think, important for context, because “service” often changes depending on the situation and people involved.

[brief audience Q?]

[Add in our thoughts here:]

Jen:

Veronica:

Jo:

Altruism & Service

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[Jen]

Q:

How do service expectations impact labor in LIS?

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[Jen]

Share personal experiences and overall ideas?

[Add in our thoughts here:]

Jen:

Veronica:

Jo

Service through a
white patriarchal lens

[Jo]

When we examine service through the lens of white patriarchy, which elevates whiteness, reinforces the gender binary and prioritizes masculinity, we can see the ways in which service can be harmful. White supremacy work culture impacts the performance and expectation of service. In their work, “Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups”, Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun list characteristics that show up in our organizations and replicate white supremacy and institutional oppression. These characteristics include paternalism, individualism, power hoarding, and quantity over quality.

Service through a
white patriarchal lens

  • hierarchical
  • exploitative
  • facilitates power imbalance
  • reinforces existing structures

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[Jo]

Service through a white patriarchal lens is hierarchical and exploitative. It reinforces existing power structures and imbalances. LIS scholar Lisa Sloniowski talks about the over-emphasis of librarians as service providers, which devalues the intellectual work and emotional labor librarians do within academia. She borrows the term SHADOW LABOR from Roxanne Shirazi. Our work is integral to reproducing the academy, in terms of the teaching, information organization/discoverability/evaluation, and affective labor that we do, but it is done is such a way that no one acknowledges it or values it. It is simply expected.

This parallels models of dominant and subordinate groups, where dominant groups are completely unaware of the work done by subordinates to keep them comfortably in power--and unaware of the power structures all together.

Roxanne Shirazi also describes the status shield, which was originally coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild. In librarianship, whiteness creates a status shield that is not granted to workers with marginalized identities. Thereby, those who are not protected by their whiteness, or other identities granted power like being cis, hetero, and/or male, are more likely to be exploited, harassed, or abused by those they are expected to “serve”.


TP:

Let’s talk about hidden labor.

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[Jo]

Explore intersections of identity and shadow labor and expectations of service.

Jen:

Veronica

Jo

Service as

Intersectional & Feminist

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[Sofia]

Conversely, there are LIS scholars who try to reimagine service as an intersectional feminist practice

Roma Harris’ Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession is a deep exploration of the feminization of librarianship and our continual effort to find power, prestige, and really just plain old respect in the misogynistic world in which we live and the patriarchal constructions of work. She argues that our profession is feminized, not feminist, despite the opportunity we have, as a workforce predominantly staffed by women , to create a profession that embodies feminist practice.

Service as

Intersectional & Feminist

  • egalitarian
  • rooted in an ethic of care
  • facilitates social justice
  • dismantles existing power structures

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[Sofia]

Scholars like Maria Accardi, Shana Higgins...others? Present an idea of service in librarianship rooted in an ethic of care, a spirit of egalitarianism, and a strong commitment to social justice. There is opportunity in the service work we do is to dismantle existing power structures and create a new version of the profession that values everyone for the work they do and seeks to empower rather than exploit.

Q:

How can we make this version of service happen?

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[Sofia]

Veronica

Jo

Jen

If not service, then what?

[Veronica]

Jen:

Veronica

Jo

Thanks!

Any questions?

[Veronica]

Credits

Special thanks to all the people who made and released these awesome resources for free:

  • Presentation template by SlidesCarnival
  • Photographs by Unsplash
  • Watercolor textures by GraphicBurguer

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What We’re Reading

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brown, adrienne maree. Emergent Strategy : Shaping Change, Changing Worlds . Chico, CA: AK Press, 2017.

Brown, Jennifer, and Leung, Sofia. “Authenticity vs. Professionalism: Being True to Ourselves at Work” in Pushing the Margins, ed. Rose Love Chou and Annie Pho (California: Library Juice Press, forthcoming 2018).

Ettarh, Fobazi. “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves.” In The Library With The Lead Pipe, (2018). http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/vocational-awe/

Francis, Miranda, and Dallas Wingrove. “More than a Feeling: Reflecting on Identity and the Reality of Practice Through a Library and Academic Development Collaboration.” Journal of the Australian Library & Information Association 66, no. 1 (March 2017): 42–49.

Harris, Roma M. Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession. Information Management, Policy, and Services. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Pub. Corp., 1992. https//catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002598895.

Hicks, Deborah. “Advocating for Librarianship: The Discourses of Advocacy and Service in the Professional Identities of Librarians.” Library Trends 64, no. 3 (2016): 615–40. https://doi.org/10.1353/lib.2016.0007.

What We’re Reading

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Hicks, Deborah. “The Construction of Librarians’ Professional Identities: A Discourse Analysis.” Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences 38, no. 4 (December 2014): 251–70.

Miller, Jean Baker. Toward a New Psychology of Women. 2nd ed. edition. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

Muñoz, Trevor. “In Service? A Further Provocation on Digital Humanities Research in Libraries.” Dh+lib Mini-Series (an ALA ACRL Blog) (blog), June 4, 2013. http://acrl.ala.org/dh/2013/06/19/in-service-a-further-provocation-on-digital-humanities-research-in-libraries/

Schlesselman-Tarango, Gina. “The Legacy of Lady Bountiful: White Women in the Library.” Library Trends 64, no. 4 (September 13, 2016): 667–86. https://doi.org/10.1353/lib.2016.0015.

Shirazi, Roxanne. “Reproducing the Academy: Librarians and the Question of Service in the Digital Humanities.” Roxanne Shirazi (blog), July 15, 2014. https://roxanneshirazi.com/2014/07/15/reproducing-the-academy-librarians-and-the-question-of-service-in-the-digital-humanities/.

Sloniowski, Lisa. “Affective Labor, Resistance, and the Academic Librarian,” 2016. http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/31500.

GSISC Panel Presentation 2018 - Deconstructing Service - Google Slides