Reset & Return to my Core Values

I gave my notice! First, a little history and how I ended up here.

For several months (even the last year or two, really), I’ve been struggling. I’ve had a hard time putting this struggle into words for a number of reasons. In short: I’m burnt out. Just this week, WHO made burnout an actual medical diagnosis and I feel like it is all too timely. My own burnout has caused me anxiety, depression, and fear for way too long. But I’ve (finally) made small, incremental decisions that led me to this point where I feel I’m truly resetting my priorities and returning to my core values, not just professionally, but personally. I’m in some kind of chrysalis phase where nothing is quite stable and that has taken me some time to accept and even celebrate. What can I learn by celebrating this space I’m in and this break I’m taking?

The answer is: A lot. More, if I am willing to occupy that space whole heartedly.

So, in a few weeks time, I will quit my job and move (likely to Tucson, unless one last interview pans out elsewhere). This will be the first time I am moving somewhere without a new job/school lined up first. It’s the first time I’m prioritizing something other than my career in well over a decade. It’s not because I HAVEN’T had other professional opportunities–in the last two years I’ve had two great job offers that I turned down (for one reason or another). It’s not that I didn’t want those jobs, it’s that I’m learning (the hard way) that I cannot bank on my job being my only source of happiness. Quality of life, making room for family, creativity, community, and home all matter to me as well.

I’ve grown here in the last three years, that is undeniable. I learned a lot about the kind of librarian and leader I want to be and the kind of librarian and leader I *don’t* want to be based on the models I’ve had. I’ve learned that short-sighted and risk-averse leadership will kill morale faster than anything else. I’ve learned that faculty partners who trust me to create new assignments with them, tell me I’ve transformed their teaching practices, and appreciate me are incredible allies and friends. I’ve learned that if you have a boss who refuses to allow you to have an ally at the table, it’s time to leave and take your gifts elsewhere. I’ve learned that listening to students, caring and advocating for them isn’t that hard. I’ve learned that I can say, “No” and still maintain positive working relationships, unless that person I’m saying, “No” to is toxic and misogynistic. I’ve learned a lot about the values I hold dear and embody in my work. I’m not going to let go of those values or these lessons as I transition into a new phase of my life.

I’ve been carrying around a lot of grief and trauma for the last two years, and in reality probably even longer. This fact has been looming over this whole process of coming to terms with leaving a job that I do love behind because it is eroding my mental and physical health. But, it’s my work that I love, not the culture I have to constantly fight against. Throughout this process of reckoning with grief, trauma, and workplace dissatisfaction, I’ve felt like my life is falling apart at times–something I’ve worked SO HARD for is failing me in a pretty significant way. The story I’ve told myself, more often, is that I’m failing and for a perfectionist that is a hard pill to swallow, to say the least. But I’ve realized that I have to fall apart to see what’s left and to better understand what’s important. And, I’m not perfect and I don’t have to be.

So, what are my values that I’m moving forward with and cultivating more of in my life?

Care. Social justice. Creativity.
Community. Autonomy.
Critical Generosity. Queerness.

If you’ve known me for a bit and/or worked with me in any capacity, you’ll know that these values are present in my work and influence the way I navigate the world in general.

Now, a little about the dream. I envision finding work with people who share most, if not all, of my values. Maybe not in libraries. Maybe not right away. But eventually. I also hope to find a place where I can focus on the more creative and community-driven work that I feel compelled to do. I plan to do what I can to grow my own community intentionally and have a life outside of work. Being in a small college town has been awkward for me, so I’m excited to be in a bigger city with more than one employer to choose from, but hopefully the right employer none-the-less.

I am resisting the urge to give myself too many goals or too much structure during this time, so I can really reset and recenter those values, read, write, make things, and spend time with family and friends, as well as alone. I’m thinking of this as a sabbatical, for the most part, where I’ll focus on the work that really matters most to me. I’ll continue to work on professional committees I’m a part of, continue developing an exciting resource just for (and alongside) my fellow creative, critical, feminist librarians, and I’m going to launch the Outspokin’ & Bookish bike project I’ve been dreaming of for a decade–soon.

I’m just happy that I realized I don’t have to stay somewhere that isn’t allowing me to fully live and enact my values in my work.  I’m excited to see where this leads, but I’m more excited to cut my own path, not continue down one that promotes chronic stress. If you want to support me in some way, reach out, buy a pin from my Etsy, recommend me for paid workshops, etc. Just…don’t question my decision or project capitalist views my way. ❤





Welcome, 2018.

It’s January 1st, 2018. In another year, I’ll have a whole new set of memories, trauma, accomplishments, and milestones to look back on. Right now, it’s full of potential. Even my tarot cards said so.

2017 wasn’t the year I had hoped it would be, but it wasn’t all bad, either. Rarely is anything truly that black and white. This is a good thing to keep in mind as I venture into another day, week, month, year–whatever it may be. Today is just one day. This year was just one year. But a lot happened. Here are the highs and the lows:

Professional accomplishments:

  • I published my very first book chapter or “scholarly” work in the Feminist Reference Desk.
  • I co-authored an article called Break the Stereotype: Critical Visual Literacy in Art and Design Librarianship. While I wrote/co-authored a couple of other articles this last year, this one was the one I was most proud of.
  • I was invited to speak on having difficult conversations, safe spaces, and brave spaces in our learning environments at an the Arizona Archives Alliance Summit, alongside some truly amazing and generous folks.
  • The Women/Trans/Femme Maker Nights that I started a year ago are gaining momentum and support and this year we were able to take a small group of students (and one alum) to the Women in TechMakers conference in Tucson. This was by far one of the most gratifying experiences of the year.
  • I participated in this amazing, new Art+Feminism podcast (/rant) and conversation with fellow Art Librarians.


Personal accomplishments:

  • I got married to my sweet, amazing human of a partner AND our wedding was stress-free/debt-free.
  • I planned and hiked for 5 days and 45 miles in the Grand Canyon. This was, no joke, the hardest thing I have ever done physically.
  • I managed to save the most money I have ever been capable of saving on my own, despite some surprise expenses along the way.
  • I’ve found some truly amazing people in the faculty at NAU.


Favorite places:

  • Anza Borrego State Park for the super bloom last Spring. It was incredible and probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, given the drought we’re having this year.
  • Denver for New Year’s last year.
  • White Sands Desert and Gila National Forest for fun.
  • New Orleans for ARLIS/NA last year. I got to hang out with my dearest Art Library pals and learn.
  • Lake Tahoe for camping and swimming. Showing my partner my favorite place on earth was definitely a highlight.
  • Edge-of-the-World/Sedona camping. We don’t have to look very far to get out and enjoy nature.
  • San Francisco/Oakland where I took a book art class with Julie Chen!



  • The Women’s March here in Flagstaff.
  • I joined the Southerners on New Ground organization with a large donation from Libeyrian pin sales.
  • I donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center with pin sale proceeds throughout the year.
  • I did one of those goofy fundraisers on Facebook for SPLC, too. Thanks for donating, friends.
  • I donated to a local group in need of supplies to get their message out.
  • I spoke on multiple occasions in my community about using creativity in activist work and encouraged it at every opportunity.
  • Hosted one Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and it was the most successful one I’ve been a part of.


The challenges:

  • My grandfather who raised me passed away somewhat abruptly and it became increasingly difficult not to cry in public.
  • Our political climate also makes it more difficult not to cry in public.
  • Feeling isolated and missing a sense of community for a good part of the year, this might be tied to depression, too.
  • My mentor left for a new job mid-year and while she’s still a phone call away, I miss having her as a boss/seeing her daily.


In looking back at 2017, it would appear that I’ve had a lot of positives, but those few challenges are significant. In reflecting on the year, I cannot ignore those life events and how they impacted me. Luckily, I have the privilege and access to decent insurance and also found a good therapist to deal with some of the muck I’ve been trudging through. I have much to be grateful for and to look forward to this coming year. Here’s to triumph, personal/professional growth, adventures, moments of respite, more activism, more LOVE and community building in 2018.


Cultivating Courage in our Professions and Communities (w/Brave Spaces)

Cultivating Courage In our Professions & Communities

In October of 2017, I was invited to give the presentation “Cultivating courage in our professions and our communities” at the Arizona Archives Alliance Summit. 

This presentation was and is meant to challenge the ideas that libraries and archives are “safe” and “neutral” spaces. Instead, I believe libraries and archives perpetuate social injustice by clinging to these norms and I hope we can all do better to cultivate courage in ourselves, our organizations, and our professions through promoting, having and normalizing social justice dialogue in all that we do.

I want to first acknowledge that I could not and have not done this work alone. These four people have been engaged with this work alongside me every step of the way and they have my sincerest gratitude.

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The unique differences of safe and brave spaces, as well as their respective values in our institutions, cannot be ignored. It’s important to question safe space practices, without actually questioning the SAFETY of individuals or groups who may be targets of hate and microaggressions. A few years ago I came across the concept of brave spaces, thanks to a former colleague at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s center for multicultural and diversity studies, named Ashley Ray.

In the foundational article “From safe spaces to brave spaces: A new way to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice” Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens write that through exploring critical questions around safe spaces they came to realize that the approach to initiating social justice dialogues should not be to convince participants that risk can be removed from the equation, this is simply impossible. Instead, they proposed revising the language, shifting away from the concept of safety and emphasizing the importance of bravery, to help students better understand — and rise to — the challenges of genuine dialogue on diversity and social justice issues. Unexamined, safe space norms can cause more issues and do more harm than good but they still have a place in our society, given the fact that we all require some breaks from the work that comes with social justice education (both as learners and teachers). Safe spaces provide a place where you feel understood by others, can be a place of renewal or retreat. Brave spaces ask us to engage in uncomfortable conversations in order to learn to do better. Accountability is essential to brave spaces, including: accepting responsibility for one’s actions and the repercussions, willingness to name and challenge oppressive ideas, and recognizing how one’s identity (and privilege) impacts group dynamics.

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My own teaching and library philosophy is deeply rooted in feminist pedagogy and the work of bell hooks, who has also discussed safe spaces and courage in the classroom in Teaching to Transgress, as well as in this conversation with Laverne Cox.

So, as bell hooks states, cultivating risk and love is how learning can take place. She is an exemplar of someone who practices critical generosity.

The library is sometimes viewed as and referred to as the heart of campus and this resonates with me. This is partly because it reminds us that the library is a central, core function to academia. We send out the blood and the information that turns into knowledge that helps our community thrive and succeed. The heart is the strongest muscle in the body. Not only this, but the heart is where we derive our compassion and courage from, which is what drives advocacy and social justice work in libraries and beyond.

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Colleges and universities must be a protective space for the promotion of democratic ideals, civic values and critically engaged citizenship.

To this end, I worked with the four faculty I mentioned earlier to host an event in the library on safe and brave spaces last year, with a focus on developing norms for difficult dialogue, as a group. The faculty and I then developed our own, contextual definition of what a brave space could look like (below) based on the experience of working with the 50+ students, faculty, and staff who attended the event. Overall, the event was positive and students and faculty expressed that they would like to see more of this kind of activity in the library.

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It’s important to establish guidelines, ground rules, and group norms in whatever context you’re having a conversation around social justice issues. This can be done by a group, by facilitators of a conversation, or by a combination of the two. Allowing time and space to collectively establish and shape group norms is more in line with feminist and critical pedagogy, and social justice education.

At our event we took common Safe space guidelines and worked in groups to reframe them, discussed them, and brought our ideas to the larger group. Thinking about both the intent of the safe space guideline and the typical outcome helped with the reframe.

One example of a safe space guideline: Agree to Disagree
Intent: Respect everyone’s opinion
Outcome: People check out when challenged
Brave Space Guideline: Controversy with Civility – go ahead and engage, and don’t dehumanize others while doing so

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These guidelines are critical. Barbara Fister recently stated in her Inside Higher Ed piece called “A necessary footnote: when we say everyone is welcomed here there’s a self-excluding exception” that, “You can’t invite people into your library so they can announce, ‘guess what, you’re not welcome here, and we want you gone.’ You can’t give these folks that platform in hopes that we’ll all understand their perspectives better so we can reason with them and maybe change their minds. That’s not what they want. They want a library where some people are not welcome.”

This goes for our conversations, too. This is not a place for white supremacy or bigotry of any kind.

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This may feel intimidating, depending on your context and culture. As noted earlier, calling out oppression can be an uncomfortable process and has often been an unsafe thing for marginalized people to do. When this process is not modeled for us, or even discouraged, by our supervisors and administrators it makes it harder to have these conversations.

I’ve received a number of negative responses when raising issues in my workplace as well as in one professional organization, when challenging white supremacy in particular. Part of this work involves being the model that we don’t see around us and taking necessary risk, though it may feel isolating and scary to do so.

Finally, what if we get it wrong? What if we say something that hurts someone?

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Bell hooks writes “If we fear mistakes, doing things wrongly, constantly evaluating ourselves, we will never make the academy a culturally diverse place where scholars and the curricula address every dimension of that difference.”

It’s okay to say the wrong thing, own your impact, and move on. I’ve been nervous to say and do the wrong thing (particularly as a white librarian), but this willingness to engage is the only way out of that.

If you are waiting for someone to give you permission to start conversations, or even just participate please go ahead and give yourself that permission, because nobody else will.

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Libraries and archives have core professional values, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, our institutions have separate values, and our personal values may or may not align with either, depending on how professional and institutional values play out as part of our environmental culture. I see no disconnect with the written values of my profession or institution but I have observed that they often do not play out as I believe they should. We can help shape our culture by talking and reflecting more deeply as well as doing what is within our professional purview to effect positive change.

I say all of this at a time when normalizing and ignoring what is going on socially and politically is dangerous. It is especially dangerous for the communities we reside in and work with. We have to acknowledge and grapple with social issues with our colleagues, with our students, and with our administrators. The brave space event was great, but it was not a one-off event. I incorporate brave space ideals into much of the programming and instruction that I do beyond that, including the Art+Feminism wikipedia edit-a-thons and the Women/Trans/Femme maker nights that I facilitate monthly. In my classes, I don’t avoid talking about political issues and their impact, such as Trump’s decision on DACA and the mental health implications for immigrants as a means for teaching information literacy. We need more spaces where vulnerable students are not only respected, but centered in the conversation.

I plan to continue these conversations with compassion for those who are most vulnerable and an understanding that they are hurt and angry, as many of us are and should be. 

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Mapping Frameworks and Standards for Critical Creative Literacy

Teaching information literacy within the art and design context can be challenging. Some hold the notion that art IS information, while others not so much. Visual information, regardless of whether you see art as information, requires an audience and creators that are visually literate. But are the same concepts outlined in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy (2015) applicable to the visual literacy standards?

December 2nd, 2015, I completed a map between the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy and the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards (2011) to make connections and identify the overlap and discrepancies between the two. I wanted to use this mapping to inform my instructional design and address the research needs of students and faculty within art and design disciplines. This mapping also built on the work of Amanda Hovious, who had mapped the former ACRL Info Lit standards to the Framework. I revised her mapping because if there is one thing I learned in this process, it’s that this mapping, while useful to me, is highly subjective and contextual. There is a great deal of overlap within the framework threshold concepts, which was intentional in their design, but makes direct links to other standards a bit of a challenge. To keep it simple I only mapped the standards to one frame, but taught in another way, certain visual literacy standards could potentially help students gain an understanding of other framework threshold concepts as well. This document was created as a result of my work with a Graphic Design instructor and her class in 2015, which I presented on at ARLIS in March 2016.

Should you want to do something similar I would encourage using my map as a jumping off point to create your own map because it will be more in line with your context, teaching methods, and deepen your understanding of the framework concepts within your community–as it did mine. I found great benefit, as an instructor, in this exercise as I’m always trying to foster a more reflective practice in my work.

Overall, I would say that the visual literacy standards are more in line with the Framework than one would initially think. They are also more critical than the former information literacy standards (2001), which I believe is because they were developed 10 years after and librarianship has been moving in a more critical direction.

There are a few folks out there who are working towards visual literacy and/or art and design threshold concepts. Here’s an example I really love related to photography. And another. Here’s one more, an older example that’s a little more broadly defined.


I’m of the camp that art and design products are information, and like all information, they are created and disseminated by people. How ideas are communicated through any kind of information product or conversation depends on the author’s/creator’s skill set, bias, worldview, intention, and so on, thus relying on their knowledge practices and dispositions (part of threshold concepts). This all may very well end up being part of a framework that I’m working on with colleagues, but we have yet to incorporate resources outside of the professional library documents I noted above.

I’m very interested in how all of these ideas, threshold concepts, professional standards and critical pedagogy can be combined to work towards a critical creative literacy document (or tool? Product?) that could appeal to art/design faculty and students in higher ed. I’m working towards that.

Artists’ Statements and Mind Mapping

Art and design students are almost always asked to write about their work, in the form of an artists’ statement, at some point in their academic career. This is a skill that is crucial as they move from student to professional, practicing artist because it gives them the opportunity to reflect on their work, share concepts and develop their authority in their field, and, very importantly, discuss how their work builds on the work of others who share similar themes and/or processes. I developed a mind mapping lesson for studio artists and students to help write an artists’ statement around a body of work; it’s especially helpful for those working on their thesis or BFA show.

First, in developing this lesson I considered a few key ideas, the ACRL Framework concepts and Visual Literacy Standards. I’ve been working with a group of fellow art librarians on describing the framework in an art context; here is a little of what we have for Scholarship as a Conversation (1), Authority is Constructed (2), and Research as Inquiry (3, vaguely) as it relates to this assignment:

1. Art is an expression of “new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations” (Framework). Creative work is a way for you to enter this “on-going conversation” and contribute to the discourse. By “providing attribution to relevant previous research,” (Framework) you not only participate in the conversation, but help move it forward. Therefore, it is important to recognize the contributions of other thinkers in order to contextualize your work and place it in relation to the larger context of art history and ideology.
2. Your work, be it visual or printed, formal or informal, reflects your expertise and credibility. While you are the authority on your own creative work, it is shaped by the context in which work is presented or used. Additionally, there are many different types of authority to acknowledge and grapple with, including professional experience, subject expertise, and public office. When incorporating others’ work, for inspiration or as a resource, it is important to critically consider and evaluate the authority of those creators and their contributions to your field or discipline.
3. Continually asking increasingly complex or new questions can inspire future lines of inquiry for creative work (Framework). To further enrich your work, strive to consider every possible solution and angle one can approach a creative project from (Design thinking). It is important to brainstorm  ideas that are both possible and impossible, as well as challenge any of your own or others’ assumptions or bias that may arise in this process. Self-reflection and the critical evaluation of ideas will help you synthesize what you have learned to deepen your understanding, interpret meaning in your work and others’, and help you create informed artwork and design solutions.

Design thinking is a very important part of this process, in terms of mind mapping and general ideation for artists and designers. I wanted to include it in our description because it plays such an important role and is an embedded part of what artists and designers do on a daily basis and it is a desirable trait for many professions within and outside of the arts.

During the one-shot it may be tempting to show students how to incorporate research into their artists’ statements by simply showing them how to find examples of artists’ statements (such as the ones found in exhibition catalogs) that they can model, but I would encourage taking it further. In order to really push for deeper, critical thinking, I wanted to address the above concepts through mind mapping and class discussion.

Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade, had recently been released and the MICA Libguide, developed by Jenny Ferretti, was inspiring to me at the time of this lesson development. Though I’ve facilitated similar lessons previously, I always struggled to find the right artist to model for the class exercise. Until, Beyoncé.

I started the lesson by asking students where they were in the process of writing their statements to go with their body of work; they were in varying stages of the research and writing process. We then talked about the importance of the “conversation” and the contextualization of their work within an existing conversation. Each student had a handout with a sample, blank mind map for their reference and the guiding question of “Who is your work in conversation with and how are you building on the contributions they have made in your field?”

In order to model the process of researching while building a mind map I introduced the activity. As soon as I said “If Beyoncé were writing her artists’ statement on Lemonade…” I had their full attention. We focused on a few (there are many, as noted in the Lemonade LibGuide) of the people, cultures, and artworks that have been identified as a component of the album: Warsan Shire, Yoruba people, Octavia Butler, and Pipilotti Rist (Ever is Over All).

As a class we searched these artists in the Library catalog, databases, and online to identify relevant themes, techniques, criticism (of contribution to the field or theme/movement) of their work and made notes on the board. Students were quick to identify the connections between all of these artists and Queen Bey’s album. We discussed how they would do this exact thing when searching for artists and ideas that have inspired their work and practice.

Overall, this felt like the most successful rendition of this lesson and the student reaction was very positive (thanks to the pop culture reference) and engagement was high; it felt like they really “got it” based on how they articulated how they’d approach researching for their statements and the work/worksheet they started in class.


Visual Literacy/Culture and Critical Librarianship

Last week I had the opportunity to moderate a chat on something I’ve become more and more interested in: Visual literacy and culture AND critical pedagogy. It was a very lively chat and I was happy to see so many art librarians join in, many for the first time. I started this blog post before the chat and have been chewing on it in small doses ever since, but here goes.

The chat, which is archived here, was meant to help us [librarians] define visual literacy within our contexts and look at the ways critical librarianship can address the unique way visual information can impact and influence critical perspectives on the culture we live in. From signage in the library to image use and creation in academia visual information wields significant power in our spaces. We’ll discuss how we teach ourselves how to identify critical issues in visual culture, how we raise awareness of these issues, and how we teach visual literacy alongside information literacy.

I wanted to take a little extra time to unpack each of the questions I posed during the chat since I am very interested in this topic and 140 characters is just never enough.

Q1 How do you define visual literacy and how does visual lit impact and influence our library spaces, intellectually/physically?

In order to define visual literacy I have to think back to when I first learned about it, as an undergraduate art education major. This was before the term “information literacy” ever entered my brainspace, also. I learned that this was something of importance to k-12 students and was especially applicable to the visual arts. Visual literacy and critical thinking went hand in hand, as I developed art lesson plans on everything from political comics to mask-making.

According to the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards it can be defined as, “a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.”

The article Visual Literacy Standards in Higher Education: New Opportunities for Libraries and Student Learning further explains that “In the past decade, definitions of visual literacy have incorporated new language and shifts in meaning, reflecting changes in technology, increasing interdisciplinary image use, and the importance of visual media in contemporary culture, particularly as a communication tool.”

In visual arts, as I learned it (over ten years ago), VL strongly relates to understanding principles and elements of art but I’ve come to a new understanding of the term as I’ve experimented with it in conjunction with information literacy in an Art and Design school context/as a librarian. Understanding visual literacy to be just as interdisciplinary as information literacy (that is it literally applies to every discipline) comes with understanding that visual information is an increasingly important communication tool. Visual elements have potential to influence the intellectual spaces we inhabit as librarians: How we use visuals may help and hinder learning, accessibility, and approachability. Learning to read visually alongside textually can really deepen understanding of important concepts at any stage, which is why we are seeing more and more graphic novel text books and examples of teaching with graphic novels. I believe visual information also has the potential to impact our library spaces through physical means: Signage, creating more visual handouts, book displays, spacial design, website design, etc.

Q2 What are some critical issues related to visual info and how can #critlib raise awareness of these issues?

There are many: Just as information literacy requires thorough evaluation of authority and context, so does visual information. I recently taught a student workshop that a colleague and I developed on developing characters in a way that was anti-stereotypical and anti-oppressive by first talking about and reflecting on examples that were already out in the world. Often times, characters are developed based on source and reference photos, so we talked about the value of considering the creator of the photo/image, bias that may exist, and the context or history in which it was created. Just as we look for bias in scholarly information, it is important to identify bias in visual information. It is also valuable to consider what and who is NOT included in visual materials, and the actual creation of those visual materials, we consume while also being mindful of how we portray others in visual representations we produce.

Others in the chat brought up the need to raise the visibility of hidden collections through digitization, exhibits, and cataloging. Zines, artists’ books, and artwork are obvious visual materials that are prime for raising awareness of critical issues through visual means within the library.

Q3 How have you learned of critical issues w/in visual culture/how do you share visual lit-related skills/concepts with colleagues?

As I said, I learned as an undergraduate art education major, and started looking very critically, and closely, at the ways our culture is saturated in visual information.  I’d like to do more with sharing this knowledge with colleagues because it isn’t taught in library school and hasn’t been discussed much in library literature. I hope to have some peer-to-peer discussions and workshops at my new job in the near future.

During a recent author reading I attended the author (a POC) briefly touched on how challenging it is to get a person of color on the cover of a book and it was important to him to find a publisher who would ensure this would not be an issue, since his books focus on diverse characters. This may be important when selecting books and displaying books. Beyond lack of inclusion there are also issues of image manipulation, such as changing skin tone, photoshopping models and perpetuating unrealistic/harmful body images, etc.

Librarians do educate one another more often than we may realize when visual misrepresentations come up within our profession–for example:


In April of last year, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) released the above poster in honor of Banned Books Week, which is one of ALA’s most important initiatives. Libraries of all shapes and sizes participate by creating programming for all ages, sponsoring read-outs, creating book displays, and launching social media campaigns to raise public awareness of and fight censorship that infringes on First Amendment rights, particularly the freedom to read anything. Many libraries also promote these efforts through displaying the official poster, bookmarks, and swag that OIF sells through the ALA store. The woman featured in the poster holds a book up to her face and peers out at us through a red “Do Not Enter” sign, “Readstricted” scrawled in big bold letters below. This is meant to point to censorship and raise awareness. However, in combination with the model’s brown skin and dark features the design raised several eyebrows as well.

The moment this poster was released to the library community there was a great deal of anger, discomfort, and disappointment. Many felt that the poster is Islamaphobic and oppressive; many feared it would alienate our Islamic patrons should they see these posters hanging in their library. Librarians initially took to their blogs and twitter where they, both Muslim and not, noted that the red “Do Not Enter” sign resembled a burqa or niqab, traditional veils worn by Muslim women. The text “Warning: Banned Books Restricts our Freedom to Read” had strong potential to feed into existing stereotypes about Muslim and Islamic women. The petition, which led to the eventual removal of the poster, got at the heart of the issue by stating that the poster seems to “equate Islam with censorship, and Muslim women as victims.”

This is visual literacy in action and librarians fought to change a negative representation immediately. The message and the context really made this poster more harmful than good. The value of looking, critically, at our visual materials within the profession and within our culture is an important part of what we do and is in line with information literacy as well. Yet, not many are talking about how or why we need to be doing this more often/intentionally.

Q4 How do you teach or address specific visual literacy concepts/issues within your community and library?

(ex: critiquing persuasive or manipulative strategies in image production, meaning, message, cultural and historical factors relevant to production of image)?

I share VL lessons through library workshops (like the one mentioned above), through creating impactful printed media for instruction, through considering user experience and, especially, considering the varied experiences and learning styles/strengths of those I am working with. Critical/feminist pedagogy is about considering our students as whole individuals and I try to think through my use of visual information in terms of how it will help students learn and try to avoid visual information that may simply complicate learning. Even when I’m not teaching VL directly I am considering how I use visual information and hope that it can serve as a model to others. I also created a mapping between the ACRL Framework and VL standards to help connect the dots between the two and help bridge VL standards across disciplines/contextualize the framework for the visual art students I currently work with.

In my future blog posts I intend to share examples of VL and IL successful lessons, instruction strategies, and collaborative projects. Stay tuned!

Scholarship as (an inclusive) Conversation?

Recently, I’ve come across a lot of readings that have triggered thoughts on the ACRL Framework concepts, particularly Scholarship as Conversation. To get a less heady overview of what this concept means, check out this video:

As much as I’ve embraced the Framework in how I’ve let it inform my instruction and work with students, I’ve also questioned how these ideals play out in the real world, in the wild. I know that there are mixed feelings about resources that allow for participation and open dialog–Wikipedia comes to mind. The video makes it all sound so simple, and yes, it can be simple if you ignore the underlying issues involved with actually participating in scholarly dialog. One of the dispositions of this frame is that learners should “recognize that systems privilege authorities and that not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage.” This brings us to the academic publishing model and why students aren’t making the immediate connection that they, too, can participate in scholarly conversations.

David Wiley recently published an article entitled Eminent Open Access: A Little Thought Experiment in which he discusses many issues (and possible solutions) with the academic publishing model, how this slows innovation and advancement, and how it excludes scholars from reading even their own peers’ work or having access to their work at a later date:

If she [the academic author] hoped to keep her job, she was forced to give away – literally give away – any and all rights to her own work so that journals could charge outrageous sums of money to prevent most people from reading it. Adding insult to injury, the journal then also charged the author to purchase back copies of her own words, which of course were no longer hers but now the sole ‘property’ of the publisher. (And did I mention she also has to serve as a volunteer reviewer for the journal in order to meet her service obligations to earn tenure?) Today, authors have the privilege of not only doing all the research, writing all the words, and being volunteer review labor for the journal, but if they want to retain control over their writing they can also pay the journal $1500 – $3000 per article they publish. Makes you want to write more, doesn’t it?

A novice might see an opportunity to publish (because “publish or perish”) without realizing these ramifications and without questioning who or what their work could help should it be made more widely available. While prestige may outweigh innovation in some folks’ eyes, I’d encourage you to open up and look at how this holds your field back. By sharing new discoveries and ideas we can evolve and if you’re not trying to evolve, then what are you doing?

As a librarian, I see the value of providing more access across the disciplines and I’ve noticed a trend towards open knowledge databases across campuses. I was excited most recently by the Wired article on MIT’s Media Lab open access Journal of Design and Science or JoDS.

JoDS is run very differently from a traditional academic publication. There’s no anonymized peer-review process, and there’s no fee to access its contents. ‘We wondered what does an academic paper look like when it’s more about the conversation, and less about tombstones,’ Ito says, referring to a quote from Stewart Brand that likens formal academic publishing to burying ideas like the dead.

This publishing model allows for anyone to critically evaluate contributions made by others in a participatory information environment, where several disciplines intersect, overlap, inform. The MIT Media Lab has pushed an “antidisciplinary” approach to the new journal, stating that it’s “about working in spaces that simply do not fit into any existing academic discipline—a specific field of study with its own particular words, frameworks, and methods.” This project is very much in line with the idea that scholarship is a conversation and meant for all. Unlike platforms like Wikipedia (which do wonders for building public knowledge and engaging in these conversations!), you still have experts writing the articles, but the robust community-sourced feedback options allow for everyone to share ideas and argue their points, so long as you understand the discourse and language.

So my question is how do we get (more*) students, particularly traditionally underrepresented folks, to participate more in the conversations around this topic and encourage them to listen to the conversations that interest them most so that one day they can contribute to online learning/publishing environments? Not only that, but as they become experts in their field, so they can champion these open access and innovative approaches? My guess is that this video will not suffice in encouraging that level of understanding or action.

*I added this example of an awesome student-created platform for sharing diverse ideas and perspectives after my initial post


A Creative Manifesto

  1. Experiment (“live life like you’re collecting girl scout badges”)
  2. Question everything! And ask good questions.
  3. “Yes, and…” (take an idea and improve, grow, or foster its development)
  4. Find your weakness, acknowledge it, and challenge it.
  5. Say thank you for your moments of success.
  6. Say thank you for your failures.
  7. Keep a cabinet of curiosities and rearrange it often.
  8. Consider yourself part of the “conversation,” don’t wait to be invited.
  9. Go outside and play.
  10. Find your people.

#Critlib #feelings

This week’s critlib chat involves some homework, so here are some of my feels.

Why are you a critical librarian? Why do you identify with these ideas?

There isn’t a straight forward answer to either of these questions because there are so many reasons and places to start. I’ve always found value in caring for others and I’ve come to realize that recognizing others’ and my own humanity allows me to be most effective as a teaching librarian, possibly as a human too. I suppose this makes me a critical/feminist librarian, but I would say that while I identify with many ideas shared across the critlib community I do so to varying degrees and levels of understanding (I’m still learning!). I’m reading bell hooks and Paulo Freire and finding that a lot of what they have to say resonates with me and some of their ideas fit with my background in k-12 education, as a queer woman, and as a first generation college go-er, to name a few…

I really believe my role as a critical librarian is to provide opportunities for  learning and reflection, validate others’ experiences, challenge personal bias, and help shape the world into a place where I would like to live–free of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and all of the other “isms” that run rampant in our culture.

Why do you participate in these chats?

First. Solidarity. And community. There are certain things that are discussed via critlib that aren’t discussed in many work environments. For me, it’s helpful to have an engaged community to learn from and share ideas with outside of my colleagues. It’s good to have that one hour every couple of weeks to dedicate to thinking through really challenging issues with like-minded folks.

Second. The chats get me to think about my own experiences and how I might effect change in my own practice as a librarian; how can I improve what I’m doing and raise awareness in myself and others?

Thank you, to the critlib organizers and all of those who participate in some capacity. I’m grateful to continually learn from you and find inspiration through our conversations.