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IUB Critlib Reading Group 3

 ·  ☕ 5 min read


Critlib is “library workers bringing social justice principles into our work in libraries and aiming to discuss critical perspectives on library practice. Recognizing that we all work under regimes of white supremacy, capitalism, and a range of structural inequalities, how can our work as librarians intervene in and disrupt those systems?" (from

The third Indiana University Bloomington #critlib meeting was this past Monday evening.

We began with the following acknowledgements:

  • Bloomington is on the ancestral lands and homes of the Shawnee peoples, as well as other native groups, that made their homes and lives here. They were forcefully relocated by the US government in the 19th century.
  • Bloomington and southern Indiana was home to the chattel enslavement of Black men, women, and children, including by a president of the United States of America who supported the legalization of slavery.
  • Indiana was one of the last states to give women equal voting rights. Indiana continues to be a home of grossly homophobic and anti-queer laws and regulations.

The articles that were discussed were:

In connection to Montoya’s article:, some of the points that were discussed were:

  • The classification of digital emergence was seen as a good idea. From the article, the goal of it is

to expose the biases inherent in the production of these digital objects. Digital emergence is defined here as the institutional (political, economic, and administrative) circumstances that prompted an analog object to be digitized (or a born-digital object to be reproduced) and subsequently included in a publicly accessible digital repository

  • One participant discussed at length what it was like to work as a digitization worker, and how much more they would feel like they owned the process if they were able to note their own contributions into the metadata.
  • Another point was raised that it would be useful to have this metric because it would be possible to measure how and why something was digitized over something else.
  • One attendee discussed her experience working through a film collection and noting that there was no space to explain how the film was damaged or what steps were taken to repair it for digitization.
  • The point was raised that some of these grants or requests were protected by confidentiality and that it might not/maybe should not be possible to note that.

In connection to the Caswell’s article, the following points were made:

  • How nice it is to see a forward and strong defense of feminist principals.
  • The WEB3CHAM model received the greatest discussion. From the article

“The white, ethnically European, bourgeois, Christian, heterosexual, able-bodied, male… adding to it “cis” and “citizen” as Marika Cifor suggests (to form “WEBCCCHAM”)

  • This was seen as a really useful model because the ‘trick’ that WEB3CHAM groups have played on the ‘rest’ of us is to make us think that we are the minoritized

  • “WEB3CHAM subjects are like a black hole, together their items and dispersing others materials around the library”

  • One example of this was how the section on gynecology (women examined from a largely male doctor’s perspective ) in LCSH was over three times bigger than the section dedicated to feminism.

The IUB critlib reading group also invites any cultural heritage worker or student to answer the questions that Caswell proposes in her article about a collection that they are working with or have worked with. The point of this exercise is to look at the collections that one works with in a different light and with a different purpose:

  1. How does my own standpoint relate to this collection? Is my standpoint one of oppressed or oppressor in relation to this collection and the community from which it emerges? Why does it matter in this specific case?
  2. What is the relationship between the institution or organization I represent and the community from which these records emerge in terms of power? Are there other institutions or organizations more closely aligned with that community that might make a more fitting home for the records?
  3. Do these particular records under consideration give us the perspectives of those who are oppressed? Do they give the perspective of those groups who are even further marginalized within an oppressed community?
  4. Can these particular records be activated by oppressed communities for more robust representation, for efforts to achieve justice or reparation, or for inspiration to imagine different futures?
  5. What is the affective impact of my appraisal decision on oppressed communities?
  6. What harm will be done to whom if these records are acquired and made accessible? What benefits to whom?
  7. Who is left out of archives generally and the records collected by this institution or organization more specifically? If we are to acquire this particular collection, who is left out? What is our position toward that omission?
  8. What records do not yet exist that should? Which omissions are purposeful silences and which omissions are the result of harm and neglect? How might we fill in these later gaps through the creation of new records?
  9. How will I make my labor and that of other archivists visible? How will I leave my fingerprints on the knowledge production process?

Our next monthly meeting will be Tuesday, February 25th, 2020, at 6:30PM EST at Soma East, in Bloomington. Current and graduate MLIS students, current professional or staff librarians, and educators are welcome.

Please contact briwats (a t) iu . edu with any questions or to be added to the mailing list.

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Brian M. Watson
Brian M. Watson
Archivist, Historian, Digital Humanist