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IUB Critlib Reading Group 4

 ·  ☕ 4 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 fourth Indiana University Bloomington #critlib meeting was this past Tuesday 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:

“Black Lives Matter! Shedding library neutrality rhetoric for social justice”

In connection to Wallace & Pagowsky’s article:, some of the points that were discussed were:

  • One of the attendees mentioned how variable the impact and reactions were in various parts of the country—they recalled how, when they lived in NYC, Michael Brown’s murder occupied the news but the death of Eric Gardner was more significant for the local BLM movement.
  • Other attendees shared their experiences with how they had learned of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ways that it affected them
  • One, who was teaching college at the time, talked about how their Black students became politically active over the semester and how they tried to support that, as well as pushing white students by giving extra credit for attending BLM events.
  • There was discussion of
  • Talk about how you see something happened in the community and the way you said it become important to you in the country
  • Most of the students there expressed a desire to bring these sorts of perspectives into teaching one-offs but how difficult that was.
  • Another student said that they were preparing to teach this subject in the coming weeks in that this article would do a lot to inform them
  • One librarian discussed the experience of working in a large public library in the South & how the administration pushed them hard to be quote-unquote neutral.
    • Their union, however, was very vocal & stood up against the administration.
    • One particularly memorable moment was after a staff member was punished for wearing a pronoun button. The union wholeheartedly embraced the campaign in begin handing out buttons to staff and members of the public

Roxanne Shirazi

  • In talking about emotional labor, Shirazi says

Emotion work and, more specifically, affective labor, is often brought into conversation with care work, or domestic labor, but we can associate it with any occupation that has little tangible productivity measures but that requires workers to appear as though they love their job. All of these terms are related to digital labor in the sense that they are immaterial, and, taken together, they convey the many challenges that service work brings for those who must perform it.
This particular passage was mentioned several times as important because librarians are increasingly becoming therapists.

  • There was a long discussion about exactly what customer service looks like physically & how it affects a person’s behavior (passive) & how their voice changes (rises, lifts, higher pitch) how your pose is different (shoulders up , inclined back) and how this submissiveness happens especially around me.
  • One attendee compared the concept of Republican motherhood to reproductive labor as disicussed by Shirazi:

Reproductive labor is the domestic work of the home, the labor that reproduces the workforce and therefore contributes to the labor value of the waged worker and indirectly creates financial value for corporations
The fact that the scholarship is created by women therefore devalues it

  • (One attendee, in response): “No! Pay me! My work is valuable!”

Our next monthly meeting will be Tuesday March 31st, 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 me 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