For this blog post, I am choosing to write this from a more candid place, in hopes that people understand why change in library description is necessary. My last post talked about How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day, showing how there are outdated terms referencing Lee Krist’s identity in the catalog record. Those terms are still in the catalog record. My first post discussed how there are 0 results when you search “LGBT.” There are still zero results in Special Collections and Archives for that search. I started these posts as a way to facilitate the conversation about white supremacy in library settings, and to create some tangible ways to start addressing them.
I was initially hired by Special Collections to update the artists’ book inventory, focusing on the labeling of printmaking techniques, themes, and identities to make them more accessible. One of the first books I ever worked on was How to Transition on 63 cents a Day. I remember updating the SCA spreadsheet of search terms with every term I could think of, the first one of them was LGBT. These terms have yet to make it into the catalog record. It feels frustrating to me because I have been doing this kind of work since my first day in Special Collections, but it seems progress moves at a glacier’s pace.
Tackling systemic issues within universities and other similar institutions sometimes feels impossible. Contacting the right people, organizing multiple meetings to discuss an action plan, finding the resources to do so, etc. etc. etc. and all while following “proper protocol.” Following bureaucratic etiquette, more times than not, perpetuates a mess of red tape that always ensnares progress for marginalized communities.
Meetings are important. I understand that! I just want tangible progress, and the ability to keep track of what’s been done in this effort. In a predominately white cisgender heterosexual career and institution, meetings can often feel performative rather than action-based. So much has been written about performative allyship in the workplace when it comes to racism, feminism, and anti-queer sentiment. A recent Fortune article discusses performative allyship in workspaces, where organizations are “condemning racism through broad gestures but enabling its effects.”
We all acknowledge that prejudice is bad. We all acknowledge that we want to “get better.” But you don’t “get better,” you DO BETTER. We haven’t uplifted the community that these problems have affected, so how can we say that we’re addressing them? One of the most important parts of creating change is recognizing that no person or institution is perfect. True allyship doesn’t lie in perfection (OR POLITENESS); it lies in the ability to accept critique and take accountability, which is what I hope we can do as a division and as a library. Next week is our first meeting about this initiative, and I want to make this about ACTION, to “light a proverbial fire.”
I’m asking my division colleagues to do this “Privilege Check Game” prior to the meeting. We’d love for you to play along, and to think of one way that you can make your work more inclusive. This can be as big or as small as you want.
Privilege Check Game: Start with 10 fingers!
Put down a finger if…
…you’ve ever been called a slur?
…you’ve ever had to see the same slur you were called in a catalog record?
…you’ve searched your identity (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) and no results came up?
…you’ve ever had someone (actively) not address you by your name or pronouns at work?
…you’ve ever had your identity “explained” to you by someone not of that identity?
…you’ve ever had your identity affect how people behaved around/treated you?
…you’ve ever been anxious about your job status due to federal/state law?
…you’ve ever not spoken out in a situation for fear that you might get in trouble/people will think you’re overreacting?
…you’ve ever gotten frustrated when people use gendered language (guys, dude, sir/ma’am)?
…you’ve ever felt unwelcome in professional/academic spaces?
… you’ve ever had to switch the way you present yourself in different settings (appearance, clothes/style, language/speech, name/pronouns, etc.)
Inspiration for game: