Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gender and Leadership

Gender and leadership from librarianjessica

This post is a lot longer than what I normally published, but both Michelle Millet and I wanted to make our presentation as available as possible. We've been told that the recording of the webinar (of which our presentation was only part) will be made available and I'll update this post with a link when it is. Also, this post is identical to one that will be published on my presentation partner’s blog, Boss Lady Writes.

Slide 1:
[This slide was up while we were being introduced.]

Slide 2:
JO: We want to give you faces to put with the names, so... Hi, I’m Jessica Olin. I’m the Director of Library Services at Wesley College, a small liberal arts college in Dover, Delaware.

MM: I’m Michelle Millet. I’m the Director of the Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center at John Carroll University, a Jesuit liberal arts college in the Cleveland, OH suburbs.

JO: And we’re pleased to meet you.

Slide 3:
JO: So, I wanted to explain my path to library administration because it informs what we’re saying today. Although it’s my first actual career, I came to librarianship a little bit later than you might expect. I was in my early thirties by the time I got my first job in libraries and it was while I was still at that first gig that I got a taste of library administration. I ended up substituting on some campus committees for the director while she was out on maternity leave. And I have to tell you, I hated it. It wasn’t the added responsibilities. It was the obviously gendered behavior I saw. I remember this one meeting, where I was the only person not a man, and I made a suggestion. I was completely ignored until one of the men - who was a friend of mine outside the committee - spoke up for me. I don’t take kindly to being ignored, even now, and I hadn’t run into that behavior inside the library. That’s when I swore I’d never be a director. Flash forward about 5 years to when I learned about the disproportionate gender ratio in academic library administration. Even though men are only 20 to 25% of the profession, they make up 40 to 50% of administration. I’d had a lot more experience being ignored and speaking up for myself by that point. I was at a different college and had served on a lot more campus wide committees where it seemed de rigueur to ignore everyone not cismale and white. So when someone I admired suggested I would be a good library director, I was willing to consider it. I floated the idea of moving up into administration to my then director (a man who is still my mentor and who has become a friend), and he encouraged me. And here I am, more than three years into my first director job where to nobody’s surprise, I’ve dealt with gendered expectations. Anyway, that’s me in a nutshell.

Slide 4:
MM: I was pretty hesitant to get into management. I had a variety of deans and directors in my career, including strong women. I saw for myself that they weren’t treated the same way that the very strong man that I worked for was. Very early on in my career, I was told I was going to have to “reel it in.” Personally, I thought there was enough disrespect for me as a librarian (the idea that we’re not “real” faculty) that I didn’t really want to deal with that at even a higher level. But, after I got into middle management, I realized I could do this management thing and what I loved about it was encouraging people to do their best work. I’ve had to speak up for myself and for my staff a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’m not vocal enough but sometimes I also know that I can’t say certain things because I won’t be heard over the men in the room. It’s just reality. I try to model better behavior as a leader myself, which is all that I have the power to do. I also feel very strongly about perceptions of women as leaders and the expectations of me as a mother. I have two kids at home. I do not want to be the mom at work, even though I think that’s what is expected (or was when I was new).

Slide 5:
JO: We were invited to be part of this webinar because of an article we wrote, and we’ll talk more about that later, but we wanted to give you a head’s up about what we will and won’t be covering today. As you might have gathered from the title of this talk, we’re going to talk about gender and leadership and management. We’re also going to talk about the article, which is why that hashtag has been included. But we’re not going to talk about salary, except maybe as part of something else, like during a Q&A. There was information about salary with regards to gender, but we didn’t really touch on it in our essay - although I think it’s come up during our Twitter conversations.

Slide 6:
JO: I don’t remember the specifics, but sometime last year Michelle said something on Twitter that let me know she’d run into gendered expectations. So I shared some of my own experiences and suggested we write something about it.

MM: I think it took us some time to figure out what form this conversation was going to take for us. We kicked the idea around of a book of essays, but decided that an article in Lead Pipe would get the conversation started faster.

Slide 7:
JO: So that brings us to the article. We wrote this article in part for catharsis. It felt good to put our experiences into words and we wanted to do something to lessen or prevent others from having the same messed up experiences. We felt vindicated to see our preliminary assumptions echoed in the literature of multiple fields. But also, to be completely honest, we both had moments of doubt and of worry as we worked on this piece. We were scared that being this honest would come back to bite us.

MM: We were both pretty nervous the day it was published. (Which says something already, doesn’t it?)

Slide 8:
JO: So why did we write it anyway? Because we were angry. We were angry that these problems weren’t just ours. We were angry that even in a field that is seen as traditionally female, leaders who aren’t stereotypical cisgendered male and white are treated poorly. Also, like we’ve already said, we wanted to turn that anger into something useful.

Slide 9:
MM: So what did we learn? When we started doing research on this “gendered expectations” we were both floored at how MUCH was out there (in psychology literature, business literature, even in library literature). So, it seemed like to us like we’ve been talking about this in libraries forever but no one was DOING anything about it.

JO: Particularly infuriating was how it cuts both ways. Women are treated like two-headed alien things when we take charge, but also men are elevated and respected and followed even when they aren’t in charge and even when there is a woman who is in charge.

MM: So we partially wanted to put THAT out there. We’re talking and talking and talking. Let’s get angry together. Let’s break the system. Let’s get this out in front of everyone’s faces and make people uncomfortable. Even more infuriating and yet vindicating was how much we saw and heard our experiences reflected back when we spoke with colleagues and friends. Being told to be nicer; one woman told us she’d been told to “be soft, but not be too soft;” being expected to take notes at meetings - even when we were running them; being held to a completely different standard of behavior than male counterparts… these were all unbelievably common.

Slide 10:
MM: We don’t want to bore you by reading these aloud, but we really wanted to share some of the quotes we shared in the article. Infuriating, really, the stories we’ve been told.

Slide 11:
JO: And we left plenty out, especially from our own experiences. So many stories we heard or could tell for ourselves of being cut down or held back or thrown under the bus. So many times women are the ones treating us this way, which somehow hurts more than when it’s a man.

MM: We were both hoping the article would be a starting point.

JO: I know I wanted to take the bad and turn it into something good. After all I’d gone through, I wanted to make something to prevent or at least lessen what others would have to go through.

MM: Me too. As a leader, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t encouraging these stereotypes with people I managed. I really gained such empathy for my past library directors, especially strong women, because now I knew what they must have gone through.

JO: And we were both astonished to see this article that we wrote out of anger at the system and frustration with the status quo become something bigger. And it keeps moving forward.

Slide 13:
JO: This started because of social media connections, so it makes sense that’s where we’d continue to grow the most.

MM: We started the #libleadgender Twitter chats shortly after the article came out. The first was about the article. Then we’ve had people volunteering to host others about every two weeks or so. The next one is for May 3 at 3pm EDT and will be about feminist management and leadership and we’d love to see you there. We also had a meet up, based really on the people who were chatting on Twitter, at ALA Midwinter in Boston that was pretty great. It was great to put names to faces.

JO: We’re hoping to find other ways to grow online. We know this is resonating, and we believe it’s helping and we want to continue to help.

Slide 14:
MM: We’re trying to push further as well. We offered to pair people up as peer mentors and did get a couple of people to take us up on a formal pairing, but we’ve also been informally peer mentoring each other as a group.

JO: We also hope to have a panel session at ACRL 2017 in Baltimore. I submitted it a couple of weeks ago.
MM: But really, it’s all about supporting each other.

Slide 15:
JO: I don’t think it was a mistake, but more a regret. I really wish the article could have been longer. Michelle and I have very similar perspectives on this field, and we can’t speak to the experiences of minority women or genderqueer library leaders or disabled people and or others. Our experiences might be common, but they are not the only experiences to be considered.

MM: I wish I had more time and energy to devote to furthering the conversation.

Slide 16:
JO: We’ve already talked about our immediate plans, about twitter chats and in person conversations. But I want to see other people talking about it. This article was a call to action, and action is still needed.

MM: We want to keep #libleadgender moving, to keep talking about things that make us mad. We hope everyone will help push these ideas forward.

Slide 17:
JO: Here are the best ways to get in touch with us.

Slide 18:
JO: Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Interview Post: Netanel Ganin

Netanel Ganin

Current Job?
I work at Brandeis University as a cataloger (Hebrew specialty).

How long have you been in the field?
I got my first library job as a student employee in 2005, and my first professional job in 2009. I graduated Simmons College with my MLS in 2015.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
We have an open office which has its pros and cons. If you need to check-in about something real quick, it’s easy. The downside is that you hear everything that happens which can be awkward.

How do you organize your days?
I’m a proponent of task lists. I have weekly tasks, monthly tasks, and daily tasks, and three separate lists to keep track of them.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Well, on paper I split my time 70/30 between cataloging non-Hebrew language material, and Hebrew-language material. Certainly cataloging the Hebrew resources takes longer (less copy exists, the transliteration takes more time). Beyond the actual cataloging, I’ve recently been creating NACO/SACO (Hebrew/Judaica funnel) records, and taking on new projects as they come up. Some of those include: working with Zepheira/Atlas on a linked data pilot for my library’s special collections, and updating headings/names in our local catalog (5958 so far).

What is a typical day like for you?
  • Catalog a bunch of Hebrew books (we get bi-weekly shipments and I whittle ‘em down);
  • Catalog a bunch of English books (these roll in endlessly, and we prioritize reserves and patron-holds);
  • Attend a meeting;
  • Work a bit on any in-progress special projects going.

What are you reading right now?
I’m currently listening to Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I recently finished listening to A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I’m a big audiobook fan; I listen on the train, while doing chores, and on walks.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Ask questions, look things up, ask more questions. It’s not a specific piece of advice, but it’s guided me well.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
So far...no negative surprises. I’m enjoying being a Serious-Beans cataloger and that, in-of-itself, is a pleasant surprise.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Catacombs? I don’t know. I just picked one that I like the sound of. I like words a lot.

What is your least favorite word?
Indescribable. Because you just did.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I used to be play in bands (here is some evidence of that):

If I had the time to play in bands and accomplish all I want to professionally, then I would!

What profession would you never want to attempt?
I would never want to try anything with like, life and death on the line. Bad metadata can be cleaned up but doctor-biz? That’s too intense for me.

Everything Else

What are you most proud of in your career?
It isn’t something I’d ever recommend anyone else do (many mistakes were made along the way in both execution and planning) -- but the fact that I actually got that project of mine, Emflix up and running from scratch is my proudest career-accomplishment to date.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I was participating in a big library shifting project, and I accidentally shifted about 5 shelves worth or so backwards.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
I’m an avid media consumer and am always down to talk about the latest episode of m’shows. I enjoy latchhooking, playing bass, and working on professional development (i.e. blogging and reading, and practicing).

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Jessica Schomberg! (@schomj)

Netanel tweets at @OpOnions and blogs at I Never Metadata I Didn't Like.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Complaining Complainers in the Library

I was asked recently about how I handle complaints in the library. This is an awkward thing to explain, because - like so much - there is no one policy that addresses all of the problems. I try to be as respectful as possible, but trust me: there are always going to be times when I wish I could send the complainingest patrons off to Notlob or Bolton or wherever.

Honestly, though, I'm still learning how to handle complaints from the administrator perspective. Before this job, if things got bad I could always resort to, "would you like to speak with the director?" Now when someone asks to speak with the director, it's me. I no longer have the relative ease of just passing the buck. That's okay; I've developed a few rules of thumb in the three years I've been a director.

  • Have some rules already in place. For example, though I've yet to deal with a book challenge, we have a policy and procedures in place.
  • Get familiar with local laws and (if applicable) law enforcement/security personnel. Becoming friends with campus security guards has given me a sense of security for those rare instances when patrons won't listen to reason.
  • Be ready to listen. Sometimes all the person needs is to feel heard, and I can do that.
  • Keep an open mind. One complaint that came to me through student government was justified - not enough outlets - and easily helped with the addition of some powerstrips in key areas.
Do not:
  • Make promises you can't keep. I've seen people promise any-any-anything to calm someone down. They'll just be angrier later. Guaranteed.
  • Bend over backwards for someone who's treating you poorly. I've had multiple people try to intimidate me by cursing and getting loud or trying the cliched "I pay your salary." It never works with me. Ever.
  • Get angry back. Calming things down is generally going to be the best road, so yelling or cursing back won't help.

That's what I've got so far, especially when it comes to rules of thumb. Specific situations are a whole other thing. For instance, the faculty member who wanted something that was prohibitively difficult and time consuming? I explained the situation politely, but I said no. But I'm still learning. I'd be grateful if more experienced administrators want to chime in.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Digital Media Labs: Pros and Cons, by Amanda L. Goodman

In June, the Digital Media Lab (DML) I spent a year putting together will be four years old. The planning stage took a lot out of me. My library’s phone bill must have spiked with all the hours I logged interviewing other libraries. I agonized over buying window tinting to keep the studio light from bothering others (no one has noticed). I met with the local high school music guy about the best audio equipment. The final product is the result of the whole library working together to make it happen. Then when we opened the doors for the very first time, we had a patron already waiting outside the door.

For us, the effort was definitely worth it, but I know a digital media lab isn’t for every library. Here’s a few things to consider:

Out of all the work I’ve done, nothing has had a greater impact than this tiny room. I’ve taught people to digitize their tapes, slides, photos, negatives, documents, and records. I’ve also spent a lot of time setting up the camcorder so I could show how to do an interview, use the green screen, and make a music video. While digitizing slides, a patron and I looked up Google Street View of the hotel she stayed at in the 60s. We looked at the location now vs. then. She told me about jumping into the pool there on the Jersey Shore. The DML is small, but it’s full of memories.

Then there are the entrepreneurs. They come with both full-fledged visions and ones that haven’t thought beyond wanting a website. I didn’t start out to be a small business consultant, but they draw me in. I’ll coach them through articulating what need their idea meets, defining their audience, and how to reach them. The original query might have been for website help, but we usually end up discussing their dreams.

The worst thing about a DML is that it is the only place where the library may harm a patron, and by “harm” I mean their memories. We take their photos, videos, and audio, and try to create a digital copy. Every time someone pushes their tape into the VHS to DVD recorder, I panic a little. Yes, it's been safe for each video before. But is this the point where it fails? Tapes with their ribbons pulled out and torn, scratches on discs, equipment catching fire, photos rumpled in an automatic feed scanner. It would be so easy for the technology to betray us and break something that we can’t fix. We make no promises, but the guilt would be immense.

Less terrifying, but more annoying, is keeping up with maintenance. Software constantly wants updating and someone snuck food in and now I can’t get this -- what even is it? -- off the table. Every six months I edit the desktop’s wallpaper to say that I’ll delete all content left behind the first week of January/July, although I rarely need to since there’s enough space for it to stay.

So far only one person’s materials have been deleted by someone else. It was mine -- I edited our Darien Does Gangnam Style video here. I finalized the video and came back the next day to grab the edit files. Someone had deleted it. Sad for me, but at least a patron had not lost anything.

Looking Ahead
I recently gave a tour for some visiting librarians. They hit me hard and fast with, “If you had unlimited funds, what would you add?” I said that I wanted a $3,000 slide scanner. The current scanner does four at a time, but the one I’m looking at can digitize 100s per hour. I’ve sat too often by someone who realizes the process is slow and then will just choose a few slides per stack to scan instead of scanning them all. It hurts me when I see them give up on those places visited, friends made, and jokes shared. Next I would soundproof the space, but it’s impossible since we would have to close down parts of the adjoining rooms to do it. My colleague suggested a sound booth. Maybe, but the room is small.

I’m immensely proud of bringing my boss’s vision to life. It does more than just create digital experiences. For example, I’ve held around 300 one-on-one tutorial sessions in it when it was not otherwise preoccupied. The flexibility of the space and equipment gives you room to grow as your community’s interests change. However, a DML also needs more staff time than you can likely give it. When planning your space, invest time in creating tutorials and training staff. Keep in mind that people have different learning styles, so make your training resources as variable as you can afford to do so. Most of all, have fun and enjoy what people can create.

Amanda L. Goodman is the user experience (UX) librarian at Darien Library in Connecticut. When not teaching classes, building websites or creating publicity materials, she tweets as @godaisies. She wrote a Library Technology Report on DMLs, which you can download for free.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On Bias

cartoon; panel one, person one says: "Define bias." Person two says, "A careful review of the facts..." panel two, person two leaning into person one angrily, says, "...which results in any viewpoint other than my own!"

When I teach undergraduates (or anyone, really) about assessing websites for academic use, I start by asking them how they judge websites for themselves. "Pretend this has nothing to do with a class. Tell me how you decide to trust, or not trust, the information you get from the web." Inevitably, the first thing I hear is something about looking at the URL. Every class always talks about the upper-level domain name. Of course, they don't put it in such technological terms, but they talk about .com and .edu and such. I love this for a lot of reasons, but best of all it makes a perfect segue to the point I want to make: that all websites are biased.

Let me say that again: All. Websites. Are. Biased. Websites are created by people, and all people are biased. I repeat: All. People. Are. Biased. We all think we can escape our biases, that somehow *we're* the one who can be truly and completely objective. But that's not how human brains work. Let me lay some science on you... Depending on where and who you are, estimates say that your are receiving millions of distinct pieces of information, and your unconscious brain makes decisions about which ones are important enough to merit attention. If you're really smart and really aware, the things that merit attention can be measured in dozens. The average bear can pay attention to far fewer. And what do our brains do with all the other millions and millions of bits of info? That 3 pound chunk of meat in your skull looks for patterns so it can maps new things onto prior experiences. That lady ahead of you at the grocery store who aggravates you and you don't know why may remind you of that horrible teacher's aide from kindergarten who embarrassed you in front of your friends. Your new coworker about whom you have warm feelings before even getting to know him could bear a resemblance to your childhood best friend's uncle who bought you a second ice cream cone after you dropped your first. You'll dismiss the lady at the grocery store as "rude" and embrace your new coworker as "kind" without even realizing that something about them maps onto your childhood image of "rude" or "kind."

All this came back to mind when I read about a big company that is trying to do to control for unintentional biases in their efforts. It's a short read, but here are the highlights that felt pertinent to libraries:

  • "Focus on skills and eliminate distractions." I've done this by creating interview scripts and listing required skills and knowledge before starting an interview process. There are other ways this could work as well. 
  • "Acknowledge microaggression." Microaggressions are real. Microaggressions happen in libraries all the time. I know I've perpetrated some and I know I've been subject to others. I work hard, every single day, to eliminate them from my spoken and written lexicon and from my actions.
  • "Talk about it." To some extent, I talk with my staff and colleagues about bias. I have also worked to beef up our materials about Islam. We created a display about protest culture and civil rights leaders when #BlackLivesMatters first started to make national headlines. These aren't comfortable conversations to have, but they are important so we work on it.

That last point is so important. To bring this back to how I started today's post: when working with undergraduates, or anyone really, about assessing information sources, I talk to them about how they really need to do what they've already been doing - looking at authority, content, origins, timeliness, and bias (or who, what, where, when, and why) - but doing it intentionally. That's how I think about bias in libraries. I want to keep learning and improving. Intentionally. So should we all, don't you think?

And, by way of parting, here's one of my favorite jokes about acknowledging bias and privilege:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Power to Name, by Jessica Schomberg


Note: This post is related by a conference proposal I submitted to ACRLNY’s 2016 Symposium Money & Power.

Catalogers establish and/or apply names to library materials as part of their work. After reading a lot of Hope Olson’s work, I realized that power to name has me questioning even more. Who actually does have the power and authority to name? Does literary warrant privilege the naming protocols of certain communities over others? Is a professional reliance on the Library of Congress, which relies on Congressional funding for its continued existence, the best idea if we really want to question the power to name in our application of theory?

Two things that I am mindful of when I think about this sort of thing are the role of Imposter Syndrome and Dunning-Kruger (thanks to Jessica Olin for prompting me on the latter).

Imposter syndrome describes the phenomenon in which high-achieving people can’t recognize their own achievements because, in their view, their flaws loom too large. Research points to some common characteristics in those who experience this. As children, they were often either told that their social skills compensate for their intellectual deficiencies, or told that they don’t have to work hard to learn new things, which is eventually contradicted by reality. As adults, there are lots of things they do that keep them feeling this way: diligence, hard work, and a tendency to over-prepare that often leads to burnout; a need to please their supervisors and avoid conflict, which enhances their self-perception as fake because their ideas aren’t tested and because of their dependence on others’ approval; and avoiding displays of confidence, fearing that they’ll be found out or receive societal disapproval. For people in historically oppressed populations, this is enhanced by a double-bind dilemma.

This leads to a fear of challenging the status quo, even when we are negatively affected by it. To make it more personal (and therefore a bit more real): when I interact with certain areas of the Library of Congress Subject Headings and Classification schedules - about sexuality and illness/disability - it sometimes feels like I’m on the receiving end of microaggressions both as a cataloger and a patron. I remember similar feelings when I was a high school student using the religion section of my public library to research Buddhism, which in Dewey Decimal Classification, was relegated to a tiny number with odd neighbors.

The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when people overestimate how much they know. (It may also lead people to overestimate how easy a particular task is for others.) This results in a pattern in which, because people can’t recognize their own lack of skill, they also can’t recognize when others are skilled in that area. With training, people can recognize their past ignorance, but the problem is most people won’t voluntarily undertake training in an area in which they think they’re already competent.

This can lead to well-intentioned people mistakenly making decisions about areas with which they’re not as familiar as they think they are. In a cataloging context, this means creating subject headings that maintain oppressive perspectives and creating classification hierarchies that place things in areas where they don’t belong. This may also mean not creating subject headings or classification numbers for things that are effectively invisible to the cataloger, or contrary to (Congressionally) established norms.

What now?
I don’t really know. How do we as a profession help each other overcome Imposter Syndrome, so we can feel confident – and safe – enough to challenge oppressive systems? How do we as a profession help each other to recognize Dunning-Kruger at play?

I’ve learned a lot by watching baby-brarians question things on twitter. (Seriously, follow a few MLIS students on social media if you’re not already. They question everything. It’s wonderful.) I’ve also learned a lot by deliberately following librarians who work in libraries that aren’t like mine, librarians who don’t work in libraries at all, library workers who aren’t “credentialed” librarians. Seeking out this kind of learning is one reason I follow many librarians of color, librarians with disabilities, and GLBTQIA+ identifying librarians who ask a lot of questions and point out a lot of problems that I didn’t notice before I engaged in social media. They are helping me question things I had become too accustomed to. And things I was too scared to question. This post = a knees-rattling attempt to overcome my own Imposter Syndrome and Dunning-Kruger tendencies.

How about you? How do you combat these tendencies?

Jessica Schomberg is currently serving as Library Services Department Chair at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where her other hats include Media Cataloger and Assessment Coordinator. This is her second post for LtaYL. The first was “My (Library) Life with Invisible Disabilities.” She tweets as @schomj.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

National Library Week Musings: Patron Agency


Warning: this is another post where I'm doing the blog post version of throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks. 

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of agency lately, and I'm still noodling things about (pun intended). People write about having agency, about giving agency, about teaching other people to use theirs, and so on. Since it's National Library Week, I thought it'd be a good time to talk about the role that libraries play in patron/community agency.

Before I get into the body of what I want to say, let me give you a definition of "agency" that fits, mostly, with what I've been thinking. This is from "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy":
In very general terms, an agent is a being with the capacity to act, and ‘agency’ denotes the exercise or manifestation of this capacity. The philosophy of action provides us with a standard conception and a standard theory of action. The former construes action in terms of intentionality, the latter explains the intentionality of action in terms of causation by the agent’s mental states and events. From this, we obtain a standard conception and a standard theory of agency. There are alternative conceptions of agency, and it has been argued that the standard theory fails to capture agency (or distinctively human agency). Further, it seems that genuine agency can be exhibited by beings that are not capable of intentional action, and it has been argued that agency can and should be explained without reference to causally efficacious mental states and events. (source)
So agency is both the ability to form an intention and the ability to take an action. And whenever I read something about libraries and agency, whether it's an academic library talking about information literacy or a public library talking about computer skills, I think about the power dynamic implied when someone says they are giving agency. Libraries are intended to be a democratizing kind of institution, and that's how many of us still see them - or at least that's how we want to see them. We see ourselves as lifting up the members of our communities. But more and more lately, I see that traditional vision of libraries as patronizing and paternalistic claptrap.

We don't give people agency. We give them tools to exercise the agency they already had. We give them a vehicle for its expression. Libraries can and should be a nexus for agency, but you've got to stop thinking of it as a gift we give to our patrons. The day I'm publishing this post is National Library Workers Day, so I feel the need to remind you all that our community members are our partners and they deserve our respect, not our paternalism.

Or, in the words of one of my favorite Twitter accounts...