Myth of Professional Neutrality


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  • Sorry—a fair amount of slide reading ahead.
  • these ideas aren’t in opposition You’re always making a choice. If you only buy books that are positively reviewed in Choice or LJ, you’re being a passivist (I made that word up. What’s the opposite of activist?) As an activist librarian, and one who wants my library’s collection to serve its users—and librarianship—as well as it can, I find alternative sources of reviews, and I seek out other avenues, too. For instance I went to a small press book fair this weekend. One of the book fair’s organizers was another activist librarian, Karen Gisonny, of NYPL. All I’m trying to get at is that there are ways of being an activist on the job that don’t violate attempted neutrality. You can start a zine collection, mount a Gay Pride display in June and one for Civil Liberties in September, or donate your weeded materials to a prison library. Aside from the zine collection, I did all of the above while working at a Catholic college. –Tennessee Librarian
  • Desk I don’t wear political pins and I try not to let my bias show. However, I may not appear neutral to everyone. For one thing I’ve got blue hair. That may cause a patron, depending on what biases inform his or her thinking, to view me as accessible, cool, frivolous, punk, unprofessional, unreliable, or weird. But even if I didn’t have an unusual hair color, people would have reactions to me based on my age, gender, race, resemblance to someone they used to know, etc. No one is neutral—on either side of the desk. –Tennessee Librarian Selection my collection more representative than others, because of subculture material Library Bill of Rights: I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. Balance: as we know from Fox, “balance” is a problematic concept. It’s good that there’s a right wing pov represented in what the producers perceive to be the liberal media. But it’s really all about reliable sources and honest discourse. I dislike Keith Olbermann as much as the blowhards on Fox, but I generally trust his sources. Make it about the material—authority, peer review, appropriateness for your collection etc. We all have different missions, service populations, resources. Some activism may be needed to make our collections and services different from one another and suitable for our users. Instruction How you choose sources, search examples—you don’t go out of your way to offend anyone, but what if you take it as an opportunity to show that you’re an ally? Using queer or even dyke in a search example might make someone feel safe. Four instruction librarians at Barnard—all show different databases to First Year English class Can’t show them all e.g. Have different opinions on what is appropriate. MLA vs. ProQuest. Softline databases inclusion in ProQuest added into my decision to include it, when not all of my colleagues do—but also ease of search, likelihood of good results, citations provided, etc. are just as important Catalog LCSH—fighting the power to make them more neutral, not radicalizing Marriage in the Bible Sexual minorities for Queer, Closet Lesbians Fan magazines subsuming Fanzines Fat acceptance movement Sex workers, not just Prostitutes Armenian genocide vs. Armenian massacre Hispanic-Americans vs. Latin@s Adopt new tech terms, about which no books have been written, but slower with other subculture terminology, Anarchist book fairs or Anarcha-feminists Admin Judging people on more than their CV—acknowledge ones biases, affirmative action so as not to self-replicate (Marie Radford at LACUNY) Infrastructure Open source vs. proprietary, taking charge of our tools Bike lane cutting into street vs. making room for a new (better) means of transport /alt lit improving collections
  • Morrone, Melissa and Friedman, Lia (2009)'Radical Reference: Socially Responsible Librarianship Collaborating With Community', The Reference Librarian ,50:4,371 — 396 Talk about rad ref if time: Online: reference, cataloging, systems In the street: reference, serving/ reflecting our community In the classroom: conferences, trainings
  • 193 Schermerhorn St, Apt. 4R (downtown Brooklyn); call (608) 469-3148 for access
  • Myth of Professional Neutrality

    1. 1. The Myth of Professional Neutrality Presentation by Jenna Freedman, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information Symposium November 11, 2009
    2. 2. why myth? <ul><li>In defense of user rights, librarians have sometimes been labeled radical militants, but more typically they adhere to the principles of nonjudgmental service, balanced collections, and political neutrality. symposium announcement viewed 11/10/09 </li></ul><ul><li>There was never, for me as a teacher and writer, an obsession with “objectivity,” which I considered neither possible nor desirable. I understood early that what is presented as “history” or as “news” is inevitably a selection out of an infinite amount of information, and that what is selected depends on what the selector thinks is important. --Howard Zinn </li></ul>
    3. 3. exploring the myth <ul><li>At the reference desk </li></ul><ul><li>Style, demographics, patron biases </li></ul><ul><li>Choosing materials </li></ul><ul><li>Balance vs. representation </li></ul><ul><li>In the classroom </li></ul><ul><li>Information literacy/critical thinking </li></ul><ul><li>In the catalog </li></ul><ul><li>Default terminology </li></ul><ul><li>Administration and infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Status quo </li></ul>
    4. 4. on your own time <ul><li>It is important to dispute the notion of detached objectivity in information services and to make room for all levels of library activism both within professional associations and beyond in the larger sphere. The latter realm is where RR has chosen to devote its energies, forming partnerships that embrace the places where we share ideals, needs, and solutions. The challenges and excitement of collaborating with the greater activist world engage us as community members and invigorate us as librarians. –Melissa Morrone and Lia Friedman </li></ul>
    5. 5. bibliography <ul><li>ALA Library Bill of Rights </li></ul><ul><li>Jones, Marie (2004) “Interview.” Tennessee Librarian , 54:4 , 17-25 </li></ul><ul><li>Morrone, Melissa and Friedman, Lia (2009) “ Radical Reference: Socially Responsible Librarianship Collaborating with Community ,” The Reference Librarian , 50:4, 371-396 </li></ul><ul><li>Zinn, Howard (1997), “Introduction,” The Zinn Reader . New York: Seven Stories Press. p.16 </li></ul>
    6. 6. resources/contact info <ul><li>Rad Ref NYC , meeting Sunday, email </li></ul><ul><li>Barnard Library Zine Collection </li></ul><ul><li>IM: BarnardLibJenna </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>(If the email addresses look strange, it’s because they are—figure it out!) </li></ul>