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Communities of praxis: transforming access to information for equity


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NASIG 2018 Vision Speech.
This talk will articulate how imbalanced power relations across librarianship and the systems we promote reflect those of society, and offer insights into how, through evidence-based, reflective practice, we can harness the transformative potential of library and information services to improve outcomes for society through democratising access to knowledge. It will explore how critical approaches to user experience, privacy and openness could act as as springboards to change structures within library and information services. With these tools we may mitigate against the inequalities caused by problems such as inaccessibility, algorithmic bias and ideologically-driven policies in the context of educational and workplace information practices, and maximise beneficial outcomes for the public good.

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Communities of praxis: transforming access to information for equity

  1. 1. Communities of Praxis: transforming access to information for equity Dr Lauren Smith Information Specialist Iriss (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services) Glasgow, Scotland
  2. 2. Democratising access to information is a precondition for exercising rights 2
  3. 3. 3 ● Power ● Praxis ● Privilege
  4. 4. 4 Image from Defend the Ten
  5. 5. “As librarians, we have significant power, more than I think we know that we do, and we can choose to wield it every day.” - Emily Drabinski 5 Image CC analogicus
  6. 6. Maria T Accardi, Simon Barron, Chris Bourg, Emma Coonan, Jonathan Cope, Jessica Critten, Emily Drabinski, Fobazi Ettarh, Jennie Findlay, Zoe Fisher, Barbara Fister, Angela Galvan, Devon Greyson, Myron Groover, Jess Haigh, April Hathcock, Alison Hicks, Lisa Hinchcliffe, David James Hudson, Heidi Jacobs, Kyle Jones, Kyle ML Jones, Cushla Kapitzke, Donna Lanclos, AnneMaree Lloyd, Jessie Loyer, Mandy Lupton, SarahLouise McDonald, Sara D Miller, Karen Nicholson, Angela Pashia, Christine Pawley, Annie Pho, Andrew Preater, Ryan Randall, Sarah T Roberts, Kevin Sanders, Jane Schmidt, Kevin Seeber, Jesse Stommel, Eamon Tewell, Jane Schmidt, Jessamyn West, Drew Whitworth, Alan Wylie 6
  7. 7. ● Power distribution in library and information services ● Role of praxis in creating conditions for change ● Examples from Scotland & UK ● Key challenges in profession ● Value of engagement in critical communities 7
  8. 8. Power 8
  9. 9. 9 As librarians, we build and then work inside of systems of power every day. We are perhaps best positioned to see them at work elsewhere, and to intervene and change them. - Emily Drabinski Image CC MabelAmber
  10. 10. 10 Power as an idea allowed [theorists] to interpret the changes happening in their worlds and discern their direction of travel. It showed them what was happening, and why, and whether it was good or bad. It allowed them to ask the right questions. - Carl Miller Image CC uniquedesign52
  11. 11. 11Image cc geralt
  12. 12. 12 Image CC hannahhalkadi
  13. 13. Agency: “learning how to deliberate, make judgements, and exercise choices, particularly as the latter are brought to bear on critical activities that offer the possibility of change” - Henry Giroux 13
  14. 14. Praxis 14
  15. 15. “Reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed.” - Paulo Freire 15
  16. 16. Privilege 16
  17. 17. Economic capital Social and cultural capital Disabilities Gender and sexuality Race and ethnicity 17
  18. 18. 18 Image from @holyurl
  19. 19. 19 Iriss Evidence Search and Summary Service
  20. 20. ▪ Funded by Scottish Government ▪ Supports people delivering social services in public, independent and third sectors ▪ Helps practitioners make evidence-informed decisions 20
  21. 21. Works in progress: ▪ Evidence searches and summaries ▪ Conversation opener toolkit ▪ Online learning ▪ Drop-ins Based on ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Informed by critical pedagogical approaches 21
  22. 22. Scottish context ▪ Austerity - public sector spending cuts ▪ Health and social care integration ▪ Social care recruitment and retention crisis ▪ Drive to increase use of ‘evidence’ in social services ▪ Acknowledgement that traditions in health knowledge not directly transferable to social care and support 22
  23. 23. Vision for evidence use in social services ▪ If everyone working in social services in Scotland wanted to use evidence and knowledge to inform their work ▪ If they knew how to get hold of it ▪ If they had access to the things they wanted to get hold of ▪ If they thought critically about how to make sense of and apply the evidence they engage with 23
  24. 24. ▪ Reading widely ▪ Learning from different areas of LIS ▪ Learning from service users ▪ Asking about their experiences of using systems ▪ Asking about their confidence, what they want to achieve, what they think is making things difficult 24
  25. 25. Challenges for practice ▪ Accessing paywalled resources ▪ Copyright limitations ▪ Applicability of academic research ▪ Limited digital and information literacy ▪ Limited access to digital tools 25
  26. 26. Legacy challenges ▪ Strict evidence hierarchies ▪ Restrictive and prescriptive templates ▪ Passive banking model of instruction 26
  27. 27. “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” - Paulo Freire 27 Image CC xiaoou_dong
  28. 28. Myths 28
  29. 29. ▪ Academic research is always of the highest quality ▪ RCTs and systematic reviews are the ‘gold standard’ ▪ It’s ‘dangerous’ to use the internet for research ▪ Google Scholar and Wikipedia are ‘bad’ ▪ Grey literature is not worth making discoverable 29
  30. 30. Established power and authority structures may influence [scholars’] ability to participate and can privilege certain voices and information. - NASIG / ACRL 30
  31. 31. Learning from voices in practice, research and theory to locate power 31
  32. 32. ▪ Not taking deficit stance ▪ Finding and showcasing diverse voices ▪ Being mindful of the way we refer to sources ▪ Encouraging systems changes 32
  33. 33. Dialogue not deficit 33
  34. 34. Reading 34
  35. 35. Open Access 35
  36. 36. Moving on... 36 Image CC MichaelGaida
  37. 37. Library and information services do not (and should not) have the power to fix everything... 37
  38. 38. ...but we should use the power we do and can have 38
  39. 39. 39 “Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” - Paulo Freire Image CC padrinan
  40. 40. As a critical community 40
  41. 41. Learn from each other 41
  42. 42. 42 Systems Insight into whether people are using systems or not Knowledge and understanding of how to make changes to systems and access Instruction Insight into how people are behaving around the library systems and other sources How to encourage more effective information practices Research Insight into what the reasons might be that people are using things in certain ways How to identify what works for users and what doesn’t How to identify what changes are likely to lead to positive outcomes and capture impact
  43. 43. Negotiate 43
  44. 44. The increasing availability of open access content, coupled with the potential for systematized efforts to put that open content into the user workflow, could be a mechanism for librarians to gain some control of their budgets and pricing. - Lisa Janicke Hinchcliffe 44 Image CCjingoba
  45. 45. Make our own data open 45
  46. 46. ▪ Workforce diversity study ▪ Commissioned by CILIP (UK professional body) ▪ Option for registering interest in the data ▪ Promised since 2014 ▪ DILON (Diversity in Libraries of the North) spearheading drive to get data opened up 46
  47. 47. Achieve better representation 47
  48. 48. ▪ 96.7% white librarians in UK ( > 85% in US) ▪ Better recruitment, retention, workplace cultures and employment conditions would lead to better representation ▪ Better representation leads to better services more able to serve needs of whole population 48
  49. 49. 49
  50. 50. Wield power collectively 50
  51. 51. Visa applications in libraries 51
  52. 52. SCL has been awarded a sub contract for the delivery of digital biometric visa support services led by Sopra Steria on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). This is a UK-wide contract for UKVI covering digital, contact centre and physical service points throughout the UK. Local libraries will provide convenient and welcoming community service points which applicants can visit in person with their documentation, and enjoy all the other library facilities on offer. SCL has recruited 56 regional library services from across England and in Scotland and Wales to provide access to this biometric service. - Society of Chief Librarians (now Libraries Connected) 52
  53. 53. ▪ Society of Chief Librarians (now Libraries Connected) represent heads of library services in England, Wales and N. Ireland ▪ Awarded subcontract for delivery of digital biometric visa support services ▪ Led by Sopra Steria on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration ▪ Processing visa and immigration data in 56 libraries across UK ▪ Sopra Steria co-owned NHS SBS - mislaid 709,000 confidential medical documents 2011-2016 ▪ Uses zero-hours contracts in outsourcing deals 53
  54. 54. Librarians in affected libraries were prohibited by employers from talking about the deal 54
  55. 55. 55 Radical Librarians Collective aims to offer a space to challenge, to provoke, to improve and develop the communications between like-minded radicals, to galvanise our collective solidarity against the marketisation of libraries and the removal of our agency to our working worlds and beyond.
  56. 56. 56 Sign here:
  57. 57. 57 Library workers will represent the human face of transactions with UK Visas and Immigration and may be put under pressure to offer advice they are not qualified to give
  58. 58. 58 Concerns include: ● Library workers as agents of the application process ● Undermining role of libraries as trusted spaces ● Allowing HO divisions to take advantage of libraries to attract undocumented people ● Counter to ‘professional ethics’ ● Strain on under-resourced library workers ● Further mishandling of data by Sopra Steria negatively impacting libraries
  59. 59. “ 59 If we are serious about achieving a more inclusive and diverse public library service which actually cares about breaking the glass ceiling for minorities, asylum seekers, refugees, temporary residents and migrant workers in the UK, we need to start by protecting and restoring the foundations of our public library services in order meet our statutory obligations ‘to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons’. Radical Librarians Collective
  60. 60. 60 127 signatures and counting National coverage International attention
  61. 61. Privacy and security 61
  62. 62. 62 ▪ Library Freedom Project ▪ Scottish PEN ▪ Aude Charillon ▪ #libstaff4privacy
  63. 63. Critical systems librarianship Simon Barron and Andrew Preater (2018) 63
  64. 64. ● Relationship between libraries and library systems suppliers ● Insecurity of library management systems ● Privacy and surveillance of patrons ● Open source software ● Distribution of labour ● Algorithmic bias of discovery layers 64
  65. 65. “The bias in the algorithm reflects the biases of wider society against marginalized communities...these systems are therefore complicit in the perpetuation of societal inequalities which reinscribe the privilege of those who control and exercise power. Simply put, the imbalanced power relations in systems librarianship reflect those of society.” - Simon Barron and Andrew Preater 65
  66. 66. You are not alone! 66 Image CC FelixMitterMeier
  67. 67. Thank you Lauren Smith @walkyouhome 67
  68. 68. References and further reading Barron, S and Preater, AJ (2018) Critical systems librarianship. In: The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship. Library Juice Press, pp. 87-113. Budd, JM (2003) The library, praxis, and symbolic power. The Library Quarterly: Information, Communication, Policy, 73(1), pp.19-32. Campbell, P and Duncan, D (2017) NHS accused of covering up huge data loss that put thousands at risk. The Guardian, 27 February. Davidson, CN (2017) The New Education: how to revolutionize the university to prepare students for a world in flux. New York: Basic Books Drabinski, E (2018) Critical art librarianship conference keynote. Fook, J and Gardner, F (2010) Practising critical reflection. Maidenhead: Open University Freire, P (2005) Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th Anniv). London: Continuum Freire, P (1985) The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation. California: Praeger Galvan, A (2016) Architecture of Authority. Angela Fixes Things. Hudson, DJ (2016) On Critical Librarianship & Pedagogies of the Practical. Critical Librarianship & Pedagogy Symposium. Hinchcliffe, L (2018) Are library subscriptions over-utilized? Scholarly Kitchen. Liber (2017) Open access: five principles for negotiation with publishers. Lloyd, AM (2005) Information literacy: different concepts, different contexts, different truths? Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 37(2), pp.82-88. Noble, S (2012) Missed connections: what search engines say about women. van Otegem, M et al. (2018) Five principles to navigate a bumpy golden road towards open access. Insights, 31, p.16 Preater, A (2018) Engagement with scholarly work as professional development. Riedsma, M (2016) Algorithmic bias in library discovery systems. Tewell, E (2018) The problem with grit: dismantling deficit models in information literacy instruction. 68