TILT#40 Giving people the thanks they deserve

Walking whatever the talk is

I’m in a bit of a mood today. Apparently that’s okay for librarians because according to the media it’s totally fine to call us cranky, obsessive, and neurotic. Well then.

The good news is that there’s a cool newish book on card catalogs put out by Library of Congress.

The bad news is I learned about it from this article titled: The Library of Congress released a fascinating history of card catalogs. Wait, come back! Which, fine. It’s rare for me to feel othered — reading mainstream media where I am clearly not the audience being written for. A better example of this phenomenon might be this tweet from Newsweek which I hope I don’t have to explain.

To read more about othering — it’s a good habit to try to break — here are two different sorts of pointers:

Even talking about othering can be challenging — I was discussing it as part of my social justice talk for librarians at RILA last week — because people’s experiences of being othered vary widely depending on a lot of race/class/gender/age issues.

I was pleased to learn about Cornucopia of Rhode Island, a group serving library communities of color. They had a panel discussion about mentoring, all women, many of whom came into the profession wondering if they were the only person from their background (Latina, Black) in librarianship.

This comes up often. A current issue is the “cranky” librarian in Evanston Illinois, Lesley Williams who appears to be being railroaded out of her job, which sucks. Once you learn she’s the only full time black librarian in the system, a system that appears to provide disproportionate services to its wealthier over its poorer neighborhoods, it becomes quite possibly illegal.

Williams was recently threatened with termination because she posted to Facebook, using her own account during work time, a slightly snarky remark about her library system’s verbal commitments to diversity and inclusion and lack of actual plans to back those up.

Fans of library activism may remember Williams from this canceled talk for the book The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Noted here because it may be linked to the board’s current actions.

Reading about the lives of remarkable but often not-well-known librarians pleases me. Two obits of women worth knowing about

Gwen Patton in white dress
  • Doris Seale who worked in the Children’s Department of the Brookline (MA) Public Library for 45 years. She was a co-founder of Oyate a website which reviews children’s literature with Native themes and critically evaluates them. I love that her obit picture is her with a megaphone. That is from ALA when she refused to cross a picket line to accept an Equity Award from ALA. Story here.
Doris Seale not accepting her award

Some of this thinking on specific library activism came about as a result of this article in American Libraries: Desegregating Libraries in the American South: Forgotten heroes in civil rights history by library historian Wayne Weigand. Discussing the Tougalou Nine, a group of students who staged a “read in” at a Jacksonville MS public library and got arrested and put in jail because the library was whites-only and they refused to leave when told to. Weigand ends his article:

This blind spot in our history is long overdue for a reexamination. Public librarians can consult old local newspapers to find the names of protesters who participated in this unsung saga, check to see if they are still alive, and give them the thanks that they deserve.

I was nodding my head along with him and decided that, in addition to passing the article around, I’d also take it a step further and create a Wikipedia article about the Tougalou Nine. I got some good citations from the Little Known Black Librarian Facts blog. And now, when you Google “Tougaloo Nine” (if you spell it right, or even if you don’t) you sometimes see this.

I am proud that I made this little part happen, just by typing.

A few more odds and ends

This week I started getting my Passport to Vermont Libraries stamped as I traveled through the state. I went to one of Vermont’s only Carnegie Libraries and visited some smaller libraries, one of which maybe had a ghost. I took a lot of photos but my favorite one is from Springfield VT (you may remember them from winning the premiere to The Simpsons movie), this clearly old-timey sign with a very current message.

Today in Librarian Tabs is written irregularly by Jessamyn West who also maintains librarian.net. It’s also available in your inbox via TinyLetter. Thanks for reading.



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Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West

Rural tech geek. Librarian resistance member. Collector of mosses. Enjoyer of postcards. ✉️ box 345 05060 ✉️ jessamyn.com & librarian.net