I’ve pulled back again. For several weeks, I’ve had this overwhelming feeling that is pure stress. I think this feeling is new to me, but perhaps it’s the first time I’m so keenly aware of being stressed. Librarians should not be stressed! Working for my
passions of literacy and diversity should not be stressful.
However, learning by definition is stressful. That process of building new pathways in the brain, realigning thoughts, beliefs and actions is nothing but stress. Being literate and continually learning is stressful. I’ve been researching critical information literacy and constantly thinking of ways to implement it into curriculum. I have a professor who wants me to talk to her a class about ‘scholarly literature’. While she expects a benign definition, I think about the complexities of scholarship. Scholarly literature is communication among, well scholars. There’s a certain style and protocol involved that when followed indicates that one belongs. Who is included in this community and who isn’t? For whom are these scholars writing? Is if for each other? How does one gain access? Can blogs be scholarly? Must we categorically exclude wikis? Can scholarly communication occur on Twitter or Facebook? When must one rely solely upon ‘scholarly literature’ and why? I don’t think most of these questions have definitive answers, but how do I present this in a class where the professor has not considered these questions? As the ways we find, access, share and evaluate information changes I do believe we have to make users of information aware of these issues to keep their work relevant. Stress!
And what about the class of undergraduates that I get to see one time for instruction? Do I take the time to expose them to library services, only services relevant to their needs that they won’t remember 3 weeks later when they actually begin researching or do I address overarching concepts from the information literacy framework, such as ‘research is a process’. Novice research don’t know the process or even how to begin! I’m surrounded by expectations of delivering a skill based session that doesn’t meet the point of need. Stress.
Over and over the same discussions. Wait, they’re not discussions because if they were, someone would listen. Someone would be heard. Who can write in whose voice? We’ve reached a point where publishers want to publish white authors who write people of color and people of color who write white and we’re calling that diversity. Publishing cannot create a new homogenous American where everyone has the same culture, same lifestyle and same way of achieving their wants and needs. I think we’d say that expectation comes from a point of privilege, believing everyone is like or wants to be like Me.
If left alone, what would these writers write? What if white authors honestly wrote how whites conceptualize race? Do white teens notice the table of Asians in the cafeteria? Do they like the natural styles black girls wear? Do they hear the stereotypes that are repeated about Native American youth or wonder why there are no people of color in the latest blockbuster movie? Why not help your readers analyze their own privilege? There are some books that do this and the only one I can think of right now is The Jacket by Andrew Clements, but I know there are others. Many are historical fiction. But would publishers publish it?
We argue ‘stay in your lane’ where African American issues are meant to be represented and discussed by African Americans because Latinos don’t understand our pain. We don’t take the time to learn our collective history, neither the political history nor social history, not even the literary history. I so look forward to the work of the Joint Council of Librarians of Color. When I put together a group for We Are the People Summer Reading List, I didn’t look for one from each category. I looked for friends I like working with. Friends who are smarter than I am and who are dedicated to diversity. No one marginalized group achieves any justice unless we all do. If authors of color aren’t getting published, have we truly achieved diversity because more books have characters with brown skin, ethnic names and “American” culture? Is there diversity when marginalized children still cannot find themselves in books? We continue to see marginalization at conferences, publishing, in MFA and MLIS programs, technology programs, in areas where individuals are in control of information.
These arguments, discussions and proclamations become personal when they speak to the essence of your identity. Stress. They become personal when you know your voice isn’t heard because it’s Black and because it’s Black it will not be understood or taken seriously. Stress. Don’t raise your voice, don’t be that angry black women but do be scholarly, enter the defined communication zone and footnote your speech.
They become the opposite of personal when squabbles are via Twitter or FB, where the parties concerned don’t speak directly to each other and well meaning ‘friends’ divert necessary conversation from its essential points with personal attacks. The diversity movement has outspoken voices but there is no single clearinghouse for activities, thoughts or plans. The diversity movement has no single voice. The diversity movement practices what it preaches and there in lies its strength and its weakness. Complexity is stressful; it gives us all a lot to learn.
I have deadlines and too many projects. Too much passion! I haven’t posted my September booklist yet!
I’ve stepped back to find and build in support systems. I’m trying to ignore how much I hate where I live and am building in work-arounds and that includes finding enjoyment (if you read that quickly it looks like I’ve said ‘employment’) that isn’t built around my passions. Peace of mind is priceless.
Maybe librarians should be stressed. Information is power.