January 21, 2016

Where are all the Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia

Where are all the Librarians of Color?
The Experiences of People of Color in Academia

Editors: Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juárez
Price: $45.00
Published: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1-936117-83-3
352 pages
Printed on acid-free paper

Now available from Amazon.com

This edited volume addresses the shared experiences of academic librarians of color, i.e. Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans. These experiences are very similar and offer a narrative that explains the lack of librarians of color in academia, especially those librarians that have experienced the daunting academic tenure process.

This monograph offers a comprehensive look at the experiences of people of color after the recruitment is over, the diversity box is checked, and the statistics are reported. What are the retention, job satisfaction, and tenure experiences of librarians of color? The authors look at the history of librarians of color in academia, review of the literature, obstacles, roles, leadership, and the tenure process for those that endure. What are the recruitment and retention methods employed to create a diverse workforce, successes and failures? Finally what are some mentoring strategies that work to make the library environment less exploitative and toxic for librarians of color?

Rebecca Hankins is an Associate Professor and a certified archivist/librarian. She has been at Texas A&M University since 2003. Her previous employment included 12 years as senior archivist at The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans, the premier research repository on Africana historical documentation. Her expertise includes building collections and scholarly resources for the study of the African Diaspora, Race & Ethnic Studies, and Arabic Language and Culture.

Miguel Juárez is a doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso with over 14 years of academic library experience. He has worked at the State University at Buffalo Libraries, the University of Arizona Libraries, as an Assistant Professor of Library Science at Texas A&M University Libraries, as Head Librarian/Associate Librarian at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA and most recently as an Associate Archivist/Librarian at the University of North Texas. Miguel has been a member of the ALA Diversity Committee and served as inaugural chair of the ALA Diversity Grant. His expertise includes building Latin@ studies collections and Chican@ archival collections.

December 8, 2015

Interview with Angela Pashia

Angela Pashia is an Assistant Professor and the Instructional Services Outreach Librarian at the University of West Georgia, where she regularly teaches a credit bearing information literacy course. She has a Masters in Information Science & Learning Technologies, with an emphasis in library science, from the University of Missouri, and a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Virginia. She is currently focusing on practicing critical pedagogies, incorporating social justice issues into “the library course”, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Angela is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy in January, titled Developing a Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Course. She has agreed to do an interview for the LJA blog to tell interested people a bit about her course…

September 17, 2014

CAPAL15: Academic Librarianship and Critical Practice – CFP

Call for Proposals
CAPAL/ACBAP Annual Conference – May 31-June 2, 2015
Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2015
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL) invites you to participate in its annual conference, to be held as part of Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, which lies in unceded Algonquin territory. The conference offers librarians and allied professionals across all disciplines an alternative space to share research and scholarship, challenge current thinking about professional issues, and forge new relationships.

In keeping with the Congress 2015 theme, Capital Ideas, the focus of CAPAL15 is critical practice: the intersection of our work as librarians with purposeful critical reflection on the dominant ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that characterize academic librarianship. With academic librarians negotiating increasingly fraught settings in the academy and beyond, it is more important than ever that we inform our work with rigorous examination of our assumptions, practices, and environments, both through reflection and dialogue within the profession, as well as through engagement with other disciplines and communities.

CAPAL15 encourages the broad participation of all those with an interest in fostering critical inquiry in academic librarianship. We seek to cultivate multiple understandings of critical practice:

Practice: Critical practice asks us to consider the role of critical reflection in shaping our approaches to day-to-day professional practice. What do such concrete applications look like? How, for instance, do you apply feminist perspectives to your collections work? What does your library instruction session look like when designed through a critical pedagogy lens? What, more broadly, is the value of such applications of critical reflection?

Theory: Critical practice also points to the practice of critical theory itself – the interrogation of the limits of particular assumptions in academic librarianship and/or the investigation of LIS problems using theoretical frameworks from other disciplines. How, for instance, might postcolonial theory allow us to think more critically about intellectual freedom? What can political economy perspectives tell us about research practice in LIS?

Professional and civic engagement: Critical practice refers to critical exploration of our goals and struggles as a profession, as well their connection to other political goals such as the empowerment of students, faculty, and other members of the community, or the struggle to define universities as public space and research as public good.

Our exchange of ideas at CAPAL15 will involve the pursuit of discussions spurred by any of these interpretations of critical practice or others, by their points of intersection, and even by the recognition of their limits. Papers presented might relate to any aspect of the following sub-themes (though they need not be limited to them):

– Critical approaches to core practices: information literacy, collections, description, archives, copyright, metrics, technology, etc.
Critical reflections on core values: intellectual freedom, (open) access, privacy, preservation, professionalism, etc.
– Critical reflections on professional issues: LIS education, deprofessionalization, governance, advocacy, etc.
– Intersections of librarianship with social and global justice, equity, decolonization
– Librarianship and higher education in relation to neoliberalism, austerity, and other socioeconomic phenomena
– Critical library research practice and/or methodologies
– Critical approaches to librarianship and culture
– Critical reflections on working in and across different disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and beyond
– Critical theory and philosophy in librarianship

The Program Committee invites proposals for individual papers as well as proposals for panel submissions of three papers. Individual papers are typically 20 minutes in length. For individual papers, please submit an abstract of 400-500 words and a presentation title, along with a brief biographical statement, and your contact information. For complete panels, please submit a panel abstract of 400-500 words as well as a list of all participants including brief biographical statements, and a separate abstract of 400-500 words for each presenter. Please identify and provide participants’ contact information for the panel organizer. International proposals and proposals from non-members are welcome.

Please feel free to contact the Program Committee to discuss a topic for a paper, panel, or other session format. Proposals and questions should be directed to Dave Hudson, Program Chair, at dhudson@uoguelph.ca.

Deadline for proposals: December 8th, 2014

Further information about the conference, as well as Congress 2015 more broadly, will be available soon.

September 8, 2014

Message from Patrick Keilty on the Salaita dismissal

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may have heard about the recent controversy surrounding Professor Steven Salaita, who was dismissed from his tenured faculty position by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for controversial statements he made on Twitter.

I am writing to ask you to consider signing a petition of LIS practitioners and scholars in support of Professor Salaita’s intellectual freedom and freedom of speech.

The American Association of University Professors lays out the facts of the case in their letter to the Chancellor.

You can also see a letter of concern from the American Historical Association, and another letter from the American Anthropological Association.

Brian Leiter, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, outlines the constitutional ramifications of UIUC’s decision.

As of this writing, eleven departments at UIUC have taken votes of no confidence in the Chancellor, a national conference held at UIUC has been canceled, and countless speakers have pulled out of speaking engagements at UIUC. Thousands of scholars have signed petitions in support of Professor Salaita, including discipline-specific petitions. You can find one petition of scholars here.

I ask you to please consider signing the petition of LIS practitioners and scholars.

Thank you.

All best,

Patrick Keilty
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Information
University of Toronto

August 22, 2014

The Digital Future of Education – New Issue of the International Review of Information Ethics

International Review of Information Ethics
Vol. 21 – July 2014
The Digital Future of Education
edited by Johannes Britz, Michael Zimmer


The Digital Future of Education: An Introduction
by Johannes Britz, Michael Zimmer

The Ethics of Big Data in Higher Education
by Jeffrey Alan Johnson

Student Privacy: Harm and Context
by Mark MacCarthy

The Ethics of Student Privacy: Building Trust for Ed Tech
by Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene

Teachers as nightmare readers: Estonian high-school teachers’ experiences and opinions about student-teacher interaction on Facebook
by Maria Murumaa-Mengel and Andra Siibak

Canadian University Social Software Guidelines and Academic Freedom: An Alarming Labour Trend
by Taryn Lough and Toni Samek

Digital Content Delivery in Higher Education: Expanded Mechanisms for Subordinating the Professoriate and Academic Precariat
by Wilhelm Peekhaus

Digital Education and Oppression: Rethinking the Ethical Paradigm of the Digital Future
by Trent M Kays

Book Review: Honorary Volume for Evi Laskari
by Herman T. Tavani

All content is free, here.

July 16, 2014

Teaching Sophistry


In the first years of my career as a librarian, I was working on the Reference Desk when an undergraduate student asked for help finding articles on a rather general subject in the social sciences.  My suspicion was that he would do better if he were able to refine his topic, and so I began a typical reference interview.  After a few questions from me, he smiled and told me that it really didn’t matter what the articles he came away with said, since he had already written the paper.  He was just looking for five sources to append to the paper to fulfill his professor’s requirement.  It was no surprise to me that there were students who were doing essentially faux research, but I was surprised that this student would be so up front about it.  Over the years, I have come to realize that faux research is quite a bit more common among undergraduates than I originally had thought.  Worse yet, the assignments that are being given by well-meaning professors and instructors, particularly at the freshman level, are encouraging this sort of thing.  Prior to becoming a librarian, I myself made such assignments, not realizing just how these assignments defeated the goal of training students to conduct serious, open-minded inquiries into important questions.

A common English 101 assignment where I work is for a student to develop a thesis on a controversial topic and then to go to the library (or the library’s web portal) to conduct research.  The student is required to find articles for and against their thesis and write a paper that defends their thesis, offering positive reasons for their position and refuting the arguments against their position.  As an English course, it is an exercise in composition and argumentation and an opportunity to get some experience with library resources.  Communication 107 requires something similar when the students compose a “persuasive speech.”  All of that is fine, of course, and I’m sure that very often the assignment is quite beneficial, but as this is often a student’s first experience with college-level writing, too many of them come away with the view that this is how research is done:  the researcher uncovers reasons to confirm their beliefs and thinks up clever arguments to dismiss what they don’t believe.  They are unconcerned about the cogency of their arguments and consequently are rewarded by employing all manner of fallacies.

In some instances, the thesis that they begin with does not lend itself well to the “taking sides” approach.  I recall one student whose thesis was that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) were environmentally destructive.  She understood that there was a controversy about CAFOs and that many people claimed that they were environmentally destructive, so she assumed that there must be people “on the other side” who thought they were not destructive.  After finding a lot of sources that described the detrimental environmental effects of CAFOs (and spending a lot of time on this), she was frustrated by not being able to find any sources taking the “con” position.  She thought they surely must be out there, since CAFOs were so controversial.  Of course, her problem could have been solved if the instructor had been able to make it clear to her that the environmental impact of CAFOs was not a live debate.  Instead, the controversy lay with the larger questions about animal welfare, consumer choice, the economy, and the role of environmental regulations, but I doubt that the student had approached her instructor about the topic or discussed it in a manner that was sufficiently clear to get better direction about framing her thesis.  In any case, had she done so, I suspect her initial disposition against CAFOs probably would have caused her to fall into the advocacy trap taught in English 101.

Consider a more appropriate assignment model:  Frist, students form teams which select a topic about which they know little or have no strong opinion and are sent to the library to learn about it independently of each other.  They are to accumulate a variety of sources on the topic – the more the better and the more diverse the better – but there should be no suggestion that there are only two views (pro and con).  The students would then rank the sources according to which in their judgment was strongest and most insightful.  Second, they would share and read one another’s sources and convene their teams to discuss the relative merits of the sources.  Third, they each would write a paper based on the team’s sources, defending a thesis that the student would develop after completing the second phase of the assignment.  Finally, each student would read and comment on the quality of the work of each member of their team.

The assignment model I describe above provides a far better introduction to the actual process of serious research. It asks students to engage in a genuine inquiry, recognizes that they must learn from previous research, affirms the importance of hearing and understanding the views of others who are doing similar research, and asks them to make an honest judgment about the matter based not on their preconceived notions, but on the facts and/or values that truly bear on the question.  Most of all, it will help students avoid the trap of simply finding ways to confirm their own opinions and dismiss or ignore the serious arguments against those opinions.  It puts them in a situation in which they must listen to other opinions and honestly assess the strength of those opinions.  It potentially exposes them to a variety of research methods that they might not have considered and, of course, requires that they compose a quality essay that will stand up to review by their peers.  I wish I had made assignments of this sort when I was teaching Philosophy 105: Contemporary Moral Problems as well as a few other philosophy classes.  It even might have been useful as the only assignment in a capstone seminar.  As a librarian, I would love to work with students who are genuinely engaged in learning about an issue and not merely constructing an argument to complete an assignment.  We need to be certain that what we are doing is training students to be open to whatever evidence bears on their research question and especially open to whatever conclusions that evidence indicates.  We must be careful not to train them in the techniques of the sophist.

This leads me to a larger concern that too much of this sort of education has bred a population that conceives of public discourse to be English 101 writ large and that the disregard for the facts of the world and the principles of reason have turned public discourse into something that more resembles a verbal wrestling match or worse, a boxing match and not a conscientious discussion of important public matters aimed at collective agreement on a workable public policy.  I hear this on radio talk shows, read it in social media, in mainstream journalism, and in the comment sections that follow what is ostensibly news reporting; and it certainly appears in the numerous blogs that have the express purpose of advocating a particular view.  Certainly, this style of discourse always has been with us, but I sense that it is particularly virulent today.  I count the 1982 debut of the CNN program “Crossfire” as my first clear encounter with it in a national forum.  “Crossfire” was (and probably again is, though I have not watched its recent manifestation) a program in which guests were badgered by loaded questions, not allowed to finish their answers, and sometimes simply shouted down; a program which routinely produced more heat than light.  It valorized the worst style of dialog and sadly became something of a model for future public affairs talk shows.  Tellingly for the connection between this style of discourse and academia, George Washington University became the host site from which the program aired before a live audience for about three years.

The format reached the height of absurdity with the “Jerry Springer Show” which, of course, did not deal with public affairs and was purely “entertainment,” but nonetheless made confrontation the primary form of interpersonal interaction.  Eventually, partisan media coverage of public affairs retreated to their own corners and devolved into outlets for partisan propaganda first introduced by right-wing radio and FOX News, but quickly followed by Air America and MSNBC.  I would not maintain that there is parity between these ideological opponents, but their techniques for adversarial argumentation are formed in the same mold, and it is the mold that we subtly and sometimes not so subtly are teaching to our undergraduates.

I also am not suggesting that there is a position of pure objectivity that one can and should assume when discussing public affairs, but we are capable of exercising a little self-criticism and a sense of fairness.  We can recognize self-serving attitudes – even our own – and demonstrate respect for others with whom we disagree.  We can adopt an attitude that promotes a serious-minded search for public policy solutions that just might lie outside of our own pre-conceived notions.  Too often we lack the virtues of humility and charity in our discourse.  Humility recognizes that we are one among many people, each with a unique and limited experience of the issues, that we each have misconceptions and incomplete understandings of complicated questions, and that personally, the best thing that can come out of a dialog is that we ourselves will discover our misconceptions, expand our experience, and change our views to arrive at a corrected understanding of the issues and the world.  Charity recognizes that the arguments made by others may not always be couched in their strongest form and that instead of seeking chinks in one’s opponent’s armor, one should seek to construct the strongest case for everyone in the conversation.  By doing so our own views are better tested and can be legitimately corroborated or discarded for superior views.  These are the virtues of the Enlightenment which has received, I believe, unfair criticism for the short comings of certain Enlightenment figures.  It was best described by Immanuel Kant in his essay “What Is Enlightenment?” as “the public use of reason.”  The public use of reason promises solutions to a huge number of problems we face, but it requires dialogical virtues that are rare today.

Perhaps the clearest distortion of public discourse through sophistic techniques has come from those who are against taking action to mitigate climate change by reducing the production of greenhouse gases.  The engines behind this distortion are the professional blogs established by groups that promote a libertarian economy regardless of obvious market failures and supported by the fossil fuel industry.  Anyone who is familiar with the research into the climate change will easily recognize the patent lies and distortions, the ad hominem attacks, and various other fallacies employed by these bloggers to confuse the public debate.  Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s landmark book The Merchants of Doubt remains an excellent exposé of the network of self-serving climate change denial and its history.  The denial industry’s power rests on the extraordinary wealth of its patrons. Beyond the blogs, our culture of discourse has become so debased that many people take their cues from these bloggers and engage in debates where they seek victory at any cost, regardless of fact or reason.  Their contribution to the discourse ranges from canny deceptions to incendiary trolling, and too often, their opponents fight fire with fire.  It is a sad and dangerous state of affairs perhaps best described in the lyrics from Bob Dylan’s song “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding):”

While money doesn’t talk, it swears / Obscenity, who really cares / Propaganda, all is phony.

As an educator and librarian I feel a responsibility to uphold the Enlightenment values that promote a fair-minded understanding of the world, but I feel swamped by an ever devolving culture of propaganda and sophistry.  It’s hard to know the way out.  If anyone has a compass, I’d love to hear from you.

May 22, 2014

Why I dropped out of a PhD program

As a rule, this is not a personal blog. I have only taken the liberty to talk about my own life a few times over the years. I’ve decided to make an exception here, to tell people why I dropped out of a PhD program in information studies.

I know a lot of people who are in PhD programs who think about dropping out from time to time, and I know people who are considering going for a PhD and want to think about their decision carefully. This is a pretty popular topic for people to blog about in academia, but every person’s situation is a bit different, so I don’t feel that another voice will be redundant. My issues taken together were unique to me as a student, but people might relate to some of them, and I hope that these reflections will be helpful.

First, why I decided to go for a PhD in information studies in the first place. When I was getting my MLIS in the late 90s, I thought that I would never want further schooling in the field. But working as a librarian was never completely fulfilling for me. I was unhappy as a librarian; over the years I made do by pursuing outside projects: publishing the Library Juice email newsletter and continuing it as a blog, starting Library Juice Press, being active in SRRT and PLG and serving on ALA Council. I consistently felt that the real life for me in librarianship was in professional activities outside of my actual job – working on committees, writing and reading about librarianship, publishing books in the field. So eventually when the time came to leave or die inside, taking the step into the “meta-profession,” the academic field of LIS, seemed like a logical thing to do. It would also allow me to explore some growing intellectual interests that weren’t directly about libraries, but indirectly related.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2011. I entered the doctoral program in information studies at UCLA. Back on the West Coast where I felt like I belonged, in a stimulating intellectual environment. In my courses I quickly found that my previous outside work served me well as a student. I was already familiar with most of the authors we read, and in fact had met many of them personally. I enjoyed many of the readings, and enjoyed what my fellow students brought to the discussion. Over the course of the first year, however, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with my new life on a number of fronts.

First, it turned out to be not as ideal an intellectual fit as I had thought it would be going in. Despite having more room for humanistic studies in IS than many other schools, the emphasis in the program is still strongly on social science research methods. I wanted to apply post-Cartesian philosophical ideas to information technology and its role in society – looking at artificial intelligence, the role of algorithms, automated knowledge organization, etc. My perspective on these kinds of issues is informed mainly by the German philosophic tradition going back to the 19th century romantics and up through the phenomenologists and post-Heideggerian hermeneuticists. I also like Marcuse and Habermas and other people in the Frankfurt School, and I felt that their approaches to technology and system-versus-lifeworld could be useful as a way of pursuing my interests. There are people in the social sciences who have adopted related approaches to knowing about the world, but I had trouble finding a way of studying my topics in a social science context. I wanted to theorize philosophically. If I had stayed in the program, I would have found a way to do something along these lines, but it would not have been an easy path, because despite the great faculty, there is nobody there who is well qualified to serve as a thesis adviser based on this kind of approach. I learned also that there aren’t a lot of people in the field who share my interests or views, and in fact I encountered people who said that what I wanted to do was not information studies. I feel confident that it was, but at this point I would rather advance related positions as a publisher than as an academic.

There were other serious issues. I was an older student, and faced typical challenges. The main difficulty that older students face in doctoral programs is that they already have a life that leaves limited room for being a student. Younger students have the freedom to throw themselves into their studies completely. Often the outside commitments older students have are family or a job. In my case it was publishing books. Although my book publishing activities slowed down while I was a doctoral student, they still took much of my attention, and it was something I was unwilling to give up. Older students have some advantages as well, such as a tendency to be more organized in the use of time and less of a need to blow off steam. I had those advantages, but my life had competing demands that outweighed them.

The financial aspect of grad school and future career prospects are something it is unwise not to consider seriously. California faced a budget crisis while I was there, and we learned toward the end of the first year that funding would be tighter going forward. I had had fairly generous funding for the first year, but that was going to be reduced and eventually to end. Even if I won fellowships, I would need to take on student loans, which I did not want to do. Working more was a possibility, but time for studying was already squeezed by my publishing activities. Then there is the fact that faculty salaries in the field are not much better than what I had earned as a librarian, and the fact that the academic job market is tight, and would be especially tight for someone whose dissertation was outside the norm, as mine would have been. If I was not able to land a tenure track job in an acceptable geographic location, I might be stuck doing adjunct teaching, which pays poorly and lacks job security.

Grad school gives you a taste of academic life, an opportunity to ask yourself, “Is this the life I want?” Academic life affords a lot of freedoms, comes with a lot of perks, but comes with a lot of pressures, from different directions. You are always being evaluated as an academic – by your peers, by your students, by administrators, by reviewers at scholarly journals, by committees that give grants and fellowships, by potential employers, by audiences at conferences, and more. There is constant pressure to perform at many levels. You need to be a well-prepared and effective teacher. You need to publish frequently and in well-reputed journals, which means getting research grants, performing the research, doing the writing, getting the work accepted, revising it, and doing it all again. Many academics enjoy this work, but all are affected by the pressures it brings at the same time. Additionally, you need to serve on committees, deal with campus politics, write letters of recommendation, present at conferences, serve as a reviewer, write grant proposals; the list goes on. This is exciting work for a lot of people, but all of it is being evaluated, often by people with whom you have intellectual or political conflicts, and the opportunities for failure are many and not always possible to control. It is a tightrope walk. Often decisions that affect you will be made for political reasons. Egos are involved as well. Power relations are involved. Some people thrive in that environment. I found that in that environment I would always feel anxious and would not feel free. As much freedom and discretionary time as I would have in other ways relative to most workers, I would essentially always be on the job, would have little time for a life outside my work as an academic, and would have few opportunities to take a breath. As I was already in my mid-40s, I didn’t relish the thought of spending my later decades in that style.

More than most students, I was also aware of having other career options. My foray into book publishing had been a success, and I would have no trouble finding job opportunities with a publishing company, or in another academic library. I had also had enough experience as an entrepreneur to begin to do more in that regard. So I decided that I could do the PhD for my own personal enrichment and not for the purpose of advancing along a normal academic career path. But the expectations of academic life were a part of my life as a grad student already, and I found it mentally and emotionally taxing. I was also not earning much money and would soon need to take on debt to continue. So I began to question whether the personal enrichment of a PhD program would be worth the price to my sanity and to my bank account.

The question was not an easy one to answer, because I felt I had made a commitment to the program, and because I recognized that being at UCLA’s IS department was a great opportunity to develop myself intellectually. It would be a lot to give up. I struggled with the question in the back of my mind through the spring quarter of 2012, and knew that I would have to make a decision before the second year began. As it turned out, I was granted a reprieve by a health problem that left me bedridden through the summer, and allowed me to take a leave of absence for the fall quarter. While I was laid up with a herniated disc, I made plans for a business venture that would support me while I continued to study. I organized Library Juice Academy and got it off the ground in October. I quickly found, however, that running it left no time for school, and my decision was made. I dropped out of the program and found myself a full-time entrepreneur. I recovered from my back injury in the fall with the help of cortisone injections, and moved back to Sacramento in December to be closer to family in the Bay Area and to live more affordably.

I made the right decision – for me. I am my own boss, and I have a life that suits my temperament and needs. I gave up the path to an intellectual contribution that I feel may have been valuable, but the timing for it, and other factors, were not right in my life. And I am in a position to facilitate the contributions of others about whom I am enthusiastic, which feels very good. I don’t regret spending a year in a doctoral program; I grew during that time, learned about myself, and discovered new possibilities.

So what advice would I give to someone who is considering entering a PhD program? It is simply that whether or not the path turns out to be right for you, it is not a bad idea to give it a try in order to find out. If it turns out that you are not meant for an academic career in today’s university, it most likely will not mean that trying it out was a waste of time. It likely will turn out to have been a great learning experience. Give it your best effort and see what it feels like. Don’t be too open about this intention when you are applying to programs, however. They will not be interested in you if you tell them you just want to try academia on for size – they are considering making a certain investment in you, and want to feel confident that you have a good chance to succeed as an academic and promote their good name as your advisors and teachers. And keep in mind that you may in fact go on and do that. Make a sincere effort in that direction before taking stock. I would not have benefitted much from my year at UCLA had I not worked hard at it.

I hope this story is helpful to a few people.

August 19, 2013

Interview with Annie Downey

Annie Downey tught a class for Library Juice Academy recently, titled, Techniques for Creative Problem Solving in Libraries. Next month she will be teaching another one for us: Academia 101: A Crash Course on How Colleges and Universities Work. She did a second interview with me, about the new class being offered in September.

June 18, 2013

Interview with Andrew Walsh

Andrew Walsh is a well-known academic librarian who is the author of numerous publications relating to library instruction. He is the instructor for a Library Juice Academy course offered next month, called “Getting More Active Learning Into Your Teaching.” Andrew agreed to be interviewed here to give people more of an idea of what the course will cover, his background as an instructor, and a little bit about his other interests.

May 22, 2013

Interview with Maria Accardi

Here is an interview that Emily Drabinski did with Maria Accardi. Maria has a book coming out this summer with Library Juice Press, in the series that Emily edits….

Maria T. Accardi is Associate Librarian and Coordinator of Instruction at the Indiana University Southeast Library in New Albany, Indiana, a regional campus of Indiana University Bloomington. She holds a BA in English from Northern Kentucky University, an MA in English from the University of Louisville, and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh. She served as a co-editor of and contributor to Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Library Juice Press, 2010), and is the author of the forthcoming Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction (Library Juice Press, 2013). Prior to entering librarianship, Maria taught first year college composition and tutored in a university writing center, and these experiences inform her current practice as a librarian instructor.

1. Why feminist pedagogy? What brought you to this topic for a book?

I came to this topic in part because I wanted to know more about feminist teaching and learn something new, and also because I wanted to contribute to the scholarship in my profession. I am a feminist who is interested in critical, liberatory teaching methods, so bringing together feminism and teaching seemed like a natural place to start an exploration. Sharon Ladenson began the conversation about feminist pedagogy and library instruction in Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods in 2010, and I wanted to engage with and extend this conversation by providing theoretical frameworks and practical strategies for people interested in feminist library instruction. Also, I really wanted to just write a book to see if I could. Apparently, I can!

2. What should readers expect when they crack the spine of Feminist Pedagogy?

Readers should expect a combination of practitioner’s primer, scholarship, and memoir. I didn’t set out to write a genre-bending book, but as I engaged with the feminist literature, listened to my own voice as a writer, and found nurturing support through you, my editor, I had a real breakthrough and realized that this boundaries-straddling approach was the only way I could write this book. So readers should expect a book that doesn’t neatly fit into the typical categories of literature in our field. Readers should also expect a book that is designed to be participative; there are practical teaching strategies and ideas in the appendices that invite, and, I hope, inspire readers to enact feminist pedagogy in their own practice.

3. What did you learn about your own teaching practice as you wrote the book?

When I wrote about the importance of self-care for the feminist teacher, I realized that I was doling out advice that I needed to take myself. Feminist teaching is hard. It is emotionally and intellectually demanding. I learned that I need to give myself permission to take a break, go easy on myself, to be honest and reflective without beating myself up. This fall, when library instruction season starts up once again, I plan to carve out time to keep a reflective journal about my teaching practices as a method of self-care.

4. When you’ve presented on this work before (ACRL 2013), people have noted the connections between the kind of instruction they’re already engaging and the feminist approaches you discuss in the book. Why do you think it’s important to name some of these practices as explicitly feminist?

I think it’s important to acknowledge these things as feminist because this is how we expose the intersecting societal oppressions that are replicated and reified in the classroom. When we make explicit was is normally tacit, we help equip students to transform themselves and their lives. Feminist pedagogy wants students to become not just critical thinkers but critical actors.

5. What else should readers know about the book?

As I say in my Acknowledgements, I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a little girl and wrote a poem to read at my school talent show. Writing this book is truly a dream come true, and it is maybe the bravest thing I’ve ever done. This book represents me intellectually and emotionally and it is scary to release it into the world for people to read. I just hope that people will find the book to be engaging, useful, interesting, and, dare I say it? Inspirational. I hope that it is the beginning of many exciting conversations about feminist library instruction and while I’m simultaneously terrified, I can’t wait to see what happens once people read it.

April 13, 2013

LISdocstudents email discussion list

LISdocstudents is an unmoderated email discussion list for doctoral students in Library and Information Studies, working at any institution. The purpose is to communicate with other doctoral students about shared issues, be they intellectual questions in the field, problems facing emerging academics on the path through graduate school and into academic careers, issues having to do with trends in higher ed and LIS as a discipline, or other topics that seem appropriate. Announcements are good too. Doctoral students in LIS are the main constituency of the list, but masters students, graduate students in other fields, and professors are invited to participate.

February 27, 2013

Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information


1. Nature of the Award

1.1 The award shall consist of $1,000, given annually to a graduate student who is working on a dissertation on the philosophy of information (broadly construed).

2. Purpose of the Award

2.1 The purpose of this award is to encourage and support scholarship in the philosophy of information.

3. Eligibility

3.1 The scholarship recipient must meet the following qualifications:
(a) Be an active doctoral student whose primary area of research is directly philosophical, whether the institutional setting is philosophy, information science, media studies, or another discipline; that is to say, the mode of dissertation research must be philosophical as opposed to empirical or literary study;
(b) Have completed all course work; and
(c) Have had a dissertation proposal accepted by the institution.

3.2 Recipients may receive the award not more than once.

4. Administration

4.1 The Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information is sponsored and administered by Litwin Books, LLC, an independent scholarly publisher.

5. Nominations

5.1 Nominations should be submitted via email by June 1, to award@litwinbooks.com.

5.2 The submission package should include the following:
(a) The accepted dissertation proposal;
(b) A description of the work done to date;
(c) A letter of recommendation from a dissertation committee member;
(d) An up-to-date curriculum vitae with current contact information.

6. Selection of the Awardee

6.1 Submissions will be judged on merit with emphasis on the following:
(a) Clarity of thought;
(b) Originality;
(c) Relevance to our time;
(d) Evidence of good progress toward completion.

7. Notification

7.1 The winner and any honorable mentions will be notified via letter by July 1.

November 8, 2012

Academic Libraries, Information Literacy, and the Value of Our Values

ACRL has embarked on the important, even urgent, initiative to support academic libraries in articulating and demonstrating their value to their institutions at a time in which higher education in general finds itself constantly defending its value. Accountability at numerous levels, from our federal government to our university boards of trustees, is the clarion call of the day. Assessment, accountability, and value have been inexorably linked over the past several decades. Assessing the impact of [information literacy instruction, freshman seminars, general education, fill in the blank] on student learning and achievement is both a means of being accountable to our stakeholders (parents, policy makers, tax payers, etc.) but also demonstrating our value (Why should we continue to exist?). For many academic librarians, specifically those invested in information literacy (IL) instruction programs; the assessment movement has been beneficial insofar as it has meant that IL has become central to many college and university assessment efforts. It has been very satisfying to have our work validated as core to the undergraduate curriculum. However, like many aspects of the curriculum, the value of IL instruction programs is in question, as are the many other services, contents, and processes of the academic library. Assessing the value (financial, impact, or otherwise) of these services, use of contents, and efficiency of processes becomes our means of proving (being accountable) our relevancy in higher education. For instruction librarians this has meant a move from simply recording how many students we’ve reached (whether through classroom instruction, online tutorials, research appointments) to developing IL learning outcomes that are assessed at the course level as well as the institutional level. While we appreciate the growing adoption of IL learning outcomes in core curricula, it is worrisome that it may be simply to satisfy external pressure (i.e. accrediting agencies). Because ultimately the pressure from both external and internal stakeholders is framed in economic terms—return on investment. As educators, the value of assessment should be because it informs our practice (and praxis).

Published in 2010 the Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report prepared by Megan Oakleaf claims that academic library stakeholders “tend to focus on two” particular ways of defining value: financial and impact value (p. 22). The report takes as a given that academic librarians will need to prove that we manage our financial resources well and somehow bring money into our institutions (p. 22). However the report also recognizes that the more meaningful piece for librarians may be in demonstrating “impact value:” “This position posits that academic library value is not primarily a financial concept; rather the value of information is its contribution to making improvements in users (Wilson, Stenson and Oppenheim 2000, 3-4)” (p. 24). Nonetheless impact value as described in the report still pivots on a conception of value as an economic construct of sorts, a return on investment embodied by an improvement in the user. The term “improvement” suggests that information has increased the value of the individual. Information, as object and commodity, and teaching and learning may indeed increase the market value of the individual, but for many information literacy instruction librarians the value of teaching is not measureable in economic terms but is instead that which “transforms”. In other words the transformative value is that which develops critical consciousness, a broadening of one’s worldview in order to appreciate the multiplicity of perspectives and the complexity of any given issue or situation. Transformation may alter but not necessarily improve or increase impact value (i.e. retention, graduation rates, career success, GPA, etc.).

A recent follow-up to the 2010 report, Connect, Collaborate, and Communicate: A Report from the Value of Academic Libraries Summit (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2012) does attend to some transformative values, for example “academic intimacy” (p. 12), yet seems to ignore these in their “Actions for the profession” items. In the spirit of action item 3.3, “to “Build a community of practice to engage and sustain professional dialogue about library value,” we’d like to consider the integration of our understanding of library value with our professional values.

Some of the foundational Core Values of librarianship (American Library Association, 2004) include free access to information, democracy as it hinges on an informed citizenry and the First Amendment’s mandate to free expression, the public good, and social responsibility. Is the concept of value as articulated in the ACRL value reports antithetical to these core values expressed by ALA?

In a recent post from In the Library With a Lead Pipe, Emily Ford asks us to consider the “why” of what we do as an intervention in what she sees as failed attempts to demonstrate our value. Ford recommends that the library community develop a philosophy of librarianship. She suggests that engaging with philosophy will enable the library community to move from practice to praxis—professional practice informed by theory, or a philosophical framework. Perhaps we need only look to our Core Values to articulate a philosophy of librarianship.

Barbara Fister emphasizes the importance of Ford’s recommendations (Fister, 2012, August 28) and also shares thoughts on value and values in a recent post (2012, September 19), stating that:

“We librarians seem anxious to prove our value these days, but what we really should articulate more clearly and loudly is our values. When we focus on defending our existence to our administrators, we end up…with a focus far too narrow, too parochial, too myopic to ensure that our values inform what libraries should be.”

We’d like to see this conversation grow on the apparent disconnect between articulating our value with our values, especially in relation to information literacy instruction. We have submitted for consideration a proposal for an ACRL Instruction Section Current Issue Discussion Group at ALA Annual with the hope that other instruction librarians are also concerned about the apparent disconnect between our value and our values. However, it is likely that the proposal is too philosophical to be accepted, so we’d love to get your feedback here, at the Library Juice Blog, or via personal email.

Can we articulate our Core Values while also demonstrating our value in economic terms? Do we risk losing our value as defenders/providers of equity of access, free speech, intellectual freedom, and the public good if we concede to the narrative of crisis fueling the value initiative? How do we fit our Core Values into our information literacy learning outcomes? Is it possible to re-orient the conversation in order to re-value conceptions of value?

Lua Gregory & Shana Higgins


American Library Association. (2004). Core values of librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/statementspols/corevaluesstatement/corevalues.

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2012). Connect, collaborate, and communicate: A report from the value of academic libraries summits. Prepared by Karen Brown and Kara J. Malenfant. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Fister, B. (2012, August 28). The self-centered library: A paradox. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/self-centered-library-paradox.

Fister, B. (2012, September 19). What libraries should be: A values proposition. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/what-libraries-should-be-values-proposition.

Ford, E. (2012, August 8). What we do and why we do it? In the Library With a Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2012/what-do-we-do-and-why-do-we-do-it/.

Oakleaf, M. (2010). The value of academic libraries: A comprehensive research review and report. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Wilson, R. M. S., Stenson, J., & Oppenheim, C. (2000). Valuation of information assets. Loughborough: Loughborough University.

August 27, 2012

Academic book pricing – Where Library Juice Press stacks up

I recently encountered some interesting data on the academic book market, in an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, by Albert N. Greco, Robert, M. Wharton, and Falguni Sen, titled, “The Price of University Press Books: 2009-2011.”

According to data from YBP, in 2011, the total number of books published by university presses was 12,104, and the number published by commercial scholarly and professional publishers was 52,148. I was interested to see that commercial scholarly presses were a much bigger part of the market for scholarly books than university presses. Included in the category of commercial scholarly book publishers are big ones like Routledge and SAGE on down to small ones like Parlor Press and Litwin Books. (Since Litwin Books is on the YBP core list of publishers, we were counted in these stats.)

Also interesting to see in this data were the average prices per title charged by university presses and commercial presses. In 2011, the average price of a book from a university press was $61.04, and the average price from a commercial scholarly and professional publisher was $85.17. The authors of the article state that they assume there is no qualitative difference between titles published in the two categories.

At Litwin Books and Library Juice Press we have been pricing our books much lower, with the idea of making them affordable to individuals and not just institutions. The average price of a book from Library Juice Press is $24.80, and the average price of a Litwin Books title is $26.86. While it might seem that our prices are ridiculously cheap for the market that we are in, it has to be stated we are only publishing paperbacks thus far, and the data I saw did not separate prices for hardcover versus paperback editions. Paperback editions from other scholarly publishers, though usually higher than ours, are mostly in the same range. (It’s my personal opinion that hardcover pricing for libraries is a scam, gaming on the fact that many years ago, when library collection policies were set, paperback books were manufactured poorly and hardover books lasted much longer. With current manufacturing techniques, quality paperbacks are just as durable as hardcover books, with the exception of those with sewn bindings, which are far from the norm.)

August 22, 2012

Lifelong Learning, Even for Undergraduates

I just listened to the latest episode of Steve Thomas’s podcast, “Circulating Ideas,” with academic librarians Lauren Pressley and Lynda Kellam. Towards the end of the show, they discussed how they’re teaching their students to evaluate information but questioned how they’re doing with the “finding things” part. “Are they [the students] making the connection that they can go to their public library to do this kind of work?” asked Kellam. “How are we making that jump into – what does this mean for when you get out of here?” Kellam and Pressley pointed out that in school, the students are educated with resources that may not be available to them once they leave. How does information literacy as it’s taught in college library labs translate into living in the real world after they graduate? And, as they put it, how do you make the connection to the public library in an instructional “one-shot”?

A few months ago, I talked to a librarian at one of the City University of New York (CUNY) campuses who had also started thinking about how the concept of “lifelong learning” fits into what he does at work. I don’t know whether he’s been able to incorporate any new techniques into his instruction, but I think it’s a great thing for academic librarians to consider. After all, we spend many more years – decades – navigating life and (ideally) learning as we go along than we do figuring out how to limit proprietary periodical database results to peer-reviewed articles just because the professor told us to. More recently, a colleague and I met with a few librarians (including the marvelous Alycia Sellie) at one of the local CUNY campuses. We talked about creating handouts that would cross-reference community college and public library resources, and we brainstormed programs at the public library that could supplement academic library instruction (such as “Got a Paper?” clinics).

Because, of course, we in the public library are already seeing your students, academic librarians – at least in my system in NYC, we get lots of CUNY and other college students coming to the reference desk, usually in search of books on their various syllabi. Sometimes we have what they’re looking for, but often we have to gently explain that the public library doesn’t have any university-level economics textbooks, much less the 12th edition of the one that their professor has assigned. Many times the patrons are just accustomed to going to their neighborhood library when they need a book or articles or “information,” and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to disabuse them of that notion – even though at this stage in their life they need to realize that we’re more likely than not going to refer them back to their school.

In California, LILi (Lifelong Information Literacy)  is “a group of librarians from various types of California libraries, investigating information literacy definitions, standards and instruction in California, in order to craft effective models of lifelong, sequential information literacy instruction.” Maybe one day we’ll have something similar in New York City (and in your town or city as well) that formally brings together school, public, and academic librarians. But regardless of whether it’s institutionalized – how can academic and public librarians work together now to prepare students to handle all of the information needs they’ll encounter throughout their lives?