Call for Proposals: Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis
Editors: Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, and Eamon Tewell
Publisher: Library Juice Press
Reference work often receives short shrift in the contemporary discourse and practice of librarianship. Conversations that concern critical pedagogy, social justice, and theory tend to revolve around instruction or cataloging practice. Moreover, reference librarians and reference services themselves seem to be disappearing. Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis seeks to stake out a space and make a passionate case for reference work in a manner that is historically, socially and politically compelling. It will highlight the unique position of reference librarianship, a liminal and dialectical space, potentially distinct from the power dynamics of classroom instruction and singular in its mission and practice. At heart, reference is a conversation and partnership. The stakes are significant, not only because of the unique potential for social justice work but because of the risk that the profession is now overlooking reference’s central importance.
Libraries can be viewed as “leaks in the informational economy” (Vaidhyanathan, 2004) and reference services inside and outside of the library have the capacity to create radical spaces of critique and social justice. Reference has a long history of contributing to libraries as sites of democratic access to information, ideas, books, and culture. That access is an essential element of an informed democracy and the intellectual engagement of the autonomous individual. Yet we overlook that this access doesn’t happen magically. Point-of-need interaction, key to the positioning of libraries as agents of social change, often pivots around the work of reference.
The Book’s Three Sections:
Part 1: Praxis
This chapter will mine diverse theoretical frameworks as they pertain to Social Justice & Reference. This may include the canonical theorists that Critical LIS Literature has traditionally engaged but an emphasis will be placed on work beyond the canon. In so doing, it will trouble and broaden traditional academic conventions. For example, the work of various activist traditions and social movement thinkers might be discussed, or epistemologies associated with non-western cultural ideas of property, ownership, knowledge, etc. Contributors are also encouraged to look to theorists writing in a variety disciplines: architecture, computer science, or law, among others. These frameworks can come from both inside and outside LIS literatures. For example: How has work in the area of radical cataloging or archival theory served to provide a lens through which to engage reference work?
Part 2: History
Part 2 makes the case that reference librarianship has a long tradition of social justice work. It will feature historical studies of reference work both in and out of libraries, international and domestic (e.g. librarians in totalitarian regimes, librarians during the cold war, etc.). In this section we encourage authors to make connections from the past to the present: what historical examples of reference service might serve as inspiration or as caution for present day efforts to provide a socially conscious reference service? Possible examples: reference work in Nazi Germany or Nazi-occupied Europe; reference services in segregated, Jim Crow libraries.
Part 3: Dispatches from the Field
Articles about mindful, social justice-oriented reference work in diverse settings (e.g. rural, Native American reservations; inner-city neighborhoods; situated within myriad institutions such as the federal government; and within myriad collections, e.g. archives, special collections, etc.) Part 3 seeks to bring parts one and two together. We laid the groundwork for the book’s claim about the centrality of social justice in reference work by presenting a variety of theoretical models; we’ve explored the rich genealogy of social justice in reference librarianship by looking to the past in part 2; and now, in our closing section, we seek to illuminate parts one and two and their relevance by looking to practice today.
Possible Chapter Topics:
– Reference as praxis: Explorations of diverse theoretical models and frameworks through which to think about Reference. We encourage proposals that engage thinkers, writers and traditions beyond the traditional Critical LIS canon, though new engagements of canonical thinkers are welcomed too.
– Studies exploring the historical tradition of reference librarianship as social justice practice. We encourage proposals that seek to connect and draw parallels between librarianship’s historical tradition and contemporary practice and the contemporary context.
– Examples of specific social justice initiatives tied to reference services.
– Linking reference services to social justice movements outside of the library.
– Innovations in reference service to better serve marginalized and oppressed groups.
– Reference work and anti-racism.
– Successful efforts at repurposing reference services with a social justice and/or critical focus.
Please submit the following to ReferenceAndJusticeBook@gmail.com by July 1, 2016:
– An abstract of up to 500 words describing your proposed chapter
– A brief biographical statement about the author(s)
Notifications will be sent by July 29, 2016. First drafts will be due December 1, 2016, with an anticipated final publication date of Fall 2017. Chapters are expected to be between 2000 and 5000 words.