Critical Conversations

The State Library of Ohio and OhioNet are excited to contribute to the conversation about staff advocacy with an online, recorded live presentation and Q&A titled Vocational Awe: Examining the Cost of Your Service with Fobazi Ettarh (Rutgers University). The webinar was held October 7 at 2 p.m. and geared toward Ohio library staff of all levels and all library types. WE APOLOGIZE THAT THERE ARE SOME ISSUES WITH THE SOUND RECORDING DURING THE FIRST 9 MINUTES.   Click here to view the video via YouTube.

“Vocational awe refers to the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in beliefs that libraries as institutions are inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique.”  In this session, Fobazi Ettarh will discuss the theory of vocational awe and how combined with the value of service has created a toxic framework of leadership that cannot grow or adapt to the ever-changing world in which we live.  Ms. Ettarh will build upon this foundation and reveal the hidden costs of service that vocational awe demands, and how you can encourage yourself and others to push beyond this framework.  For it is only by breaking this framework can we as library workers and as a field can truly be of service to ourselves as well as our patrons.


In partnership with OhioNet, Critical Conversations is supported by the State Library of Ohio with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Resources

Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Fobazi Ettarh – Vocational awe describes the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in notions that libraries as institutions are inherently good, sacred notions, and therefore beyond critique. I argue that the concept of vocational awe directly correlates to problems within librarianship like burnout and low salary. This article aims to describe the phenomenon and its effects on library philosophies and practices so that they may be recognized and deconstructed.

Vocational Awe  by Anne Helen Petersen- newsletter by Anne Helen Peterson published September 6. The author addresses a recent article asking why libraries can’t serve as mail-in ballot receptacles. She discusses the library’s role in the election and other social services and how that related to vocational awe.

The Contours of Clergy Burnout newsletter by Anne Helen Peterson published September 24. The author discusses burnout as it relates to clergy and those dedicated to a religious calling.  

In the Name of Love by Miya Tokumitsu– published in January of 2014. Excerpt from the article- “There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.” 

White Supremacy Culture (PDF) by James and Okun- This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture that show up in our organizations.  

Burnout: What It Is and Some Ways to Address It In Ourselves and In Organizations by Dean Spade. The author describes some of the symptoms and feelings that emerge with overwork. He discusses ways to address overwork and burnout within an organization and how to move towards a better balance.  

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick’s work on Low Morale (Public Librarians) (Academic Librarians-Paywall) 

Other Duties as Assigned: Front-Line Librarians and the Constant Pressure to Do More – as told to Anne Ford for American Libraries Magazine. Social worker, EMT, therapist, legal consultant, even bodily defender: These are the roles that many (perhaps most?) librarians feel they’re being asked to assume. American Libraries asked seven librarians—public, academic, and school; urban and rural—their thoughts about the many directions in which their profession finds itself pulled.

Resisting Vocational Awe During the Pandemic – Opinion by Suzanne LaPierre in Public Libraries Online. LaPierre writes about how Ms. Ettarh’s concept of vocational awe during a pandemic could be harmful to library staff as individuals, the general profession, and the public.

Move and a Shaker?  – Website and blog post by Fobazi Ettarh regarding her recent Library Journal Mover and Shaker nomination.

Pandemic Resources for Academic Libraries: Advocating for Library Workers During Uncertain Times – libguide by Association of College and Research Librarians with helpful links and information about staff advocacy.

Library COVID-19 Solidarity Network Advocates for Closing Libraries by Lisa Peet – Library Journal article about COVID-19 Solidarity Network, organized by Library Freedom Project’s Alison Macrina, bringing together public and academic library staff to advocate for full library closure throughout the United States.

Kernel of Knowledge Webinar Series – Expert-speaker webinar series from the Greater Midwest Region which provides one-hour sessions on topics of interest to Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) members throughout the year.

Library Responses to COVID-19: Ongoing Impacts of Low Morale Experiences with Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, MSLS – Part of the Kernel of Knowledge webinar series. As the COVID-19 Pandemic develops and libraries create immediate, short-term, and long-term responses, Kendrick has been tracking these responses’ impact on already established low-morale experiences. Kendrick will summarize the markers and impacts of low-morale experiences, share the latest results of her survey, and answer attendees’ questions about the survey and/or low morale experiences. Countermeasures to workplace abuse and neglect will also be discussed.

Putting the Self Back in Self Care: Wellness in the Time of COVID-19 – Part of the Kernel of Knowledge webinar series. Whether you are working remotely or within the library building, COVID-19 has changed the way we work and live. In a profession where the desire to serve the public often subsumes the needs of library workers, our panelists will share strategies for self-care as well as tips for overcoming challenges related to (re)creating a work-life balance that can be done for free, remotely or in the building.

Fobazi M. Ettarh is currently the Undergraduate Success Librarian at Rutgers Newark. A school librarian by training, she specializes in information literacy instruction, K-12 pedagogy, and co-curricular outreach. Her research focuses on the decolonization of white supremacy in librarianship. She is the creator of the open-access video game Killing Me Softly: A Game About Microaggressions, which leads the user through the personal and professional effects of ongoing microaggressions. Recently, she coined and defined the concept of vocational awe, as seen in the article Vocational Awe : The Lies We Tell Ourselves. She is a 2020 Library Journal Mover and Shaker and author of the blog WTF is a Radical Librarian? which examines the intersections of librarianship, labor, identity and diversity.

The State Library of Ohio and Bexley Public Library was excited to contribute to this conversation that was an online, live presentation and Q&A titled Making Sense of the Moment: The Library’s Role in Helping Us Understand Race and Racism.  The virtual event was held August 14 at 10 a.m. and the presentation was geared toward Ohio library staff of all levels and all library types.

In this session, Dr. Hasan KwameJeffries began by exploring the roots of race and racism in American society by examining the centrality of slavery to the nation’s founding and highlighting the continuing impact of slavery’s legacy. His presentation took an honest look at how our nation’s past is the key to understanding the persistence of racial inequality today and is essential to creating a more equitable and democratic tomorrow. Dr. Jeffries built upon this foundation to specifically examine the role of libraries and library workers in the context of antiracism work.

After his presentation, Dr. Jeffries had a conversation with Erin Kelsey, Library Consultant at the State Library of Ohio, about how race and racism impacts the work of libraries and how library workers are integral to building equity in our communities.

In partnership with Bexley Public Library, Making Sense of the Moment is supported by the State Library of Ohio with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

 

Bexley Pub Library and State Library logos


The following list of resources is developing and should not be considered comprehensive.

Resources for Individual Antiracism Work

   ONLINE RESOURCES:

How to Fight Racism Through Inner work

Mindfulness meditation may hold the key to grappling with interpersonal racism, says Rhonda Magee, because it helps people tolerate the discomfort that comes with deeper discussions about race. And it can help cultivate a sense of belonging and community for those who experience and fight racism in our everyday lives.

Kirwan Institute Implicit Bias Module Series
The Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University is committed to the creation of a just and inclusive society, where all people and communities have the opportunity to succeed. Their commitment to this mission is why they work so hard to understand and overcome barriers that prevent access to opportunity in our society, such as implicit bias and racial disparities in our education system.

This course will introduce you to insights about how our minds operate and help you understand the origins of implicit associations. You will also uncover some of your own biases and learn strategies for addressing them. Each module is divided into a short series of lessons, many taking less than 10 minutes to complete. That way, even if you’re pressed for time, you can complete the lessons and modules at your convenience.

Teaching Hard History

From Teaching Tolerance and host Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Teaching Hard History brings us the lessons we should have learned in school through the voices of leading scholars and educators. It’s good advice for teachers and good information for everybody  

TedXOhioStateUniversity – Confronting Hard History (link to Youtube video)

In this  talk Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries explores why confronting Hard History is so difficult and yet so necessary. It also explains how to face the most difficult elements of our past

TedXOhioStateUniversity – Ideas for a Better Future  (link to Youtube video)

Speakers like Kimberlé Crenshaw, Bryan Stevenson, and Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries give short talks on topics ranging from the importance of intersectionality, systemic racism, confronting hard history, and more.

Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves   by Fobazi Ettarh

From the article brief- “Vocational awe describes the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in notions that libraries as institutions are inherently good, sacred notions, and therefore beyond critique. This article aims to describe the phenomenon and its effects on library philosophies and practices so that they may be recognized and deconstructed.

You can’t Meditate Your Way Out of This- Ten Percent Happier Podcast

There is fury in America’s streets – and we, as meditators, have the opportunity to use our practice to do the hard work of seeing things clearly (including the ugliness in our own minds), and responding wisely. I’m incredibly grateful to my guest, meditation teacher Sebene Selassie, for agreeing to come on this show on short notice (like, two hours beforehand) to discuss such a painful subject. This episode is in response to the protests that have broken out nationwide in the wake of the case of George Floyd, a black man who died after nearly nine minutes with his neck under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Our conversation is personal and raw. Most of all, we hope it is useful.

BOOKS AND RESOURCE LISTS

Anti-Racism Resources

Compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker & Alyssa Klein. A list of podcasts, articles, films, and books to deepen anti-racism work. this list can be used as a personal resource or shared as a resource to the communities you serve.

Community, Connecting, Cultivating & Constructing Conversations Through Literacy

This list was a collaborative effort between the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Titles on this list were compiled by members of BCALA and members of ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee. ALSC’s Board of Directors endorses BCALA’s statement condemning increased violence and racism toward Black Americans and people of color and stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, BCALA, and those working to dismantling racial capitalism and white supremacy in all of its forms.

Know your reader: Some titles may include mature content. Parents, caregivers and educators are encouraged to discuss these experiences with their children.

Community, Connecting, Cultivating & Constructing Conversations Through Literacy Reading list (Preschool – 8th Grade) 260KB PDF

High-Resolution version 810KB PDF

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out by Ruth King

Racism is a heart disease, writes Ruth King, and it’s curable. Exploring a crucial topic seldom addressed in meditation instruction, this revered teacher takes to her pen to shine a compassionate, provocative, and practical light into a deeply neglected and world-changing domain profoundly relevant to all of us. Drawing on her expertise as a meditation teacher and diversity consultant, King helps readers of all backgrounds examine with fresh eyes the complexity of racial identity and the dynamics of oppression. She offers guided instructions on how to work with our own role in the story of race and shows us how to cultivate a culture of care to come to a place of greater clarity and compassion

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

Resources to discuss racism within the library culture and in your community

Dismantling White Supremacy In Libraries

By Kelly Jensen. A thought-provoking article discussing ways to dismantle harmful systems within a library organization.

Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries

This bibliography contains citations and links (when available) to resources focused on race, racism, and disrupting whiteness and white supremacy in libraries. Particular emphasis is placed on the field of library and information science and librarianship as a profession. The resources are organized by topic; non-LIS-specific resources can be found at the bottom of the list. Updates to the list will be highlighted at the top with the date. “New” indicates a new addition to this guide, not necessarily a newly-published resource.

Talking About Race

From the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a set of 8 self-paced modules on topics including bias, community-building, whiteness, and self-care.

Resources for library administrations, boards, and managers

Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries: Case Studies From the Field (PDF)

Brief from the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Racial Equity. This Issue Brief profiles a handful of public libraries that are leveraging the power and influence of their institutions to advance racial equity in library work and beyond. These libraries are using a shared framework and toolset while developing innovative local approaches to reduce race-based disparities. In doing so, they are beginning to see positive transformations in collections, partnerships, the library workforce, programming and — ultimately — communities.

Anti-Racism Guide: Resources for Education and Action

The guide is compiled to flow from educating users to the topics of racism and anti-racism, taking a deeper dive into details and exploration of the scholarship, delivering educational resources to use in the classroom or for self-education, and then to build sustained and actionable practices for individuals and institutions. In particular, the section “Systemic Racism: Digging Deeper” there is a “Digging Deeper by Discipline” section that offers many resources for academic, k-12, and public libraries.

Doing the Work Internally and Externally: Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion  (Webjunction webinar)

This webinar highlights the work of Richland Library staff as they work, both externally and internally, to improve dialogue and understanding on topics of race, equity, diversity and inclusion.

DPL Advancing Racial Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Symposium (link to Youtube video below)

Footage from the 2020 Denver Public Library Advancing Racial Equity & Inclusion in the Workplace Symposium.

Project READY

The Project READY curriculum is a series of free, online, self-paced professional development modules for school and public youth services librarians, library administrators, and others. Project READY is for anyone interested in improving their knowledge about race, racism, and racial equity, and interested in improving relationships with, services to, and resources for youth of color and Native youth through inclusive environments and programs.

State of Ohio’s Plan of Action to Advance Equity

This document, the Ohio Executive Response, is a culmination of commitments resulting from state leadership discussions that will guide the state enterprise as we embark on a strategic planning process. The process will advance equity in Ohio’s systems; promote diversity, equity and inclusion in state workplaces; embed equity in our programs and policy; and provide tools for our statewide partners to advance equity in public service.

COVID-19 Ohio Minority Health Strike Force Blueprint

The purpose of this blueprint is to provide actionable recommendations to both eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 and other health outcomes and improve overall well-being for communities of color in Ohio. Prompted by the deep-seated health inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this blueprint goes beyond the current crisis to establish a vision of Ohio as a model of justice, equity, opportunity, and resilience to withstand future challenges.

Universal Design in Space Planning

A Design Statement for the Mary Free Bed YMCA in Grand rapids, MI. The Statement of Design provides a succinct description of Universal Design and how it was applied to this public space. This can serve as inspiration or a jumping off point to a discussion about planning library spaces.

What Makes a Successful Place?

Great public spaces are those places where celebrations are held, social and economic exchanges occur, friends run into each other, and cultures mix. They are the “front porches” of our public institutions – libraries, field houses, schools – where we interact with each other and government. When theses spaces work well, they serve as the stage for our public lives.  What makes some places succeed while others fail?

Hasan Kwame Jeffries is associate professor of History at The Ohio State University where he has been teaching courses on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement for the last eighteen years.

He earned a BA in history from Morehouse College in 1994 and a PhD in American history with a specialization in African American history from Duke University in 2002.

He is the author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt. Most recently he edited Understanding and Teaching the Civil Rights Movement, a book of essays by leading civil rights scholars on how to teach the Civil Rights Movement. He also wrote and narrated the 10-episode Audible Original series Great Figures of the Civil Rights Movement, which was released in February 2020.

In the classroom, he has won several major teaching awards, including The Ohio State University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, the university’s highest award for teaching.

Dr. Jeffries has worked on several public history projects, including serving as the lead historian for the five-year, $25 million renovation of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. He is also the host of the podcast Teaching Hard History: American Slavery, a production of the Teaching Tolerance division of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which just wrapped up its second season.