Read, Write, Publish

Today was the inaugural meeting of the Read/Write/Publish group at the University of Chicago Library. This represents two years of organizing, collaborating, and connecting with my library colleagues. It is my (latest) attempt to bring together library people to talk about library stuff: the good and the bad. It has been surprisingly difficult to create spaces where we can have these conversations. We are overworked, we are under-supported, we are worried that we aren’t supposed to talk about these things on work time. We are also a group that rarely engages librarianship critically. There are many of us doing exciting work to advance library science and to improve our library but often in isolation or siloed within a specific department or space in the building.

We met in the collaborative study space on the A-Level of the Reg because my colleague Stacie Williams believes it’s important for everyone to see librarians doing research. We met over lunch for our colleagues who have to get permission from their supervisor to attend events during work time. We stayed until 2pm for our colleagues who don’t want to work over lunch. We held a simultaneous Slack chat for our colleagues who wanted to participate but couldn’t physically attend. We created an email reflector for our colleagues who don’t use Slack. We brought print books to show each other because my colleague Holiday Vega believes that it’s not enough to talk about what influences your practice you need to show people.

We talked about how we divide our time, our writing, what we’re reading, what we hope to read, what we’ve published, what we dream of publishing. We talked about how we don’t feel comfortable being seen reading a physical book at work since people might think we’re not doing “real” work. We talked about when we will meet next and what we’re going to read, write, and publish before then.

The library is not a neutral place and we are not neutral actors within it. The goal of this group is to make space. The goal is to provide time for us to reflect on what it means to work in a library. The goal is to read, to write, and to publish because our voices are important and these conversations are needed.

Anne K. Knafl is the Bibliographer for Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago Library. Follow her on Twitter @aknafl and on Instagram @4th_floor_librarians.

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