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#radlibchat – 1st September 2015

‘Librarians’ views on critical theories and critical practices’

For the second radlibchat at 20.00 (BST) on Tuesday 1st September, we will be discussing Schroeder and Hollister’s (2014) journal article Librarians’ views on critical theories and critical practices. This link is to an open access post-print of the article.

The discussion will be hosted by @RadicalLibs on Twitter using the #radlibchat hashtag.

Final questions, and some points about the article to help frame discussion for each question are as follows:

Q1. To what extent does critical theory play a role in your professional life?

The authors separate ‘holistic’ and ‘functional’ aspects of applying critical theory to LIS professional practice.

Q2: Can you give an example of how you apply critical theory specifically, in practice?

68% of respondents in the article learned about critical theory at university, but only 14% encountered it in a LIS course.

Q3: The authors advocate for critical theory to be taught on LIS courses. To what extent is this a solution? What else is needed?

The authors argue critical theory provides “a structural framework for librarians’ involvement in social justice issues.”

Q4: Do you agree with the authors’ foregrounding of social justice as a concern in LIS, and the utility of critical theory?

Q5. How can we make critical theory more mainstream within LIS? What are good examples you’ve seen of this?

You are very welcome to add questions or suggest improvements to the list above. You can:

Further comments and discussion are encouraged in the comments below on this blog post. The intention here is to encourage for further discussion and to enable those not on Twitter to participate in the discussion.

We are very interested in suggestions for articles to discuss at future #radlibchat chats – these can be made using the Google Form here.


Schroeder, R. and Hollister, C.V. (2014) ‘Librarians’ views on critical theories and critical practices’, Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 33(2) pp.91-119. DOI: 10.1080/01639269.2014.912104

#radlibchat – 21st July 2015

Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus

Published in 1970, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation) was Althusser’s exploration of ideology, how it is disseminated and how it is consumed. Althusser proposes that there are a number of ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) through which the dominant ideology is disseminated, the predominant of which is the education ISA.

Althusser’s original piece is 18,000 words long and available here. For the purposes of this discussion, we shall focus on a key section of the text where Althusser explores the key ISAs and how they operate. The extract is available here. Ideally, it would be preferable to read the full article, but if this is not possible the extract should enable you to partake in the conversation.

The #radlibchat will focus on a number of key questions to help frame the discussion:

  1. Does ideology create a false consciousness that can be overcome or is it entirely unconscious?
  2. What role do libraries play in reinforcing the dominant ideologies within the education ISA?
  3. Althusser wrote his theory in 1970, before the internet. Is it still relevant? Is the educational ISA still dominant?
  4. To what extent do library spaces create and maintain the interpellation of users of the service, directing and removing active agency within the community?
  5. How can we in our roles subvert the dominant ideology? Is it possible within larger structures that reinforce them?

#radlibchat will take place at 2000 BST on Tuesday 21st July and will be hosted by @RadicalLibs on Twitter, comments and discussion are also encouraged in the comments below, both for further discussion and so as to enable those not on Twitter to engage in the discussions.

Suggestions for articles to discuss at future #radlibchat events can be made using the Google Form here.


Sessions proposed for Radical Librarians Huddersfield #radlib15

All sessions are listed on the etherpad. If you have an idea for a topic for discussion, head on over and share it with the community (don’t worry about whether or not your idea sounds “academic”, many of us that have attended previous RLC gatherings aren’t schooled in the language of academia or philosophy. All that matters is that it is consistent with the RLC ethos.)

I’d like to do a thing about other forms of radicalism in academic libraries – not just radical librarianship and radical politics but radical live art, radical DIY publications etc.  It shouldn’t just exist in public or zine libraries or libraries in art spaces and social centres. This is sparked by seeing how radical performance art has been used in medical education and thinking about the academic library’s role both in supporting learning and teaching and providing spaces that cross disciplinary and cultural boundaries. Most art in academic libraries is part of the university collection or a display of student work and often a) static and visual b) controlled.
(Proposer: pennyb)

I would like to pitch a session on ‘teams’/what do we mean when we describe something as a team/management speak within the organisation. This follows from my MSc research where I discovered that people tend to quote definitions of what certain words mean without linking them to their actual working practices or experiences. I’m also interested in looking at the “professional divide” in libraries and how this impacts team working.
(Proposer: Jesshaigh)

I’d like to put forward an idea for discussion 🙂 I think the introduction of fees has changed the perceptions of higher education (HE) library users, and resulted in some visitors going beyond the very common use of a favourite spot to claiming ownership of whole areas of the library. This isn’t to say librarians own it (although some will suggest so!), but claiming the space in such a way can deter other patrons, and in some cases has resulted in aggressive or overtly intimidating behaviour. Libraries should be flexible to accommodate most usage, but not to the point where visitors feel unsafe – libraries should be safe places. How can we deal with this?
(Proposer: bryonyramsden)

I’d be interested in discussing the Leiden Manifesto and how it might help librarians in research-intensive institutions to resist: the obsession with bibliometrics/scientometrics being used as a way to measure performance; the bias towards ‘high impact’ Englishlanguage publications rather than the most appropriate form of dissemination of information; and the broader, worrying trend towards using quantity (of citations, of publications, downloads, whatever) as a proxy for quality (originality, integrity, uniqueness (is that a word?)).
(Proposer: Tanya Williamson)

Ian and I would like to run a session on starting local networks with the aim of helping people feel more comfortable about going away and doing this if they want to. We’ll discuss practicalities of getting things off the ground regarding things like communication and space as well as talking through difficulties and things that have/haven’t worked. We’re still in the process of working on how the session will be run but we’re hoping it will be collaborative with plenty of discussion.
(Proposer: Sarah Arkle and Ian Clark)
Sarah and Ian would appreciate folk completing the short survey available here ahead of the gathering on the 4th July.

I’d like to talk about HE libraries as sites for cultural reproduction and/or contestation in light of the neoliberalisation of Education following Browne. I’m also interested in what people think about the way public and academic libraries are painted as totally different (eg. why is it normal to talk about social justice issues in public librarianship but not academic – as if universities are beyond that somehow).
(Proposer: Katherine Quinn)

Another from me! Not fully fleshed out etc, but I’d like to know how we can promote critical thinking and social responsibility to library visitors (public or academic) if we have little to no contact with them.  I liked the HE example of using a search that linked up to it in info skills teaching e.g. feminism (although we are often expect to use searches specific to assignments as examples as priority).  At Hud, we’ve been creating small book displays on a regular basis and often sneak in something that might be counted, but we don’t know how far that reaches (we do know people borrow items from the display so we know it does reach someone!).
(Proposer: Bryony Ramsden)

Information services and mutual support for international librarians. This relates to the trips I recently went on to Singapore and Palestine and how RLC can try and support librarians and information workers to develop skills, knowledge, resources, technologies, access etc. With funding being so scarce in many marginalised and oppressed environments and communities, I would like us to talk about our role as a radical community that wish to share and develop a strong network that is not bound by the traditions of statehood, economy, limitation and restriction. I would really like it to be an open discussion (whereby I don’t really plan a lot but could happily talk about some the experiences I had in Singapore and Palestine that have informed this suggestion) rather than me banging on and on about things as I get sick of my own drab monotones, so if there’s interest, that’s cool, but if not, then I’d happily let it fall to one side and let other suggestions take precedent.

(Pro)poser: Kevin Sanders

I’d like to do a journal chat club type #critLIS thing, looking at Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus (ISAs) as described in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses [source:] ]. Rather than read and discuss the whole piece, however (it’s 18,000 words long!), I prefer to focus on the part of the essay specifically focused on the section entitled “The State Ideological Apparatuses”. I would like to discuss this theory with others in the context of libraries (both public and academic). The extract is also available in a Google Doc here. I might add that I am not very theory orientated, but I am interested in having a discussion with others in relation to Althusser’s theory, how it is reflected in libraries and what, if anything, can we do to tackle the consequences of this. Might be better as an afternoon session to give people a chance to read it beforehand. I’m also happy to ditch this session if space does not permit it and run at later date as an online chat (particularly as I am already running a session with Sarah).
(Proposer: Ian Clark)

I’m somewhat shooting from the hip here, but I’d like to talk about the issues surrounding internet security and surveillance, linking these topics to the wider importance of library and information practices for political activities. It may be more of a theme than a session, as I can see related elements cropping up in the other sessions, but thought I’d just pop it down here. NB: I’m not claiming to be any kind of an expert in these things! I’m very new to it all in practice, so have only a veneer of technical knowledge, but do think it ties in very closely with my general interests in autonomy, (intellectual) freedom etc., and is significant for RLC.

(Pro)poser: Kevin Sanders


The day itself is currently scheduled as follows:

10-10:30 Introduction and session proposals
10:30-11:15 Parallel Session 1
11:15-12:00 Parallel Session 2
12:00-12:45 Parallel Session 3
12:45-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:15 Parallel Session 4
14:15-15:00 Parallel Session 5
15:00-15:45 Parallel Session 6
15:45-16:30 Plenary
With two rooms available, this should ensure 12 sessions will take place. However, the above schedule may be subject to change depending on the number of sessions that folk are willing to deliver.

Suggesting sessions at Radical Librarians, Huddersfield #radlib15

RLC aims to be non-hierarchical, non-intimidatory, and – actually – fun! This ethos extends to the way we all collectively set the agenda for the day through suggestions for sessions.

As in previous years, we’ll have some time first thing during which individuals (or pairs/ small groups) with an idea for a session (no matter how fledgling!) can offer it up to the rest of the RLCers. You can make your suggestion in advance by etherpad, and use this to get an idea of what other people are planning. The idea is not to “pitch” your idea against other peoples ideas; all contributions are welcome and there is no judgement. Your idea can be fully prepared and extensively researched, or can just be a suggestion thought up on a whim. Sessions in the past have covered all sorts of aspects of radical library and information work, including (but by no means exhausting!)

  • Librarianship as a feminist issue
  • BDSM and libraries
  • Librarians and challenging the state
  • Disability and inclusivity in libraries
  • Critical theory (or, the lack of) in LIS MA courses
  • Professional ethics and copyright

Just because we’ve had these before does not preclude them as topics for this year! Other future topics could include casualisation of LIS work, LIS and race/ethnicity, corporate culture, un/under-employment, unionisation…no idea is a bad one as long as it aligns with RLC values.

In your suggestion, don’t feel like you need to be overly formal or use academic language; the more easily accessible the better. If speaking in front of a largeish group of people is not your thing, we still want to hear from you, so please consider another option:

  • Suggest via etherpad in advance; either with a friend or with an invitation for collaborators to get in touch so that you’re not alone on the day.
  • Make your suggestion anonymously via etherpad in advance (or on paper on the day) and one of this year’s organisers can make it on your behalf and help facilitate the workshop on the day.

If you have any other suggestions on how to make suggesting sessions more inclusive on the day, please email us:

#radlib15 – The Huddersfield Gathering

We are pleased to welcome library and information workers from across the country to the third Radical Librarians Collective gathering in Huddersfield on Saturday 4th July [tickets available here]. After much wrangling to find the appropriate venue, we are pleased to have managed to have arranged to host the discussions at The Yorkshire Children’s Centre at Brian Jackson House.

As per previous gatherings, everyone who subscribes to the principles of the Radical Librarians Collective is welcome and encouraged to attend. To ensure that we remain free from sponsorship and any corporate influence, the gathering is free to attend with voluntary donations welcomed to cover the associated costs from ensuring it is an independent and safe space for discussion.

#radlib15, as with all gatherings of the Radical Librarians Collective, will adhere to the agreed safer spaces policy which you can read here. The safety and inclusion of everyone that attends is fundamental to the day. If you have any additional suggestions to ensure that the safer spaces policy reflects this, please do let us know.

We will be posting regular updates on Twitter over the coming weeks leading up to the conference using the #radlib15 hashtag and we will be using the blog to share more information as we approach the day of the gathering – see our dedicated Huddersfield page for updates. If you have an idea for a session, we would encourage you to pitch it in advance using the comments field on the Huddersfield page the Ethernet pad that has been created here – but please do not feel this is obligatory, pitches, as always, can be made on the day!

Stay tuned for more deets as and when and if you have any questions, do fire us a line via email or via our Twitter account at @RadicalLibs.


Statement of RLC’s solidarity with Leicester Square School of English

The Radical Librarians Collective would like to send out fullest solidarity to the workers at the Leicester Square School of English. The owner, Craig Tallents, closed down the school without notice, owing staff thousands of pounds in unpaid wages.

On top of this, LSSE management literally left students out in the cold. Having not been told of the school’s decision to close, newly arrived international students came to the school on Monday morning, having already paid for and been promised accommodation that LSSE management knew they would no longer be in a position to provide. Luckily, occupying teachers were their to help them out, but LSSE management were perfectly happy to leave these vulnerable students stranded in central London.

In response to these injustices, staff occupied the school and have organised a campaign to secure their rightful wages. So far, they caused the owner, Craig Tallents, to resign from the posh Bancroft’s School and have caused him to take down the website of his company, Asparagus Management Consulting.


Journal of Radical Librarianship

An open access academic journal, created after discussions at the Radical Librarians Collective meetings, has now been launched. Here’s the call for papers:

Journal of Radical Librarianship is now open for submissions.

Journal of Radical Librarianship is an open access journal publishing high quality, rigorously reviewed and innovative scholarly work in the field of radical librarianship. It also publishes non-peer-reviewed commentary and reviews. The scope of the journal is any work that contributes to a discourse around critical library and information theory and practice. We are inviting article submissions on any topic which is related to this area.

The journal publishes on an ongoing basis, so you may submit articles at any time. Visit our Submissions page for further details.’

Join the Radical Librarians Collective mailing list

Radical Librarians Collective now have a mailing list.

The list is for anyone involved with or interested in RLC, and exists to develop ideas, facilitate discussion, stay up to date, and maintain contact between those supportive of RLC’s aims. In short it’s for discussion and announcements.

How to join

The RLC-DISCUSS list is on JiscMail. This is a private list, which means only list members can email the list and that list archives are not publicly available.


In using Jiscmail, you agree to the JiscMail service policies. To this we add that the RLC Safe Spaces policy applies to the mailing list as much as it does to RLC events.

We know we may need additional policies specifically for the list. If so we will develop these by consensus in consultation with RLC as a whole.


JiscMail lists have owners who administer them. For RLC-DISCUSS this is Anna Brynolf and Andrew Preater, you can contact us at:

Can RLC help support HE in refugee camps?

Dr. Gül İnanç from Nanyang Technological University is looking to design HE programmes for refugees. Please read these slides for further information on the back ground to the project

However, so for the role of librarians has been omitted from the discussion, and I see a great opportunity for RLC  to contribute…Basically, we reckon we can offer the sorts of things many of us do, but for refugees. Sounds good, right?

A few emails later, Gül has asked “how Radical Librarians can contribute to [planned] online courses, which will be designed for the refugee students.” This will be discussed at the SNIS Workshop ( in Geneva on the 24th of Nov.

I imagine some technical/infrastructure possibilities in terms of LibraryBox (although if the courses are online, possibly not… that might need some clarification, but a possibility?) , Critical Information Literacy, OA/information sources etc. Indeed, I recognize the limited information about infrastracture may make this difficult to form concrete ideas, but we may be able to help frame this if we can think of necessary tools etc.

So, how can we support Higher Education for refugees? Do you have presentations that could be used as a basis for the project, then modified as appropriate? Can you think how you of opportunities for learners in this context? Please feel free to chuck your ideas in and discuss in the comments here.

A statement against all forms of oppression and in direct support of #TeamHarpy

Sadly, even in 2014, manipulative behaviour by those in dominant positions of power continue to occur. Earlier in the year, several cases of men exerting pressure on women emerged from the vlogging community, and there is evidence from within the library and information profession that oppressive practices occur in our professional spheres.

However uncomfortable these revelations have been for us as a community, it is important that we can freely challenge, critique, and debate such behaviours. Radical Librarians Collective strongly believes that this is the way a resilient and supportive community can evolve towards true equality, and this cannot be achieved reactively. Radical Librarians Collective believes in creating and propagating safe spaces by consciously examining our relative positions of power.

We believe that the lawsuit launched by Joe Murphy against Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus  sets a dangerous precedent of hampering open discussion of such issues. Litigation will put many more women at risk and will alienate those whose voices vitally need to be heard in order to ensure safe spaces. Abuse in itself occurs under domination. Stripping victims of their means of defence amounts to victim-shaming, and that is the message that this litigation sends.

We therefore issue our full support for #TeamHarpy. Litigation in the face of allegations of sexual harassment is an assault on the rights and freedoms of women. We urge that this action be halted and, furthermore, that all conferences and gatherings within the profession provide a strict safe space policy that is stringent and binding to all who attend. Safe space policies must be articulated and consciously accepted by all members present. Anything less amounts to complacency, and allows only the loudest voices to be heard. A recommended policy can be found here, and the Radical Librarians Collective have effectively used this for our own previous meetings.

No matter the setting, everyone should feel not only able to voice concerns about harassment in all its forms, but to expect that such concerns are tackled head on rather than ignored or overlooked.

Radical Librarians Collective 22/09/2014