Category Archives: #radlibchat

#radlibchat – 12th April 2016

For the eighth #radlibchat at 20:00 (GMT+1/15:00 EST*) on Tuesday 12th April, we will be discussing whiteness in library and information science with specific reference to April Hathcock’s White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS.

As always, reading the article isn’t a pre-requisite for joining in, but we would very much encourage you to read April’s article.

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

Questions for the chat (c/o April).

1. What kind of diversity initiatives do you have at your library? Are they effective? How can you tell?
2. In what ways do you see whiteness at work in your library?
3. Do you perform whiteness at work? Do you expect others to? How?
4. What can we do to dismantle whiteness in our profession?
4.5. What role can white people play in helping to dismantle whiteness?
5. How can we mentor/help others to navigate the whiteness in our profession?
* Please note, this originally stated 14:00EST…but due to poor time conversion skills, it turns out this was wrong. Apologies!

#radlibchat – 8th March 2016

For the seventh #radlibchat at 20.00 (GMT) on Tuesday 8th March, we will be discussing critical information literacy praxis, using Eamon Tewell’s open access article ‘A decade of critical information literacy: a review of the literature‘ as suggested background reading plus April Hathcock’s Decolonizing social justice work‘ blog post to shape questions about decolonizing critical information literacy.

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

You can suggest questions or points for discussion, or comment on the questions ahead of time using the #radlibchat etherpad – or comment on this blog post.


Citing the work of educator Paulo Freire, Tewell (p. 26) argues that:

Critical pedagogy is in essence a project that positions education as a catalyst for social justice…

Q1. How far do you consider critical pedagogy in #infolit to be a form of social justice work?

Definitions of ‘information literacy’ are contested and standards, codes and and frameworks abound in our professional organisations. Can we “hate the framework, love the frame” as Kevin Seeber suggests?

Q2. How do you reconcile critical #infolit approaches with standards such as the ACRL ‘Framework…’ or the SCONUL ‘Seven Pillars’?

We talk about praxis as a reciprocal combination of theory and practice, but it is not necessarily obvious how to put theory into practice in #infolit work. Jessimaka recently asked about practical examples of critical pedagogy, which resonated with me:

Q3. What does critical-informed #infolit look like to you, in practice? Practical examples from your work very welcome.

Previous #critlib chats on critical pedagogy and information literacy included discussion of practical problems using a critical approach in the neoliberal academy, especially when information literacy is set up as a “one shot” session.

Q4. Can we reconcile a critical #infolit approach with a ‘student satisfaction’ agenda, and marketized higher education?

Q5. What suggestions can you offer to include critical approaches in “one shot” #infolit, if this is all that is available?

April Hathcock (2016) problematizes the false dichotomy of theory vs. practice in a recent blog post, and calls instead for decolonizing of theory:

We’ve been framing the debate as theory vs practice or lived experience vs theory, but for those of us who critique critical theoretical work from within, we’re talking about something much more nuanced. We’re not saying theory has no place or lived experience can’t be theoretical. What we are saying is that much of the theory we see and hear from our colleagues remains largely colonized, that is, it is largely white, male, Western, cis-het, Judeo-Christian.

Q6. How can we move to decolonize our own critical #infolit practices?

Tewell’s closing paragraph (p. 37) emphasizes the importance of developing critical praxis in librarianship:

It is the writings, words, and work of others that helps us as a profession to achieve praxis via the reciprocity of theory, practice and action, and to thereby provide educational opportunities with emancipatory possibilities for both our students and ourselves.

Q7. How could we frame this approach with respect to the centrality of lived experience emphasized by Hathcock and others?

Q8. Finally, Tewell’s paper is a review. What recommended reading or further suggestions would you add to it about critical #infolit?


Hathcock, A. (2016) ‘Decolonizing social justice work’, At the Intersection, 2 March. Available at:

Tewell, E. (2015). ‘A decade of critical information literacy: a review of the literature’, Communications in Information Literacy, 9(1) [Online]. Available at:

#radlibchat – 9th February 2016

For the sixth radlibchat at 20.00 (GMT) on Tuesday 9th February to tie in with the libraries lobby, we will be discussing Unions in Public and Academic Libraries by Kathleen de la Peña McCook (OA article available here).

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


  1. To what extent should associations focus on the rights of workers?
  2. Are trade unions more of less effective in defending library workers than associations?
  3. Can unions still be an effective mechanism to defend worker rights in a neoliberal, globalised environment?
  4. Are there overarching themes for advocacy or is it still very localized, as noted in the article?
  5. How may we effectively advocate for our professional selves?

#radlibchat – 12th January 2016

For the fifth radlibchat at 20.00 (GMT) on Tuesday 12th January, we thought we’d break from the chat around an Open Access article for a change (break into the new year gently and all that) and have a discussion about filtering in libraries. Following the great work conducted by those engaged with the Collective to reveal the state of filtering in public libraries, it seemed a good time to have a discussion around the implications and ramifications for both society and the profession of internet filtering.

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

Potential questions for discussion*

  1. What ethical/professional issues does filtering raise?
  2. Are there good reasons for filtering? How do we balance our responsibilities?
  3. What could be done at policy level?
  4. What could be done in individual libraries?
  5. What can library workers do?
  6. What should next steps be for e.g. CILIP?

* All welcome to suggest alternative Qs for discussion…these are suggestions at this stage!

#radlibchat – 10th November 2015

For the fourth radlibchat at 20.00 (GMT) on Tuesday 10th November, we will be discussing John Buschman (2005) On Libraries and the Public Sphere. 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.

Questions to frame the discussion to come…keep an eye on our Twitter account for updates.

Questions to frame the discussion

1. To what extent is librarianship in 2015 in a more precarious state than previously?

2. Is there a disjunct or “structural contradiction” between our purposes/practices and current environment? Why/why not?

3. Are there changes in our practice/professional values as a community, or as individuals, that have made us more precarious?

4. How do we respond to our current environment?

6. Who/what is sovereign and thus normalizing/determining the current state of librarianship?

“sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception: If there is some person or institution, in a given polity, capable of bringing about a total suspension of the law and then to use extra-legal force to normalize the situation, then that person or institution is the sovereign in that polity” (Carl Schmitt)

#radlibchat – 13th October 2015

For the third radlibchat at 20.00 (BST) on Tuesday 13th October, we will be discussing Gabriella Coleman’s (2009) journal article Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers. 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.

Questions to frame the discussion to come…keep an eye on our Twitter account for updates.

Questions for framing discussion

1) Should code be treated as speech? To what extent should LIS workers engage in this issue?

2) To what extent is there a link between libraries and FOSS software? How could libraries engage in this area?

3) What links or differences are there in the approach to politics taken by programmers and LIS workers?

4) Do you think LIS workers would benefit from informal legal expertise? If so, how could LIS workers acquire it?

5) Can piracy of proprietary (non-FOSS) software ever be justified?

6) To what extent should we work within a legal framework if we believe the state making the laws is unjust?

Upcoming chats:

10th November 2015 – On Libraries And The Public Sphere by John Buschman.

#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.