Radical Librarians Collective now has a forum / messageboard for online discussion of radical librarianship issues and politics in librarianship. Join the discussion!
Following the 2016 RLC national gathering in Brighton, a “Barriers to Engagement” document was created on our RLC Sandstorm site. It was advertised via email and Facebook, and was the pinned tweet for @RadicalLibs until February 2017. The aim of the document was to facilitate positive feedback that would help RLC improve its behaviours and practices.
This blog post is an attempt by the admin committee to create clear action points from the document. In the spirit of openness, the document is still available so you can see how we have tried to create an action point for each suggestion. These are only the ideas of four people and are not expected to be concrete rules for RLC; instead they are intended to form a basis for further discussion and additional suggestions. It is expected that these action points will change over time, as we become aware of other barriers.
This blog post will be discussed at the 2017 RLC national gathering in Glasgow to ensure that RLC is actively attempting to mitigate barriers to engagement within the group. Through this, we hope to encourage greater diversity among those participating in RLC activities and committees.
Special thanks to Katherine Quinn, who was prompted by one of the suggestions to contact other organisations and discover what they were doing in that area. Her full report can be seen at the end of the shared document.
Organisation of RLC
2) A glossary of terms and suggested reading have been created to provide pointers for those who feel that they need a better understanding of radical theory in order to participate in discussions:
3) A manifesto has been created, but this has not really been added to. Maybe this could be one of the points for discussion at the 2017 national meet-up?
4) It is acknowledged that training is available, which could help RLC to reflect on itself and our aims – for example, http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/training. Making use of this training would only be possible at a national meet-up, but we would then still have the problem of effectively excluding those who were unable to attend the event. Maybe this could be one of the points for discussion at the 2017 national meet-up?
As far as we are aware, there are no longer any regular regional meetings. The following points are things to be considered should regional meetings start up again, or for the next national meet-up in July 2017. A document has been created and put on the website, the contents of which set out the things that should be taken into consideration when organising RLC events. It is possible to add to this document, so please send any suggestions to email@example.com or tweet us @RadicalLibs.
5) Venue accessibility should always be the main factor to consider when arranging venues for events and meetings – for example, try to avoid organising events in pubs or bars so that this does not make people feel excluded on the ground of religious beliefs, and when organising London events at LARC, try to book the downstairs room for mobility reasons.
6) Communications accessibility should always be the main factor to consider when facilitating discussions – for example, using colour communication badges http://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ColorCommunicationBadges.pdf. There are various existing source of information on this topic, for example:
7) Encourage a child-friendly atmosphere and/or try to establish crèches alongside meetings as required. For the 2017 national gathering in Glasgow, Jess Haigh has volunteered to lead with this and is on the organising committee who are going to be asking “if you would require childcare in order to attend the meeting, what would your needs be?” to best plan for this.
8) When determining the date on which to hold a meeting, use date-picker software like Doodle, Loomio, or Sandstorm’s Framadate to select the date that is best for the majority of people.
9) There are some tools that can be used to encourage participant involvement and enable people to get the most out of an event. However, it is essential to be aware that these may directly conflict with certain other steps taken towards ensuring the accessibility of communications (for example in the case of red badge wearers under the colour communication badge system).
KQ to look into proposing a session in Glasgow that enables collaborative feedback discussion about questions such as “why do I want to be in RLC?” “if RLC didn’t exist as it is, what would I want in its place?” and “do I feel part of what I have described?”
Examples of facilitation tools are available from e.g. https://www.trainingforchange.org/tools/facilitation
10) We obtained contributions to a document of recommended actions and practices of radical behaviour, which was used to create a blog post. https://rlc.radicallibrarianship.org/2017/02/15/radical-librarianship-in-daily-practice/
11) It was suggested that we could have a specific, journal-based chat on Twitter – i.e. #radjc – to look at articles relating to radical librarianship. This would provide both for theoretical discussions and for conversations around more practical topics, utilising both #radjc and #radlibchat. Although this would be affiliated with- and promoted by RLC, people should not feel obliged to participate if they do not want to, or if they cannot spare the time. In order to do this, we would need volunteer(s) to organise #radjc.
It can be taken for granted that individuals involved with Radical Librarians Collective want to implement radical practices into our working lives. However, we may often find it difficult to do so, for example, if employers and colleagues have alternative (maybe even anti-radical) attitudes. In order to help, various radical librarians have made suggestions for ways to introduce radicalism in practice even in potentially hostile environments.
1) Connect with other radicals.
RLC is one radical community but there are many others all over the world. Building relationships with other radically-minded individuals and organisations can be very rewarding. They can be sources of solidarity, collaboration, and inspiration. They can help to give you the courage to make the changes that you want to see in your workplace – if someone else was able to achieve something, then why not you? Trade unions can also be excellent organisations to participate in, both in terms of meeting other radicals and also contributing to a group that can work towards making changes to your working environment.
2) Talk about radical topics.
Help to raise awareness of radicalism within your profession, for example talking with colleagues about an event that you attended, or encouraging those who are sympathetic to join the RLC mailing list. If you work with Open Access, think about how you can promote it as a political/social movement rather than just a bureaucratic procedure and requirement. Digital privacy and security are increasingly important, so raise your users’ (and colleagues’) awareness of the issues and tools that are out there.
3) Contribute to a culture that embraces change.
There are lots of ways you can start to chip away at working environments where the established status quo at first seems unassailable. For example, you can point out entrenched mistakes, oversights, and bad practices – embarrass your employer into making positive changes and thereby improving both the quality of the service. If you are invited to speak at an event, check out who else is speaking and – if you find that they are mostly white/male – then raise this as an issue with the event organisers.
4) Make meaningful changes where you can, no matter how “small”.
There may be some things that are beyond your ability to change, so don’t let these depress you and instead focus on the positive impact that you can effect. You might also be able to implement small changes yourself without needing to go through the chain of command, for example, promoting radical books in displays and website highlights, or organising events to celebrate things like Black History Month and LGBT Month. If you do training sessions, you might also be able to use radical themes as source material – for example, getting users to create letters to an Amnesty prisoner in a Microsoft Word training session. You can certainly foster critical thinking and good information literacy in your users through training sessions, and you can even conduct your training in a radical way through using open discussions rather than conventional lecture-style teaching.
5) Don’t allow your work to dominate your life.
In many organisations, it may be implicitly – or explicitly – expected that you will work longer and harder than the minimum required by your contract, for example, working through breaks, staying late, or taking work home with you. In an environment where this is the norm, then one of the most radical things you can do is to prioritise your non-work commitments. Make sure that you fulfil the minimum required of you, but refuse to do more than this. This requires you to decouple your sense of self-worth from your work, which may be an ongoing struggle. Ultimately, this can help you to focus on more important aspects of your life, like family or community, and to escape the structures of domination and rigid authority that many of us work within.
At the RLC SE meeting in October, the main discussion point was the future of RLC SE. This discussion was held in the light of reduced attendence at meetings and limited responses to communications, which has been experienced consistently over the past months.
Following on from this meeting, an email was sent out at the end of October to ask everyone on the RLC SE mailing list whether they still wanted to be involved and whether a move to one-off meetings focused on special events would be better. The responses to this email suggested that people did want to be involved, but that a variety of factors meant that regular meetings were no longer an effective way of doing things.
As a result, we intend to cease regular monthly RLC SE meetings, instead focusing on the organisation of one-off events, like cryptoparties, talks and discussions, perhaps in conjunction with other groups. Dates for these one-off meetings will be determined by polling the RLC SE mailing list, and will be advertised via Twitter and email as usual.
The admin committee remains happy to organise events, but it is not within their remit to decide what events happen – suggestions for event ideas are therefore strongly encouraged from the rest of RLC SE.
Meanwhile, we will continue to improve the library space at LARC, so please let us know if you would like to help with this.
/RLC SE admin committee
The fourth Radical Librarians Collective gathering is on Saturday 9th July at the Cowley Club in Brighton – book here.
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.
As with all gatherings of the Radical Librarians Collective, #radlib16 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’re coming together because we all identify as radicals, in one way or another, and agree that a radical approach to library and information issues is necessary in the current climate. What do we mean by radical? Well, we’ve put together a short primer of the kind of thinking that reflects the starting point for our conversations at this event, some basic principles that frame the kind of discussions we feel is vital at this juncture. Happy reading!
In order to cover costs, we will be asking for a donation on the day from those who can afford to contribute.
Finally, please let us know if you can no longer attend so we can offer your place to someone on the waiting list.
See you in London!