The first Indiana University Bloomington #critlib meeting was this past Monday evening. It was absolutely wonderful—I want to express how appreciative I am of how vulnerable, honest, and aware of their own perspectives and intersections each of the attendees were willing to be, as well as in receiving pushback  and comments.

Attendees included: Jessica Bigelow, Daphne Scott, Amy Martin, Kelsey Grimm, Brian M. Watson, Kyra Triebold, and Shelby Carroll.

Brian M. Watson was the discussion leader, and began with the following acknowledgements:

  • Bloomington is on the ancestral lands and homes of the Shawnee peoples, as well as other native groups, that made their homes and lives here. They were forcefully relocated by the US government in the 19th century.
  • Bloomington and southern Indiana was home to the chattel enslavement of Black men, women, and children, including by a president of the United States of America who supported the legalization of slavery.
  • Indiana was one of the last states to give women equal voting rights. Indiana continues to be a home of grossly homophobic and anti-queer laws and regulations.

We discussed the following articles:

  • Trippin’ Over the Color Line: The Invisibility of Race in Library and Information Studies 2005, Author(s): Honma, Todd: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4nj0w1mp
  • Never Neutral Critical librarianship and technology By Meredith Farkas | January 3: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2017/01/03/never-neutral-critlib-technology/

The following discussion topics were covered:

  • The incredible whiteness of technical and special collections—chemistry and archaeology were the fields mentioned here, with participants speaking to their own experiences.
  • The NAGPRA law and how few librarians seem aware that they might have to turn over their items as well: https://www.nps.gov/nagpra/mandates/index.htm
  • The expense of following these laws—but how necessary it is.
  • Some libraries and museums put native and indigenous galleries side by side with their staffs. Should libraries do this? Should we ask this of people? Who do we ask? Why?
  • Concerns were raised about asking Black, Native American, or other minoritized individuals to always be the diversity person—to serve on committees, etc.
  • An example of this was given of a Native person asked to be a liaison to a community of Puerto Rican neighborhoods—and how blindly racist that question is.  
  • As white people (as the attendees all were) – what are our roles in this? How do we push back? Ideas offered included
    • Asking communities to help us—and compensation for their time
  • Another illustrative point was about IU’s Lilly Library and how uncomfortable that space could be for a minoritized individual—it’s Spanish Colonial, it has a log cabin building, but a number of racist books, and its funding (this was not intended as a slight on the Lilly, just a point about the architecture of IU).
  • What happens when a museum claims they can take better care of an item than the community? The attendees largely found this unacceptable. We talked about
    • Digital repatriation: https://sustainableheritagenetwork.org/digital-heritage/after-return-digital-repatriation-and-circulation-indigenous-knowledge
  • Neutrality is a good idea—but who does it bebefit? It benefits those in power who benefit from the status quo. There are some benefits in trying to educate and reach out—but if you let a patron espouse racist views, does that hurt other patrons? Some discussed how they would like to know where their librarian stood. Discussion was also had about how respected librarians were.
  • The feminized aspects of libraries—how often the public is surprised to find out that MLIS degrees require graduate school.
  • What is the hierarchy in librarianship? How do we do better?

Our next meeting will be Monday November 7th, 2019, at 6:30PM EST at Soma East, in Bloomington. Current and graduate MLIS students, current professional or staff librarians, and educators are welcome.

Please contact briwats (a t) iu . edu with any questions or to be added to the mailing list.