School Librarian Identity Anxieties

So I was talking to my friend over the weekend about paths in librarianship and all that. And she mentioned that with the whole Minnesota Institute thing and the fact that I can’t seem to pass up a conference without proposing something for it (womp) that I’m sort of setting myself up for academia. And it’s just like…..am I? Do I want that? Is that a bad thing? I am so conflicted. I love being a school librarian. It made me so happy. But I feel like librarianship values academics….and only them. But at what point have I been out of the school game too long to talk about it? 5 yrs? 10? Is it possible to keep my ties to K-12 and be an academic? Don’t get me wrong. I love my current rotation. And health-wise academia is 100% the best play. I want to make a difference. I want to be a part of a community that changes libraryland for the better. And with how ALA is set up, the conferences most benefit those in academia. They def give more funding that schools. Taking a week off work just for professional development is more doable for academics than it is for schools. I mean this year Mid-Winter was like 4 days after Christmas break. There is no way I could have gone if I was a school librarian. And even Annual takes place during the school year. Those are a lot of days to have to get a sub and set up lesson plans and have the students be unable to check out books. And although things like #critlib helps build a community without physically changing locations, gaining power in librarianship is still mostly tied to “being in the room” as it were. But then I see things like the New York Collective of Radical Educators and I’m so envious! But I also remember the emotional exhaustion that came with being a school librarian. And the parents! Lord, parents are the absolute worst part of that job. And so I’m also worried that it’s a “grass is greener” situation that is happening. Basically, I’m all confused and anxious about what happens next after this residency.

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Did You Just Control My Body With Your White Hand?

As I gear up to refute the faculty’s argument, my colleague puts her hand on me to remind me to tread carefully. She was doing it because she understands how precarious at the end of the day my position. My youth, my blackness, my purple hair, all of these are check marks against me in the eyes of many. I settle back and let another (white) librarian continue to refute. But it still feels hurtful. And as I sit back and seethe, I think “is this what it will always be like?” Keeping silent, blunting my words, acquiescing, giving up pieces of me to fit into the culture? I mean of course the short answer is yes. In a white supremacist society, even the best of environments will be full of acculturative stress. And being black, queer, female, and disabled means that at any given time I will be letting something go for the sake of fitting in. And I hate it. I hate that success within organizations is so directly tied to staying silent. To bringing the line in the sand further and further back. To smiling and saying “yes of course.” It grinds my gears so to speak. And of course, I practice self-care, and vent to other cool people, and do things outside of work. But at the end of the day, I have two degrees worth of debt, and am not independently wealthy so I need to work to live. So I sit in another meeting and stay silent. I decide to not have this be the hill I die on. But there are so many hills. There are so many hills.