Like many others, including those most likely to read this blog, I have grieved and raged for days. Like many others, my grief and rage are intimately tied to my everyday work, and in some moments, I am having a hard time reconciling the fact that my work is to provide service that is fundamental to our democratic system, with what our democratic system wrought this week. Fundamentally, the work that librarians do is service; we are supposed to provide services to individuals and communities without discrimination, and at least a small part of that is trusting that our work will bring out our own best selves, and that our service can inspire the people we serve to be and become their best selves. This week, I have found it basically impossible to believe that we have been becoming our best selves in the past 4 years, 8 years, decades, generations.
Just now, I spent a good 30 minutes trying to put together a tweet for a group-entity account that I manage for work. How the hell is this related, you ask? The group entity is an initiative that seeks to bring together digital collections from all over the state that we are in, and to represent and amplify the state’s institutions in a larger national aggregator. This is a major swing state that flipped its electoral representation from blue to red between 2012 and this past Tuesday.
Part of the initiative that I work on is outreach to new and potential constituents all over the state. The tweets are a combination of highlighting the constituents and highlighting themes and holidays of interest to the constituents. Today’s is Veteran’s Day. Veterans make up a somewhat higher percentage of the state’s population than the national average. A strong majority of the state’s veterans, about 58%, live in counties that voted red on Tuesday, and that, frankly, regularly vote red. So here I was, awkwardly trying to honor a community that I really know little about – I know that the majority of them live in areas that we are currently charged to try harder to reach out to, counties that are poorer and less urban than the area that we ourselves are located in. I also know that those counties voted against most of what makes up my personhood – my immigrant family and community, my queerness, my health and status as a woman. I get that we are supposed to reach out to and represent the whole state. I get that, as librarians, we have to keep doing that, even though many of us are mourning, broken, and deeply frightened. It’s pretty hard today, though, and will be for a long time to come. Even in the best of circustances, many of us will be unable to forget or come to terms with the fact that this happened for the rest of our lives.
I will get up and get going soon, and I hope you will too. I hope not too many of us will leave just to try to escape/preserve our bubbles. I hope you will try with me to make our professional practice more critical, and more seriously committed to listening to and amplifying oppressed voices, to leading in usage of critical and thoughtful terms, to critical teaching and learning, to building inclusive culture in both our profession and our services.