Introducing: Reconnaissance

I’m happy to share that I’m starting a new project called Reconnaissance, an interview series sharing Black, Indigeneous, and People of Color (BIPOC) librarians’ pathways to and experiences of formal leadership roles in North American libraries (and beyond). 

As I move through my LIS career, talk with BIPOC mentors, and comb through  my morale research data – I realize that BIPOC formal leaders have interesting experiences to share about the intersections of their identities, LIS practices, preparations for leadership, and more. Even more intriguing are the lessons and observations – both glaring and subtle – that they have learned and gleaned as they honed their leadership and management styles, created and implemented their organizational missions/visions, and applied decision-making processes. 

My hope is that the Reconnaissance series helps BIPOC library workers who are considering formal leadership roles gain wisdom from the experiences of those who are formally leading in all types of libraries, and that this wisdom will inform and improve the goals and practices of informal and formal BIPOC LIS leaders. More importantly, this series aims to continue recognizing the voices – and the often discounted and/or invisible work – of BIPOC in the LIS field.

Please look forward to it.

If you are a formal library leader who identifies as BIPOC – and you are interested in this project – please participate.

 

#hurrayoftheday: 44

Less than a week after our presentation at the IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessbility in Libraries) Conference, my co-author (Ione T. Damasco) and my work has been included in a completely lit working bibliography titled “Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship: A Reading List.”

Curated by Karla J. Strand, DPhil, MLIS (University of Wisconsin System), the reading lists includes “resources focused on race, racism, and disrupting whiteness and white supremacy in libraries. Particular emphasis is placed on the field of library and information science and librarianship as a profession” (Strand, 2019). 

Topics include:

  • Blogs, Organizations, and Periodicals
  • Core resources
  • Academic libraries
  • Archives
  • Collection Development
  • Diversity/Multicultural Studies Librarianship
  • History
  • Information Literacy
  • Knowledge organization
  • Librarians of Color
  • Library Initiatives
  • LIS Programs 
  • Microaggressions
  • Recruitment, Staffing, and Hiring
  • Reference Services
  • School Libraries
  • Other LIS
  • Other Whiteness

Not only is my most recent work included, but my 2009 annotated bibliography, The Kaleidoscopic Concern, is listed as a core resource! 

To see the trajectory of my work – and to be noted with eminent scholars like Dr. Nicole Cooke, Dr. Isabel Espinal, and Dr. Todd Honma – along with trailblazers April Hathcock and Fobazi Ettarh (and others also on this list) — well, here’s that word again: GRATEFUL. 

Works Cited

Strand, K.J. (2019). Disrupting Whiteness in libraries and librarianship: A reading list. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2ZV1eR3 

Report Update: Deauthentication Survey Results

Late last spring I shared the original results of my deauthentication survey with TIOTP readers. The survey came out of my desire to explore this sub-phenomenon that seems to occur for racial/ethnic minority academic librarians who are experiencing low morale (repeated and protracted exposure to workplace abuse and neglect – Kendrick, 2017). As I reviewed the data, I solidified a definition of the term: 

Deauthentication is a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of  1) the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 2) the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more, to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients. (Kendrick, 2018)

The following results reflect 108 responses (up from 67 responses in June 2018).

  • 28% African-American; 24% Asian; 16% Caucasian; 5% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 85% female
  • 80% have engaged in deauthentication
  • 73% have reduced or avoided conversations about personal or family relationships
  • 72% have reduced or avoided discussions of religion, politics, or social viewpoints
  • 70% have reduced or avoided conversations about cultural or ethnic (formal or informal) traditions
  • 58% have reduced or avoided conversations about non-work related activities, hobbies, or interests
  • 58% have changed or (re)considered creating or sharing content on their social media accounts
  • 53% have changed or (re)considered clothing presentation
  • 47% have changed or reconsidered body movements or non-verbal behaviors
  • 45% have changed accent, speaking tone, or language structure

The survey remains open, and I will periodically share updates on this blog.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Webinar: Deauthenticity in PoC Academic Librarianship

Last year the North Carolina Libary Associations’ Roundtable for Minority Ethnic Concerns (NCLA REMCo) invited me to join their Cultural Conversation’s slate.  Below is the webinar I led, titled “Exploring (de)Authenticity: Impact on PoC, Implications for Practice.”

The webinar reflects a joint effort between me and the racial/ethnic minority academic librarians who offered me data on their experiences. I discuss my concept of deauthenticity, how it manifests in the racial/ethnic minority academic librarian low-morale experience, and share the results of the informal survey, which remains open.

 

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Tweet-dux: White Supremacy and Racism in the PoC Low-Morale Experience.

[This content has been republished at Renewals, a site focused on discussions about low morale in North American libraries] 

On Twitter, I’ve been threading some results of my latest low morale study (done with Ione Damasco), which centers the experience of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. It is my hope that this work will bring into clearer view the additional emotional labor that librarians of color bear while dealing with abuse and neglect in American library workplaces. 

These threads expound on my earlier report of additional Enabling Systems in the PoC low-morale experience. 

  1. Participants frequently reported White colleagues’ assumptions of racial superiority as a significant cause of their low-morale experience(s).
  2. Dealing with White librarians’ unrequested guidance or advice, often given under the guise of knowing what is best for minority librarians, was frequently reported.
  3. Participants’ discussed their institutions’ active justification or downplaying of the negative outcomes of their historic and contemporary participation in or condonement of programs or events perpetuating White supremacy and racism.
  4. These justifications were evidence that their institutions remain unwilling to recognize or reconcile the long-term, still-present negative impacts of their actions on marginalized groups.
  5. Participants perceived that White colleagues discounted their preparation for, engagement in, and outcomes of their work.
  6. They perceived the discounting was motivated by White colleagues’ desires to discourage minority colleagues’ feelings of self-efficacy or trajectories of career success, even if they had no interest the same projects.
  7. Participants shared that White colleagues had limited expectations about them based on their race, culture, or ethnicity.
  8. Behaviors or comments signaling subtle or indirect racial, cultural, or ethnic discrimination were noted by study participants. (e.g. dog whistling, microaggressions).
  9. Racism increased participants’ feelings of emotional or physical limitations with regard to their immediate workplaces and/or overall career development.
  10. Multiracial participants discussed White colleagues’ reliance on phenotype to determine if it was safe to share racist opinions…
  11. Multi-racial participants also recognized that the non-White aspects of their identities were more often met with disdain than the perceived “better” qualities of Whiteness.

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Report: Deauthentication Survey Results

This content has been republished at Renewals, a site focused on discussions about low morale in North American libraries] 

Earlier this year, I penned a post focusing on nascent data in my PoC Low Morale study. The data seemed to indicate another phenomenon I call deauthentication, and I crafted a working definition: 

“deauthentication is a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick, 2018)

At the end of the survey, I invited readers to participate in a short survey about their own deauthentication experiences. The survey remains open if you would like to participate; this post reflects results as press time (67 responses). 

  • 29% African-American; 23% Multi-racial; 21% Caucasian; 18% Asian
  • 82% female
  • 72% have engaged in deauthentication
  • 69% have reduced/avoided discussions about religion, politics, or social viewpoints
  • 65% have reduced/avoided discussions about personal or family relationships
  • 62% have reduced/avoided discussions about cultural or ethnic (formal or informal) traditions
  • 56% have reduced/avoided discussions about non-work related activities, hobbies, or interests
  • 53% have changed or (re)considered food choices (e.g., what you bring to work to eat or to a workplace social event for general consumption)
  • 52% have changed or reconsidered clothing presentation
  • 46% have (reconsidered) body movements or non-verbal behaviors

Last Friday I shared some results during my presentation hosted by North Carolina Library Association’s Racial and Ethnic Minority Concerns Roundtable (NCLA REMCo).  When made available, I will share the link to that presentation.

Periodically, I will share more updates or thoughts as more responses come in.  

UPDATE: You may view the presentation here.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from: https://theinkonthepageblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/considering-deauthenticity-in-the-workplace/  

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Running The Gauntlet: Lives of Practicing Minority Academic Librarians

gauntlet
To run the gauntlet is to take part in a form of corporal punishment in which the party judged guilty is forced to run between two rows of soldiers who strike out and attack them. (Wikipedia, 2018) (Author’s note: check the details of this political illustration. Do you see parallels to academia/librarianship?)

Elizabeth Martinez Smith noted the “balancing act” dilemma Black people face as they run the gauntlet of contradictory pressures. She describes the meaning of “running the gauntlet” as smarting from the pain of prejudice even as white colleagues deny that race has any impact; maintaining excellent performance even when recognition is withheld; being smart but not too smart; being strong but not too strong; being confident but not egotistical to the point of alienation; being the butt of prejudice and not being unpleasant or abrasive; being intelligent but not arrogant; being honest but not paranoid; being confident yet modest.” (Fisher, 1991)

I think I found this quote while working on my second bibliography, which focused on racial and ethnic diversity in librarianship. The quote resonated so deeply that I immediately typed it, printed it, and hung it in my cubicle where I could clearly see it. I’ve been employed at two other libraries since then, and that same piece of paper has traveled with me and been posted in those offices as well.

Despite the sad (but true) content that the statement offers, it gave – and gives – me an ironic sense of relief; of place; of community: I am not the only one who toes these lines. I am not the only one buffeted by real and phantom smacks dealt by those who actively seek to stunt the progress of a career I enjoy immensely. I am not the only one who gets tired; who worries “What will happen if I…?” but also is determined that “I should do X because it is right.” I am not the only one with wide eyes, nose pressed flat, hands pressed open against the outside of a clear window. I am not the only one who has considered walking away. I am not the only one.

More times than I can count, I have run every contest in this gauntlet. I have felt every single blow from each side. Most often, there are non-PoC librarians, teaching faculty members, or staff on one side and (also often, non-PoC) campus administrators on the other side.  Much less times  – but still significant – a colleague who ‘looks like me’ is on one side (yay, colonization mentality!) and library users are on the other side. If I’m really honest with myself, some days it’s me on both sides (effects of the false-competition cycle of academia combined with negative bias and stereotype threat, anyone?)

When I periodically consult Fisher’s gauntlet-running observation, I think about how LIS literature covering the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities validates the idea that PoC librarians continue to encounter pre-emptive abuse or duplicitous proving-grounds in academia. But now, it’s under new or updated labels of negative experiences (or even well-meaning initiatives) like:

  • microaggressions (Alabi, 2015; Vanscoy & Bright, 2017)
  • (with a nod to my upcoming research and exploratory work associated with) low-morale (also, Kendrick, 2017)
  • vocational awe, which Ettarh has posited within the framework of White supremacy (2017); and 
  • equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) (Edwards & Fisher, 2003; Sensoy & Diangelo, 2016)

The push-pull  – and devastating outcomes – of running the gauntlet is mirrored in the general Western workplace, particularly within the experiences of women of color. Check out the following succinct infographic – which came across my social media feed  while I was drafting this post – from the Centre for Community Organizations.

Problem of PoC Women in Workplaces
Credit: Center for Community Organizations and 鄧欣正 (Emily Yee Clare)

It’s more than feasible to map gauntlet-running to the “repetitive inquiry” and “response” portions of this infographic. Moreover, “tokenized hiring” maps to the rhetoric and lip-service of EDI policies and practices; and in the end, “retaliation” links to issues of low-morale (my emerging data show that the most likely abuse PoC academic librarians encounter is systemic) and vocational awe (e.g., academic environments, systems and values are sacred and beyond critique; she is pushed out when she brings attention to the status quo, which is inherently damaging to her health or career trajectory)

On social media, anecdotal responses to this infographic seemed visceral and elicited immediate statements of recognition and resignation (the latter of which seems couched in the desire to prioritize and re-posit health over academic careers – promising).

Librarianship is a profession that is persistently Caucasian and female, moreover, it posits itself as a politically progressive field that values racial and ethnic diversity. However, other issues that PoC librarians’ guantlet-running seem to highlight or underscore include:

  • libraries and librarians are *not* neutral;
  • Caucasian women working in LIS continue to be complicit in covertly and overtly upholding and solidifying institutionalized, political, and cultural systems and outcomes of White supremacy; 
  • the continuing one-note rhetoric/one-size-fits-all approach to EDI creates an environment for and ignores the “softer” harmful impacts that, ironically, such language and programs seek to resolve, including tokenism, paternalism, and a focus on entry-level recruitment rather than holistic career promotion and advancement; and 
  • the ongoing denial of the real need for expanded mental health and counseling services for PoC in hostile workplaces (to be clear, for PoC academic librarians, Historically White Colleges and Universities are potentially hostile environments – (Bonilla-Silva, 2012; Bonilla-Silva, 2015)).

Do you recognize the Fisher/Martinez summation of your LIS career challenges as a PoC professional? Do you believe you’ve successfully escaped/exited the gauntlet? Was there a reward? Are you still running? Why? Did you stop? Why?

Works Cited

Alabi, J. (2015). Racial microaggressions in academic libraries: Results of a survey of minority and non-minority librarians. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(1): 47-53.

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2012). The invisible weight of Whiteness: The racial grammar of everyday life in contemporary America. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 35(2): 173-194. doi: 10.80/01419870.2011.613997

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2015, November 12). The White racial innocence game. Racism Review:
Scholarship and Activism Towards Racial Justice [blog]. Retrieved from http://www.racismreview. com/blog/2015/11/12/white-racial-innocence-game/

Edwards, E. & Fisher, W. (2003). Trust, teamwork, and tokenism: Another perspective on diversity in libraries. Library Administration & Management, 17(1): 21-27.

Ettarh, F. (2017). Vocational awe. Presented at the Pushing the Margins Symposium, UCLA, July 14. Retrieved from http://pushingthemargins.com/symposium/symposium-keynote

Fisher, E.M. (1991).  Modern racism in academic librarianship towards Black librarians. A California study. University of Pittsburgh.

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-848. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

Sensoy, O. & Diangelo, R. (2017). “We all are for diversity, but…”: How faculty hiring committees reproduce Whiteness and practical suggestions for how they can change. Harvard Educational Review, 87(4): 557-580. Retrieved from http://hepgjournals.org/doi/10.17763/1943-5045-87.4.557?code=hepg-site 

Vanscoy, A. & Bright, K. (2017). Including the voices of librarians of color  in reference and information services research. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(2): 104-114.

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ShoutOut: Fobazi Ettarh, MLS

Fobazi Ettarh (MLS, Rutgers) is Student Success Librarian at California State University (Dominguez Hills) She is also an ALA 2017 Emerging Leader. and designer of the game Killing Me Softly, which was created to show the physical and mental impacts of microaggressions and acculturative stress. 

As a result of my low morale study’s spread through Twitter,  I came across Ettarh’s conceptual framework of vocational awe and its role in upholding white supremacy in American librarianship. What is vocational awe? Ettarh defines it in her blog discussing the origin of her term:

Well simply put, it is the idea that libraries as institutions are inherently good. It assumes that some or all core aspects of the profession are beyond critique, and it, in turn, underpins many librarians’ sense of identity and emotional investment in the profession.

See also, occupational mythology, coined by Everett C. Hughes as “the social and social-psychological arrangements and devices by which men make their work tolerable or even glorious to themselves and others.”(1958, p. 48) For more reading about myths perpetuated in librarianship, please read this.

Ettarh expounds on the vocational awe/white supremacy link during her 2017 Pushing the Margins Symposium keynote presentation, which you can view below.

As I listened to her presentation, I considered and agreed with the tweet that brought me to it.  Vocational awe can be mapped to the low-morale trajectory. For instance:

-“Beyond reproach”: libraries are traditionally perceived and promoted as havens of quiet and refuge; in fact, many libraries strive to become official “safe spaces” on their campuses or in their communities. Moreover,  while we do celebrate modern librarian images, de facto practices of dress, activities, and even our April Fool’s spoofs show that we derive great comfort from having others believe in traditional stereotypes (even into the far, far, future). How it plays out: an abused library employee belays (or doesn’t) report the abuse because they can’t believe the abuse is happening in “a profession like ours.” In my research, this delay of or decision to not report workplace abuse was contextualized with disbelief that the abuse was happening, whom was meting out the maltreatment, disillusion with the profession, and subsequent self-blame about the abuse and its development. 

In essence, library-as-refuge tropes increase the likelihood that an abused library employee will not be believed – their abuse complaint(s)  a) disrupt users’ (including campus administration) perceptions of the library as a place of retreat, quiet, and serenity and/or b) reduce the stereotype of the librarian as a person who is in control of the quiet and serenity of the library (See Also, shushing). 

-“Work-life balance”: Librarians should always be ready to work (more) lest their commitment to the profession be questioned. Long hours and busy-ness are badges of honor while issues of under-compensation, underemployment, and abuse are glossed over by the overvalued idea that librarianship is a calling. In the low-morale experience, you hear it in statements like “I believe I’m doing good work (often conceptualized broadly as “helping people”), so I will endure [protracted exposure to workplace abuse or negligence] [for the sake of the people I’m helping].” Participants in my study recalled verbal or emotional abuse in the context of being told that they weren’t “committed enough” when they refused overload projects, rejected working longer hours, or tried to take time off for illness or even earned vacation time.  Additionally, participants wrestled with their own notions of professional commitment and sometimes acquiesced to abuse because of guilt  (See Also, Martyrdom).

“Job creep”: being asked or expected to do more with less. This sort of maltreatment (often via administrative negligence or systemic abuse) also manifests in library staff and faculty attrition trends. Often, those left in the gaps may not be trained to do the jobs that are not being filled; however, they are still expected to perform those duties well while maintaining similar or improved levels of service. Participants reported taking on new duties while being assigned to supervisors who didn’t know how to run their new departments. The results of attrition also sparked the beginning of reduced advocacy for library employees, which contributed to the negative emotional, physical, and cognitive impacts of low-morale. Moreover, if the library administrator is not respected by or has a contentious relationship with institutional administration, voiced concerns about attrition/job creep are met with institutional schadenfreude, which underscores…

-“Lack of institutional advocacy and support”: When a library employee reports workplace abuse, they may be met with responses about the library-as-place trope, that they invited the abuse due to (stereotypical or real) personality profiles,  or  because the ombudsman has oversimplified the work of the librarian (e.g., “But it’s always so quiet when I come in there!” or, “Did you shush someone one too many times?” or “How could you all not be getting along? All you all do is check out books and sign people onto computers!”). In other words, the rejection is: do not cancel the dream/ideal that libraries are sacred spaces of retreat and safety or that, outside of that aforementioned strict noise monitoring, librarians are docile people who are incapable of bullying and related acts.

My study reveals that the low-morale experience is in part incubated by negligent institutional administrators who undervalue or misunderstand the role of librarians on their campuses. They often rebuke reports of abuse and send affected employees back into harmful situations, regardless of the status of their relationship with library administrators, but especially if the relationship with the library leader is historically contentious. 

Considering the original context of vocational awe (white supremacy/institutional oppression) – and mapping vocational awe markers to low morale – begs the question of how low morale affects librarians of color (I’m working on it!).

In her work on toxic academic leadership, Ortega mentions: 

Work cannot and should not be everything to librarians, because toxic leaders will abuse their dedication. These dedicated librarians will in due course burn out … Work-focused lives seem to have in some cases unintentionally assisted toxic leaders with their exploitative behaviors (p. 20).

Bringing it back to Ms. Ettarh, she notes in her blog,

Vocational awe is f*cking toxic and we as librarians need to stop spreading this rhetoric that libraries are this beacon of democracy and critical thinking. Libraries are just buildings. It is the people who do the work. And we need to treat these people well.” (emphasis mine)

Agreed.

SHOUT OUT to Ms. Ettarh for her important, applicable, and very relevant work. 

Works Cited

Ettarh, F. (2017, May 30). Vocational awe? Retrieved from https://fobaziettarh.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/vocational-awe/ 

Ettarh, F. (2017). Vocational awe. Presented at the Pushing the Margins Symposium, UCLA, July 14. Retrieved from http://pushingthemargins.com/symposium/symposium-keynote

Hughes, E.C. (1958). Men and their work. Glencoe: The Free Press.

Ortega, A. C. (2017). Academic libraries and toxic leadership. Cambridge, UK: Chandos Publishing.

Recommended Reading

Ettarh, F. (2018). Vocational awe and librarianship: The lies we tell ourselves. In The Library With The Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/vocational-awe/ 

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#thedamndamndiem: 1

Yesterday on Twitter, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) shared their discussion on (racial and ethnic) diversity in librarianship. Their tweet included the American Library Association’s (ALA) latest chart on the topic:

IMLS

A closer look: 

CredLibs

Put the needle on the record and watch it barely move.

Read Dr. Nicole A. Cooke’s work discussing the development and implementation of the Spectrum Doctoral Fellowship Program.

Think of  AILAAPALA, BCALA, CALA, REFORMA, aaaaaand JCLC!!

Consider the work of the ALA  Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

Think of own work. Realize it could just as well be published, as-is, today.

Think of other hashtag for this post #notateench.

Ugh. #moodrightnow:

NOTE: #damndamndiems are opposites of #hurrayoftheday. #damndamndiems may also appear as #circadiansideeye, #teethsuckdaily, or the always-in-style #cmonson (originated by Ed Lover, made extra-good by Shawn and Gus.)

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