Feminism First

I was recently loaned a copy of a Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center by the illustrious bell hooks aka Gloria Jean Watkins

Watkins chose the pseudonym bell hooks in honor of her mother and great-grandmother. She elects to not capitalize her pseudonym in order to shift focus toward her work and ideas, rather than her name or personality.

Regrettably (maybe, even embarrassingly), my eyes have never been opened to the message that bell hooks puts out to the world. I’ve never even heard the name bell hooks. I can’t believe that I have made it 32 years in this world (and, as a woman, no less) without hearing her name or words. The book was simply amazing – the first of many of her books now added to the pile of my ever-growing TBR mountain. I am, of course, just now delving into the world of feminism. I am by far an expertise or well-versed on the subject or even, dare I say, extremely familiar. If anything, I am barely familiar and barely versed . I did however want to discuss just a few notes and ideas that stuck with me while reading Feminist Theory: from Margin to Center – just a few things to take away from the book and it’s message. Please do yourself a favor and go read this book. Don’t think that it only applies to women either. Hooks claims that feminism is the movement to end sexist oppression of all.

Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression. Its aim is not to benefit solely any specific group of women, any particular race, or class of woman . it does not privilege women over men. it has the power to transform into meaningful way all our lives. (hooks, 2015, p.28)

Flawed Foundations

hooks begins by pointing out how feminism in the US was founded upon one major flaw: many women were left out of the focus of the movement. The movement was originally initialized by middle class white women. The majority of these women: women who had no jobs, married, upper or middle-class, kids at home, educated, and to some extent, bored and wanting more out of life. The message was geared toward those women in the same walk of life rising up against being victimized by sexist oppression, completely ignoring women of color or any women in the working or poor class – the women with pressing concerns for economic survival or ethnic and racial discrimination. This was the true majority of women in the US at the time. They were left out of the movement. This may not have been the true intention from the beginning of the movement, but through erroneously assuming that concerns being addressed within the movement represented the concerns of all US women, racism and classism toward those women were reinforced.

Just think about that. Think about the societal environment that existed for the majority of women in this country (then and now). 

The single mother (who happens to be an Irish immigrant) exhaustingly working 3 jobs trying to keep food on the table for her kids. She cannot afford to see herself as being victimized by sexist oppression because her and her children’s survival depends on her ability to continue on with whatever personal strengths she exercises.

The woman of color (who had the opportunity for college education) being discouraged from regularly attending meetings and groups surrounding the feminist movement due to her race. 

It is easy to see the extent of such a flaw in the foundation of the movement. hooks even touches on some of her own personal negative experiences as a woman of color trying to become involved with movement in the first chapter of a book. The diversity of women – our different experiences, our different backgrounds – should be learned about and appreciated. Long lasting change – a true end to sexist oppression – cannot and will not be achieved until inclusion of feminist movement is welcome to women from every walk of life.

All those “isms”

“The process begins with the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist, and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labeling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization.” (hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center, 2015)

All women learn forms of racism, classism, and sexism through life and accept/perpetuate certain forms of it subconsciously. hooks explains that women are the group within our society that are most victimized by sexist oppression, which is perpetuated by the structure of our society. We have been socialized (as women) to act in a compliant manner. Good girls avoid confrontation. It’s not polite. This subservient sex role is one that we are taught constantly while growing up. No, being polite, is obviously not a bad characteristic to be taught, but we should focus more on teaching to act in a respectable manner than simple politeness/non-confrontational in hopes of avoiding conflict or violence. 

“…Women can face one another in hostile confrontation and struggle and move beyond the hostility to understanding. Expression of hostility as an end to itself is a useless activity, but when it is the catalyst pushing us onto greater clarity and understanding, it serves a meaningful function.” (hooks, 2015, p.66)

In fact, we need this experience in order to rid ourselves of such forms of sexist ideology that we all learn and perpetuate. Furthermore, it is not difficult to make the leap from being taught to act in this manner throughout adolescence to being the victim – passive, helpless, powerless … victim.

“Sexist ideology teaches women that to be female is to be a victim”. (hooks, 2015, p.45)

We learn this as children. There are 2 types of sex roles to enact in a household: dominant or subservient. Dads are dominant. Moms are subservient. This snowballs into MEN are dominant and WOMEN are subservient. These roles are learned through our formidable years. They become ingrained in our minds until we simply assume those roles in adulthood, have children of our own, and continue the cycle. This obviously exemplifies a very traditional mindset and family structure. We have come a long way from 20, 30, 40, 50 (etc…) years ago. Gender roles have become more expanded. Family structures have become a bit more dynamic. We have social media, entertainment media, 24-hour news (etc…) constantly presenting us with information, stories from around the world, issues affecting us such as sexism/racism/classism, giving us the continued opportunity to re-examine how we are perpetuating these isms subconsciously. 

Am I acting in such a manner about something in particular that teaches my child that it is acceptable to act in such a manner and should therefore act like that themselves?

Is that how I want them to behave?

Is that what I want them to see from me?

Like I said, we have come a long way as a society, but unfortunately, the struggle still remains. It will probably always remain to some extent. Unfortunately, sayings such as “boys will be boys” remains a common excuse for a man (a grown man) acting in a very sexist manner (ugh). 

Sexism teaches us women to be defensive and competitive in our views of other women, and thus, we act on this form of sexist ideology everyday. This concept needs a lot of improvement in our society. We are all guilty of this as women. I mean, who has not engaged in malicious gossiping, trash-talking, or judging another woman’s appearance at one point or another? All that is doing is reinforcing such sexist ideology.

Likewise, racism and sexism teach an “inflated sense of self-importance and value”, particularly when coupled with class privilege. We must acknowledge this in ourselves and how it may present itself or shape how we think. Difficulty and discomfort lie within the self reflection required to truly acknowledge our own prejudices formed from racism, sexism, and classism, but we can not change attitudes if we are unaware of them. Without this acknowledgement, misguided perspectives can often be assumed. The diversity among all the women in our society must be learned and appreciated in order for the personal growth and societal transformation needed for feminist movement to occur.  Education in all walks of life and criticism, re-examination, and exploration of new possibilities are absolutely essential to the movement. Education + understanding + change = solidarity.

All men are the enemy?

“All men are the enemy” – popular notion of women’s liberation movement in the past. In fact, this is what comes to my mind when I think of the word “feminism”. This rhetoric has led to the whole men-are-misogynistic-oppressors (the enemy) mentality, which leaves women as “the oppressed victim”. Sexist ideology is then reinforced by creating the assumption that the empowerment of women would most definitely be at the expense of men. 

“Separast ideology encourages us to believe that women alone can make feminist revolution – we cannot”. (hooks, 2015, p.83)

hooks believes it was a mistake of former women’s liberationists to encourage (solely) women into joining the feminist movement. Emphasis on this ‘all men are the enemy’ approach undermines feminism and takes focus away from improving the relationships between men and women. hooks proposes that men should be encouraged to assume responsibility for the end of sexist oppression as well, and explains the following:

“Like women, men have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology. While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for eliminating it. (hooks, 2015, p. 73)

How can we (men and women) work together and help each other unlearn forms of sexism (let alone, bring awareness to the possibility of any personal actions that we take might be perpetuating sexism)?

“Men who actively struggle against sexism have a place in feminist movement. They are our comrades. (hooks, 2015, p. 82)

Men have a major role to play in eradicating sexism. Like women, they must involve themselves with “exposing, confronting, opposing and transforming” the sexism of them and their peers. If you are a man supporting feminism and thus striving to see the end of sexist oppression, become vocal about it. Be public about your opposition. Participate in a men’s consciousness-raising group. Really consider the way you think about things and the reasons behind that thinking. Find ways to really educate yourself about such matters. ETC…

Hooks, B. (2015). Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center. New York, NY: Routledge.

No, thank you.

This is going to be a short one but a relevant one, nonetheless. I figured just some general advice from someone with a disability should be put out into the social media universe regarding the following topic. Hey, maybe just one person will heed this advice. After all, change in your behavior can only come upon personal reflection –

“How are my actions being perceived?”

“Are my intentions coming through the way that I truly intend?”

“Is this what is truly wanted or needed by the other party (if applicable), like for real?”

I have to ask myself these types of questions periodically. I think it’s crucial that we all do. It is no secret that our society changes almost every time we blink. Sometimes, we need to change our own thoughts and actions to reflect that.

So let me just explain what inspired this rambling. The city I live in is fairly small, and during certain times of the year, they close one downtown street one night a month (or week, or every other week … I’m actually not certain about how often…) for a street festival of sorts. No carnival rides or anything that big – just food trucks, live music, crafts, local businesses, etc. you get it. This has been going on for a few years, I think, but me and my husband had never been, and we decided to attend this past Friday night. We unfortunately didn’t attend the most optimal night weather-wise because it was raining off and on – well not REALLY raining. It was more of an off and on sort of drizzle/sprinkling. Like, not really enough to take cover, but because it feels like an oven outside in Alabama, enough mist that it felt good (for the most part) to periodically cool off. I hope that makes sense.

Anyways, after walking around for a bit and chatting with some friends, we stopped by one food truck for me. My husband had decided that he wanted something for himself from another particular food truck down the street. Some open tables were set up in between these two food trucks. So I sat down and started eating my food while my husband went down the street to his desired food truck. Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely looooooove my food – probably to a fault. I was really looking forward to the carb overload that I had before me. We had originally brought an umbrella with us in case for some reason it started raining – actually raining – and I, naturally, laid it beside my future food baby while my husband was getting his food. As a backup inclement weather plan, the covered sidewalk was maybe five feet away. Easily attainable if there was a heavy rain issue during this 10-minute span. As I began eating, it started misting a little bit more, but not enough for me to deem it reasonable to stop eating my food or to use the umbrella/covered sidewalk. More of the same light drizzle that served as a cool-down effect from the intense Alabama heat. A group of people walked by, and as I had a mouth full of delicious BBQ mac and cheese, they stopped me to ask if I needed help getting out of the rain. I understand 100% their concern. I am grateful that they even asked because what if I did need help or something. It is nice to know that people are concerned about that kind of thing. I politely declined their offer of help, insisting that I was good and that I just wanted to eat my food. They would not take no for an answer, however. This spectacle continued on for roughly 8-10 minutes. They repeatedly asked if they could help me, getting closer to my face each time I declined their offer (what are personal boundaries?). After about the tenth time of declining their offer of help, they insisted that I let them fashion their personal umbrella onto my wheelchair, completely ignoring my wishes (and the fact that I had an umbrella laying beside my food and drink on the table). Then they took a few minutes trying to somehow fashion it onto my wheelchair while I was trying to eat. They eventually got the umbrella to stay on to my wheelchair and left.

This whole scene was quite the display, at least for me. People were staring. It was incredibly embarrassing and frustrating. For me, I cannot physically get away from certain unwelcome situations like this. My voice is my only power, so to speak. When you ignore what someone is saying to you repeatedly, you are turning that individual from a person with a voice into just a thing that solely exists for the purpose to make you feel better about yourself. A thing. Not human.

I’m sure that these people thought that they were just being very considerate and charitable. Some of you reading this may be thinking “What’s the big deal? They were just trying to help.” However, it was not what I wanted. In that moment, their actions did not truly reflect their intention to offer help – assuming that helping was indeed their intention. It just made me feel ignored and inhuman. My words, thoughts, and feelings no longer mattered.

I know not everyone is the same, and not every disability should be treated the same. How your personal actions are perceived, however, is something that everyone should consider when they are acting on their intentions.

“Does this person really want my help?”

“Am I ignoring what they are saying?”

“Am I insisting on helping someone just to make myself feel better?”

This, of course, is not the first time something of this nature has happened to me. Like I said, I 100% understand wanting to help someone if they need help – focus on IF. I do it myself. I have had to correct myself at times when I learn how much my actions are being interpreted by others. Things like this happen to people with disabilities (and so many others) every day, in varying degrees. Some instances are more easy to overlook and ignore from my point of view, but none of these instances should be acceptable forms of treating someone in our society.

The way that we bring about change in our society is by speaking about the troublesome issues that we face. Obviously, our society has progressed in many positive ways about how people with disabilities are treated. Improvements and further changes, however, are always necessary. Basically, the whole point of this post is to remind everyone to please be mindful of how your actions are being perceived. This, of course, does not solely apply to treatment of people with disabilities. Everyone should be mindful of their actions toward every person. Just a reminder that we should continue to work on being mindful of our treatment of others.

Flying Fail

As I have covered previously, in April of this year I was honored to receive a support staff scholarship to attend the ACRL conference in Cleveland, Ohio. The Dean of Library Services at my library left the choice between preferred travel choice with me (air vs car). I chose air for several reasons, including 2 facts:  

  1. I had never traveled via plane before 
  1. A car ride from southeast Alabama to Ohio is looooooooooooooong 

I had a wonderful time at the ACRL conference – in fact, it inspired me to begin “library school” (which I plan to start in Fall 2020). The air travel (via Delta) was a different story. I want to share my experience with everyone as a cautionary tale for those wheelchair-users like me out there who use air travel.  

Below is an excerpt of the complaint I submitted to both Delta and the US Dpt of Transportation, where it is currently being investigated. The US Dpt of Transportation representative assigned to my case assured me that I could share my experience detailed here with the public. Anyone is welcome to share this story on social media. 

Last month, I had to travel from my hometown of Dothan, AL to Cleveland, OH for a work conference. My husband traveled with me as an aid because I am wheelchair-bound. This was my first time flying, and I was incredibly nervous in everything going smoothly with embarking/disembarking from the plane as a person with a disability. We flew with Delta. Delta was contacted multiple times to ensure proper and safe care of me and my wheelchair. I was prepped beforehand of the wheelchair transfer process for each flight: they would have staff members safely transfer me from my wheelchair to a plane transfer chair and then to my plane seat, while my personal wheelchair would be stored with the plane luggage for the duration of the flight. I did not ask for any further accommodation beyond safely transferring me to/from my airplane seat, safely storing my personal wheelchair on the plane during the trip, a restroom break during layovers, and assistance in navigating the airport. I was assured not to worry about anything and that a Delta staff member would assist us through airport navigation from gate to gate. Me and my husband had tickets out of Dothan, Alabama to Cleveland, Ohio. Return passage also. Both flight paths had a one-hour layover in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Trip from Dothan on April 9th, 2019: 

The flight from Dothan to Atlanta was great. Everything was taken care of, and the process was very simple. However, when we arrived in Atlanta and after the other passengers disembarked from the plane, the airport staff went to go get my wheelchair for me. They lost it for a while. About 50 minutes! It was located eventually and returned to me. When everything was settled with that, we had about 10 minutes to get over to the correct flight gate for the connecting flight to Cleveland. The flight gate was on the opposite end of the airport so we had to take the Airport tram to it. There wasn’t really any staff there to help us except for one staff member who verbally gave us some vague directions. We ended up getting to the gate at the last possible minute. They let us board the plane of course. We were the last ones on the plane. There was a seat mix-up also when we got on the plane and we ended up not sitting in our assigned seats. This was more of an issue because (1) we were the last ones on the plane and (2) we were exhausted and didn’t bother to argue that two other passengers were sitting in our assigned seats.  

Because of the delay in them losing my wheelchair and us having to hustle across the airport before we missed the flight, neither one of us, me and my husband, had time to go to the restroom or anything. We both had to go from boarding the plane leaving Dothan at about 10:30 till we ended up in Cleveland late that afternoon at 4pm before we could even use the restroom. It was pretty horrible and stressful. Not only that, I have certain medical needs, WHICH, AGAIN, DELTA WAS MADE VERY AWARE OF, and being denied access to a restroom for that amount of time could prove very dangerous to me. From Atlanta, we went to Cleveland, and everything at the Cleveland Airport went smoothly and calmly. 

Return trip to Dothan on April 14th, 2019: 

Leaving Cleveland was just as smooth as when we arrived, save for 1 fact: the staff members who were transferring me dropped me. Let me repeat that. THEY DROPPED ME ON THE GROUND. Whenever they dropped me, they had already transferred me into the transfer chair so that they could take me on to the plane and transfer me into my actual plane seat. They put me in the transfer chair but did not secure me with the seat belts in the transfer chair and as they took their hands off, my face hit the floor. This transfer chair is just like a weight-lifting bench seat (kind of) with wheels on it (of course) and a high back. There is not really any kind of suitable foot rest, and there are no sides. Without seatbelts, there is no way for me to even stay stable enough to not fall out. It did not hurt me. I was more shocked and embarrassed. But I kept thinking, what if it was somebody who could not go through that without breaking something or some other kind of major medical issue. 

In Atlanta, there was some weather delays which put us back about an hour as far as arrival time. They didn’t lose my wheelchair this time, but they still took about 40 minutes to remember that they needed to assist me off of the plane after the other passengers had disembarked. We did have a staff member to assist us this time, and she helped us fly through the airport as quick as we could since there was a huge delay in helping me out of the plane. We ended up getting to our gate too late according to the original departure time for this connecting flight home. Luckily for us, the weather was not cooperating that day and ended up delaying the flight back to Dothan. Because of this, we lucked out, and when we got to the gate, the plane had not left yet. We had to wait for a while for the weather to clear up before we could board. Once we did, the rest of everything went well. We got back to Dothan safely. 

The experiences we had with Delta were absolutely horrible. I was neglected the proper medical care I was promised from the airline and their ADA / Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) compliance. Beyond that, I was denied basic common decency and treated as less than human. Better and respectable care must be provided for air passengers with disabilities in the future. 

Intellectual Freedom

I recently received an invitation from Niche Academy offering a free webinar to interested library employees: Practicing Intellectual Freedom in the Library, where the foundations for understanding and practicing intellectual freedom as a librarian were laid out. The webinar was presented by assistant professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky, repeat presenter at many academic conferences, and multiple publishee (is that a word?) in professional journals like Library Quarterly: the illustrious Shannon Oltman.

For the more experienced scholars and librarians, I’m sure the webinar offered fresh research/analysis of the subject. For myself and other “underlings” interested in climbing the proverbial rungs of the librarian world ladder, it presented a solid introduction to intellectual freedom. For those that missed out on the fun, allow me to summarize …

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.

American Library Association (ALA)

Intellectual freedom is essential to our fundamental right of freedom of speech and how that freedom plays out in the communities we serve as librarians.

If you forgot your US Constitutional Amendments, the First Amendment spells out our right to freedom of speech, FYI.

Thus, intellectual freedom and freedom of speech go hand in hand since freedom of speech is absolutely meaningless without the right to access information. Accessing and receiving information is vital in forming and expressing your own opinion. Expressing your opinion => FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

One thing to remember is that the right of intellectual freedom is for ALL. This fact is illustrated by many relevant court cases over the past 75 years:

As all these cases are fascinating and should be researched further. I invite you to dig a little deeper into the foundations of our right to intellectual freedom and how it relates to freedom of speech.

One of the cases in particular struck major interest in me: 1982’s Board of Education v. Pico, where the school board attempted to remove several books that they claimed were “anti-American” and “just plain filthy” from the district’s junior high schools and high schools. A sample of these “inappropriate” books include The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (U.S. National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize) and Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge (Pulitzer Prize). A group of five high school students led by Steven Pico filed a lawsuit against the school board claiming a violation of First Amendment rights. The students ultimately won. The Supreme Court decided that school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.

The ALA created a formal Bill of Rights to govern all libraries, which serves as a guide in determining and implementing services offered to library patrons and emphasizes the concept of intellectual freedom. Although these basic principles should chaperon the service of all libraries, questions do arise regarding the use of these principles in the specific practices of the different types of libraries.

Every library serves a community – a group of people. This community as well as issues involving the interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights and how it pertains to intellectual freedom varies among the different types of libraries: public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries, and special libraries. For instance, public libraries generally serve a town or county and may come across issues involving minors in the library and how it affects intellectual freedom. On the other hand, academic libraries (like mine) serve faculty, staff, students, and sometimes alumni/local public and may sometimes come across an issue with collection development and how it touches intellectual freedom.

Sidebar, it is extremely important to have a collection development policy in place for your library, regardless of the type of library in which you work. Not only does this policy provide guidance for the creation of a library collection, it also honors the right of intellectual freedom. This includes “controversial” items. Ensure that an item is not rejected immediately because it may be controversial to some of you patrons by setting out to create a diverse and appealing library collection with multiple perspectives. It’s perfectly acceptable to not like something in your collection, but your personal feelings on the material cannot be the basis for exclusion. I’m not going to include the collection development policy for the Troy University libraries because it is quite lengthy, but is accessible at www.troy.edu/libraries if you feel so inclined.

This, of course, was just a brief overview of the concept of intellectual freedom. Shannon Oltmann has a book coming out this year, though, that will delve into all the deets involving intellectual freedom. Please keep an eye out for it!

You’re probably wondering what this topic has to even do with my current role in my library. After all, I am only a library assistant. Collection development is not in my wheelhouse. The materials that I order for our acquisitions have already been determined according to our collection development policy. AAh, but I do manage our lease book account. The Dothan campus of Troy University (where I work) takes part in a lease book program with one of our vendors: we can select 10 new popular books to keep in a specific section of our collection for about 2 years before they must be returned. I collect faculty and staff requests, and when there is extra room in the 10-book monthly limit, I add the popular books that I believe students will potentially want to read. Sometimes, a popular fiction book by Stephen King or George R. R. Martin makes the cut. Sometimes, it is a popular political book.

As librarians, we are selectors, not censors. We look for reasons to provide access, not curtail or limit access.

Shannon Oltman

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. All viewpoints. Even if I don’t follow one. I can’t exclude it just because I don’t like it as long as it follows our collection development policy and the Library Bill of Rights. When asked during the Q&A section of the webinar about how to best reconcile with yourself the possibility that certain materials – that may be thought of as “controversial” or something that you personally don’t agree with – may incite bad behavior, Shannon responded by saying that silencing these “negative” voices may not prove to be a fair solution. Instead, it is important to challenge this by still providing these voices but adding more of the positive voices. Great thought-provoking words. I’ll admit, sometimes I need this reminder when selecting (in particular) political books for our patrons for our lease book program. Below is a sample of what I mean.

This is a current selection of some political books that I have ordered for the popular books section of our library. As you can see, I try to keep all opinions visible and represented to keep the objective of presenting all viewpoints of a debate alive. This is not the easiest thing in the world – Shannon‘s message in this intellectual freedom webinar IS and WAS a needed and essential reminder of our roles as librarians in the world.

Briefly …

Wow, I really did not expect for so many people to be interested in my first post or to even like it so much. Thank you guys so much for the overwhelmingly-positive response to it. Flabbergasted isn’t the right word, but just go with me. I figured I should post a little bio on myself for those interested before the next real blog post. It feels a bit weird to lay it all out there, but here ya go. Enjoy.

For starters – and probably the most glaringly-obvious – I am wheelchair-bound due to a little something called Friedreich’s Ataxia, a progressive, neurological disorder that affects the muscles in the body. It especially affects your ambulatory limbs (legs and arms), motor skills, and speech. The severity of the muscle loss, which muscles are affected the most, and potential side effects that may present themselves (diabetes, scoliosis, heart disease, liver problems, blindness, and much more) vary among those suffering from this disorder. Friedreich’s Ataxia is super-rare with no cure or treatment at the moment, only treatment for certain side effects if they present themselves in you. Sidebar, Friedreich’s Ataxia is commonly referred to as FA, which I am going to use for the remainder of this article because I don’t want to keep taking the time to spell it out correctly …

Now, the above brief description of FA is for the laypeople like me – just a rundown. If you are curious about the specific, medical, gobble-ty-gook of it all, visit curefa.org. For me, I have experienced mainly muscle degeneration in my legs and arms, motor skills, and speech patterns, with no real side effects. I got lucky on that front – watch me jinx myself now. FA is unfortunately progressive and genealogical. I was born with the disorder, but it didn’t present itself until I was about eight or nine. At that time, I was mostly having trouble with my coordination: my walking and running were becoming clumsy, I was tripping over my feet a lot … that kind of thing. It took until I was 12 years old for enough progression to occur in me to warrant a blood test to prove FA.

Upon graduating from high school, I attended Troy University’s Dothan campus, where I earned my BS in Finance in 2009, followed by MBA in 2011, which were both obtained with honors. My employment with the library world began at Troy University. I am currently a library assistant (for Technical Services) but began as a part-time Circulation library aid. When I was an undergraduate student, the director of the library was teaching a history course that I ended up taking. This director hosted several library events that were open to the students during my undergraduate and graduate studies. I really enjoyed all the events and would try to go to them as much as I could. Also, I was in the library all the time to study during my undergraduate and graduate studies (overachiever? I don’t know the meaning of the word 😉). Throughout all this, I developed a familiarity with some of the library staff members and said library director.

In 2010, whenever I was in my second year of graduate school, the library director offered me a part-time Circulation library aid position. Upon finishing graduate school, I decided to stay on with the library. After a few years, a full-time position opened, and I got promoted to it in 2013. To begin with, this position was library assistant for Technical Services. In essence, I served as assistant under the library’s Technical Services librarian and would focus on managing the acquisitions and processing functions that fell under her. This included purchasing books and other materials requested, paying their invoices, copy-cataloging them, and preparing them when they arrived for the end-user (barcodes, stamps, due date slips, etc.). At that time, our library staff was comprised of almost double the amount of staff members that we have today. I was the only one that did my job, but there were others that handled the foot traffic and assistance of the students.

This library assistant for Technical Services position has since evolved and covers so many tasks to compensate for our reduction in staff members. I am still assistant to the Technical Services librarian and manage the acquisitions and processing functions for her (described above), but now, I also split my time in between doing that job for her, assisting and directing Reference users, creating informative and engaging displays to drum in foot traffic, managing one of our lease book accounts, and assisting the current library director with various projects on occasion. A hat of many sizes for sure.

I have come to discover that my intended career path lies within the library world. I absolutely love my job. Being able to interact with our student body brings immense satisfaction to my life. Don’t get me wrong, serving those that use the library can be a challenge at times. Okay, jeez, stop twisting my arm … it can be extremely challenging every day. You must deal with people at their best and at their very worst. However, the payout that you get when you successfully help out – say – a student who is stressed out in the face of some massive final and in need of a timely solution to solve whatever problem they are facing … oh dude, that’s just the bee’s knees.

On a personal note, I am a huge pop culture nerd. Those within the pop culture nerd-dom would refer to me as a fangirl. Chances are, if there is a TV show, movie franchise, popular musical, new best-selling book, or something of the like that you want to know more about or discuss, give me a call. I find extreme ease and delight in being able to connect with the students and even coworkers in this way. In all seriousness though, I believe this does grant me some level of connection with what is going on in the world and with the people that we serve within the library. Listen up folks, apparently, being a nerd proves advantageous. Snowballing off that, I am also crazy about those furry friends that we call dogs. I have 2 small dogs that are spoiled rotten … and I mean rotten.  Annnnnd just to round this whole thing out, I have been very happily married since 2012. Welp, that’s me in a nutshell.

Little Wheels in a Big World

Fresh from my return trip to my first big library conference, the ACRL 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio, and still reeling from the experience. Lots of firsts came from attending this conference. Not only was this the first library conference in my wheelhouse, this was my first trip to the Midwest and my first trip on an airplane. There were over 3,000 attendees at the conference – I was a small fish in a big pond, to say the least! I had no idea, really, how gigantic the library world was … no concept of the scale of it all.

The feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude made me almost wish I could back out. Part of it stemmed from the fact that I am just a library assistant with no library degree right now, not a bona-fide librarian with a degree and all. I didn’t think I was deserving to even be there or that no one would be as small of a cog in the library machine as I am. Wrong! A whopping amount of attendees I met had similar roles as me in their own libraries.  Granted, a good bit of the attendees did have more leadership roles in their libraries – ie. directors and higher-level managers – but I was not alone. In fact, among the 170 scholarships the ACRL awarded to help finance attendance, they gave out support staff scholarships to 19 lower-level library workers (myself included). The total number of scholarship winners only made up less than 10% of all the attendees.

Initially, I was concerned with being one of the only librarians with a disability at the conference and missing out on some important connection or information as a result – small-town complex, ugh. Wrong, again! I met 20 or so other librarians with disabilities of varying roles in their libraries from around the country and made substantial connections with them. I even had the chance of spending time outside of the conference with one of these librarians and our respective spouses.

I was also extremely nerve-wrecked going into it the logistics and transportation issues that constantly arise from traveling as a wheelchair-user. My husband joined me for the conference to act as my aid, which made me feel a bit less worried, but it didn’t eradicate my worry, of course. The disability specialist with ACRL, Tory, was wonderful and helped de-stress what could have be some very stressful moments concerning transportation and logistics, even taking time to squelch my fears concerning the smoothness of the transportation process for certain events. She reached out to me and offered to set certain aids up for me to make my attendance more comfortable and welcoming.

The content of the panel and events were much more engaging and compelling than anticipated. I mean, the first panel I went to addressed the need for fighting for social justice with your work in the library, the ins and outs of it all, and how to handle push-back from upper management if it arises. How awesome is that topic? Never would I have thought this subject would be discussed at a library conference. Boy, was I sorely mistaken.

Through it all, I went to a couple of panel sessions, 2 roundtable events, 2 of the 3 keynote speeches, a reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a breakfast event for scholarship recipients. I wanted to go to so much more, but even though my husband was with me the majority of time to push me from location to location, the time it took to travel through 2 or 3 levels of elevators combined with restroom breaks – my sincerest thanks to the ACRL for providing family restrooms! — proved too great to attend everything I wanted. There was so little time in between panel sessions to accommodate travel time for me. And not just me. I heard this time complaint from many attendees without disabilities too. This would be my one main criticism.

Now, I did encounter tremendous difficulty throughout the flying process, but that has not an ounce of anything to do with the conference – more of an issue with the airline (Delta) and their management of passengers with disabilities. That’s a story for another time. Just a warning to those wheelchair-users who plan to fly, be prepared for a bumpy road, literally and figuratively.

In the end, I feel like attending the conference has put me on the path where I belong: enrolling in a masters of library and information science program, which I intend to begin next year (2020). I was really on the fence about taking the dive into the world of time, money, and brainpower that is grad school, but seeing what possibilities can be grasped with such a degree has really sealed the deal. Valdosta State University, here I come!

The Journey Begins…

Thanks for joining me!

This is a blog detailing the journey of a librarian working in a university library with a physical disability: you know, the ups and downs. 

Despite the fact that studies surrounding the issue of diversity within librarianship as a profession are on the rise, only a few have of these studies ave looked a those librarians with disabilities. Librarians with disabilities constitute  such a substantial minority of librarians – 3.7% in the US! ¹

I am determined to put my voice out there for all the other underrepresented librarians and shed light on this part of my life. We are not alone.

¹Oud, J. (2019). Systemic Workplace Barriers for Academic Librarians with Disabilities. [online]      Crl.acrl.org. Available at: https://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl/article/viewFile/16948/18654              [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].