How shall we live? Job vs. Work in the Academy

Photo by Tania Melnyczuk on Unsplash

“as if they were unalive, as

if They were ideas” — e.e.cummings

During a weekly huddle in a small unit in which I worked in my “professional youth”, a colleague who was new to the organization and figuring out the scope of their job said something that I remember regularly. In a sincere yet detached manner, they asked all of us gathered on our rolling chairs in the corner of the corporate tower floor: “What is it that I do here?” And indeed, many of us labouring in libraries, whether public, academic, or special, have undoubtedly had similar moments of uncertainty. I believe this question, while appearing flippant and sarcastic, is actually at the heart of many paradoxes, challenges, and “issues” we experience in our regular professional life. How often have we sat around a bored room table and had the impression that colleagues around us were proceeding to solutions to questions that were assumed to be self-explanatory, rational, and definitively urgent. Yet pausing to ask whether the proposed strategies are addressing the right problem in the first place would have been seen as reactionary, obstructionist, and uncollegial. Have we not all felt like impostors who snuck into spaces where serious, legitimate work happens fearing to be suddenly revealed to know nothing of the goals of the organization. And yet, what are the goals of the organization? For whom does, indeed, the library toil?

  1. Refusing to emphasize damage, and searching for desire instead
  2. Refusing colonial theories of change (which places the neoliberal, capitalist project at the finish line)
  3. Changing citation practices
  4. Engaging in creative mentorship, early ‘retirement’, making a writing life, and subverting diversity discourses.

Speculative librarianship, labour, power, technology. I am interested in land education.