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Or email me at email@example.com to get it directly from me (it’ll save you a buck and a half on postage!)
I tried easel.ly, but it didn’t suit me and generated too many emails for an already too full inbox. I tried building a Marvel superhero avatar but it was a bit clunky and I kept having to start again. So I decided to rely exclusively on my faithful friend, plain words.
Again, by way of introduction.
I live in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States of America. We are not a state, so I have no representation in the legislative bodies that govern my country. Nevertheless, I pay state and federal taxes. I have no political party, so my vote doesn’t count in our two-party system.
I am married to a loving wife. We have been together for 20 years. I have dragged her around to the various hellholes and arm pits where I have worked and she has always been a trooper, a very present help, and a trusted companion.
I’ve had formal instruction in four languages: French; Spanish; Portuguese; and Arabic. I have more books than bookcases to house them. Along the way I learned how to do stainless steel welding, diesel maintenance, warehouse management, government procurement and contracting, beekeeping, and weather forecasting.
Deep secrets. Poetry. I love reading it. A spirit that comes and goes forces me to write it on occasion. Shelley, Dickinson, Whitman, McKay and Knight are my favorites. I kept my love of poetry in the closet for many years. During my late teenage years I experimented with the Baha’i faith and with a black nationalistic brand of Islam. I am not ashamed of either. Also, as a Boy Scout I earned every merit badge related to nature, conservation, and electronics.
My high school motto was “A posse ad esse,” that is, “from the possible to the actual.”
I retired year before last with 34 years of government service. I work part-time at a local university as a reference librarian.
p.s. How did I leave out music? Perhaps because I haven’t been doing any serious listening lately. Wow, is that ever a metaphor!? Anyway, I played viola as a child and began to internalize the overall majestic feeling of “making one’s own sound.” A local percussionist, Hubert Long, introduced an 8th grade me to jazz, classical jazz, mainstream jazz, modern jazz, free-form and improvisational jazz, and that mere introduction pretty much changed the way I’d view the world from that point on.
Check this out: a project from a sound design class I took
Who am I this month?
Same as last month, I suppose. My day
starts with a glass of lemon juice I squeeze,
and water, with a bit of bitter zest
thrown in for good measure. I turn on the radio
and the internet router to catch up
on the morning news – the good, the bad.
We make the bed together – the master
and her disciple. I have oatmeal with raisins
and cinnamon. On Sundays & Tuesdays
I go to the community garden – okra, collards
and peppers are waiting to be watered
and weeded. On Wednesdays & Saturdays
I work at the library. And in between, I tweet
more than I Facebook status update, I suppose.
Today’s Hack Library School blog post, Sweat the Small Stuff, stirred up fond memories of my first library job at Southeast branch, Greensboro Public Library. I was a high school junior working 20 hours a week as a library page for $1.25 per hour (it was the early 70’s, and the library system got a special dispensation from the city to pay less than the minimum wage of $1.65 per hour because, well, it was library work).
Monday thru Thursday evenings, I came in and shelved books and read card catalogs and shelves. But on Saturdays, I worked a full 8-hour shift doing “other things,” cleaning the parking lot (teenagers “hung out” in the parking lot in Friday nights and left trash), washing glass doors and windows (the librarians called it “windexing”), and using hot soapy water to clean dust off of shelves. Amazing how much dust accumulates underneath those books! I’d start in the 000’s, and over several weeks make my way to 999, fiction, the reference section, children and juvenile collection, and back to the 000’s. Without doubt, I learned the Dewey Decimal System, but actually physically cleaning each section also conveyed to our patrons the idea that somebody cared about the place, about the books, and about keeping it presentable for library users, or so the librarians assured me.
It has been many moons since I visited that library, now known as the Vance H. Chavis Lifelong Learning Branch Library (Vance Chavis taught my father at Dudley Sr. High and was my principal at Lincoln Street Jr. High (now known as The Academy at Lincoln). Somebody should do a wikipedia page on him). I always thought the building should have been named for Helen Walden, the head librarian who transferred along with the original collection from the Carnegie Negro Library on the Bennett College campus. But Mr. Chavis was on the City Council after his years as a noted educator and I’m certain he worked hard to get and keep the funding for the Southeast branch. Anyway, that’s the way it goes down south. Several years later I visited with Mrs. Walden at her home and she lamented about the books in the original collection that were ultimately destroyed in the consolidation. She smiled when I told her I was planning to retire early and go back into librarianship.
I swiped this photo from the branch website:
p.s. The motto for the branch is “The library in the community and the community in the library.” Sounds rather Ranganathian, doesn’t it? The “first branch” is also home to Greensboro Public Library’s first computer lab and houses what remains of an extensive African-American collection of both fiction and nonfiction.
I was lucky three times. First, a colleague from my former career, who is now also a reference and instruction librarian, told me in a Facebook message, “Ray, you must go to LOEX!” Thank you Meridith! Second, several of the librarians I work with were planning to carpool to LOEX2016 in Pittsburgh, and I got plugged into their network. Third, they convinced me to apply for conference/travel funding, even though I was/am only part-time. And I got funding! Here is a photo of the AU delegation:
We arrived in time for the Thursday First-Time Attendee Orientation. Brad Sietz, LOEX director, gave a talk that was simultaneously the history of LOEX, the history of library instruction, and the latest in current trends and developments in librarianship. It was a warm and enthusiastic crowd. I tweeted:
— Ray Maxwell (@hsifnihplod) May 5, 2016
Thursday night I joined a group for dinner at the Original Oyster House in Market Square.
Friday opened with breakfast and the keynote address by Dr. Sheila Corrall from Pitt. Lots of material and lots of references but she kept my interest. Her comments on “reflective practices” and “blended librarianship” in library instruction really caught my ear. Will be reviewing her slides as soon as they are posted.
The sessions I attended Friday were all interesting and informative. Lots of tweets, lots of good sources. So cool to finally meet face-to-face with people I’ve only “known” through twitter chats, esp. the #critlib folks. Speaking of #critlib, a colleague mentioned that LOEX is the whitest library conference she’s attended. If true, I don’t think that is the fault of the LOEX conference folks: applications to attend are not racially screened. So are librarians of color self-selecting out by not applying? Perhaps an economic decision gets made to go to ALA or another of the big conferences, and no funding is left? Maybe library instruction is considered less important ( I am still amazed that Information Literacy and Instructional Design was just an elective at my LIS program, and offered only once a year, but glad I took it as an elective). Should it even be interesting that a largely white profession (librarianship) has even whiter sub-professions (library instruction) offering essential skills and competencies for success in the overall profession?
Also, speaking of #critlib, shouldn’t information literacy/library instruction/instructional design occupy a more prominent place in critical librarianship discussions? I would think that the way we teach, and the extent to which our teaching is successful/effective is a very significant part of our identity as information professionals.
OK. Friday night dine around was so much fun. I got on the list for Nicky’s Thai Kitchen with the #critlib folks. Seating was tight but the food was delicious! Here is a pic from a tweet:
— Ray Maxwell (@hsifnihplod) May 7, 2016
Saturday morning we had pancakes for breakfast. And the lightning round of presentations has some fascinating ideas (even though my own didn’t make the cut). Favorite lightning round talk: The Human Library (gotta get one at my institution!). We skipped the afternoon sessions and got an early start on the road back to DC.
Hoping soon to pull together the live tweets (Kelly has a good one here, and there may be interest in building a bibliography of greatest hit sources from the excellent presentations.
If it’s April, it’s NaPoWriMo, that is, National Poetry Writing Month, a month when poetry devotees (like me and many of you) commit to writing at least one poem per day. There are several blogs, sites, etc., that offer daily prompts, and folks are free to go off on their own and write “as the spirit leads them,” as my mother would say.
This year I have been pretty much in the latter category, drawing inspiration from things, events, happenings in the immediate environment. As it happens, early in the month I attended three events that have had a huge impact on my April writing. The first one was a writing salon at a local art gallery, a short, three hour “class,” that looked at one piece of art from various perspectives and encouraged attendees to write about the experience. The second was a poetry reading at a local library by three sonnet writers, who read and spoke about the “sonnet” craft. The third was a lunch time exhibition talk about a single piece of art, which became the basis for my daily poetry submissions.
So, to ease your suspense, I’ll cut right to the chase. I decided to try my hand at a “crown of sonnets,” also called a “corona.” All the sonnet writers I saw at the reading talked about it! Then, I decided to base each unique sonnet on a piece of art, implementing the tools we used in the writing salon. Finally, I decided to use as the art work a series of paintings used as illustrations for poetry, and the exhibition talk I attended provided such an example, a series of paintings by the famed Harlem Renaissance painter, Aaron Douglas, used to illustrate James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones, Seven Negro Sermons in Verse,” one of which was on exhibit. You can find the original, in electronic edition with illustrations, here.
OK. Here is the thing about a corona. The final line of each poem becomes the first line of each succeeding poem, and the first line of the first, the final line of the last. Additionally, I tried as closely as possible to make each final line align with a line from the actual original poetry that the art work illustrated. Finally, because the example I saw in exhibition was the illustration for the final poem in the series, I worked my way through the original poems from back to front, giving the whole thing a slightly different twist.
Enough chat. I have posted the whole crown of sonnets on my poetry blog here (but you have to look for it). Please check it out and let me know what you think.
#critlib chats are always so rich with resources. Today’s was no exception. Below are some of the links, books. slideshows, etc. mentioned in tweets for future reference. (I have been wanting to do this for a long time!).
This list is by no means exhaustive. I just ran out of gas (and the basketball game came on. Go Heels!)
http://incluseum.com/ (Museum critlib)
https://criticalischool.wordpress.com/reading-list (U of Sheffield ISchool)
Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond. Morrone, ed. Z716.4 .I55 2014
Revolting Librarians redux: radical librarians speak out. Roberto, K. and West, J. eds. Z665 .R44 2003
Meanderings, Musings, and Monsters, Too. Raish, ed. Z675.U5 R175 2003
Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. Roberto, ed. Z693 R33 2008
Elmborg, J. (2006). Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), 192–199.
Doherty, J. (2007). No Shhing: Giving Voice to the Silenced: An Essay in Support of Critical Information Literacy. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-Journal).
Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly, 83(2), 94–111.
Critical Theory for Library and Information Science http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8dg5b2jr
Paulo Freire’s classic “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” LB880 .F731 1992
Public library critlib
More student rates for conferences
Gender identity and LCC/LCSH
Libtech accessibility critlib
more #critlib chats hosted by grad students and recent LIS graduates
#critlib student chapters
Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium
http://sjlseattle.org/ The first-annual Social Justice and Libraries Open Conference
April #critlib Baltimore Meetup
Gotta get these live chats on the calendar so I plan for them, instead of stumbling upon and lurking after the fact, so to speak.
Tuesday’s #critlib chat led me to #CLAPS2016 and David Hudson’s keynote, just as the last #radlibchat led me to Spencer Lilley’s keynote address from Vancouver, which in turn led me to a wide range of background reading at my library, as I suspect the Hudson talk will as I pour through tonight’s tweets.
There is a lot to be said about either, or both. The “critical” path takes me back to critical theory itself, its limitations, and discussions about the need to push original critical theory beyond its “native” boundaries to address current and present concepts and manifestations of power and domination, up to and including LIS discussions of diversity and inclusion.
Before things get too serious, let me share with you all a photograph of my garden plot:
It’s tiny compared to the plots I had last spring in Cullowhee, and I only get the front half of the box. But I have grandiose plans to fill my half box with compost and rock dust, and after the final frost (a lesson I learned from last year’s experience of planting too soon), to plant a row of beets, a row of turnips, a row of okra, and a dandelion perimeter.
Back to the subject.
Again, the chat from two weeks ago drew me to a careful reading of Reiland Rabaka and his coverage of Amilcar Cabral (and of Franz Fanon, but that will be the subject of a subsequent post), one of my favorite thinkers. Cabral’s development of Africana critical theory (as described by Rabaka, particularly in Concepts of Cabralism) is itself a critique of and an evolutionary advance of critical theory, raising it (critical theory) from a Eurocentric philosophical construct with Marxian roots to a trans-disciplinary human science level that we, as librarians, can deeply appreciate and even relate to (at its foundation, library science is a social and hence, a human science, isn’t it?).
That was more than a mouthful.
Tonight’s #critlib live chat, similarly, along with the diversity and inclusion aspects of Hudson’s keynote, drew me back to Amilcar Cabral, especially his speech, National Liberation And Culture, delivered at Syracuse University on February 20, 1970, where he addressed issues of colonial cultural domination and power. He wrote,
“Culture, the fruit of history, reflects at every moment the material and spiritual reality of society, of man-the-individual and of man-the-social-being, faced with conflicts which set him against nature and the exigencies of common life. From this we see that all culture is composed of essential and secondary elements , of strengths and weaknesses, of virtues and failings, of positive and negative aspects, of factors of progress and factors of stagnation or regression. From this we can also see that culture – the creation of society and the synthesis of the balances and the solutions which society engenders to resolve the conflicts which characterize each phase of its history – is a social reality, independent of the will of men, the color of their skin, or the shape of their eyes.”
Hudson alluded in his keynote remarks to the tendency of diversity and inclusion work to result in increases to neither diversity nor inclusion in the library profession. Perhaps it is sufficient that awareness is raised and transmitted. The presence or absence of non-white librarians, to paraphrase Cabral above, is a culturally derived social reality. Having members of the profession flail themselves at conferences may or may not change the numbers. Raising awareness may be a temporary phenomenon, or may have a lasting effect. Chatting about it on twitter and/or posting about it in blogs, similarly, may make a short-term or a longer-term difference.
For critical social theory (including #critped and #critlib) to be effective in the 21st century, it has to become trans-disciplinary. It has to cut across previously siloed disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, political science, economic, post-colonial studies, gender studies, queer or LGBT studies, racial and ethnic studies, and cultural studies. It has to reflect the material and spiritual reality of society, in both a descriptive and a normative way (I was so thrilled to hear Hudson mention his participation in a poetry slam!). Finally, and maybe most importantly, critical social theory that underpins both #critped and #critlib must marry theory to practice and to praxis in a harmonious, mutually reinforcing way.
It’s been a long time since my last blog post. So let’s do a bit of a reverse chronology…
I got the defibrillator inserted in early December. It was half a day in the hospital, followed by a couple of days in bed at home to let the outside wound heal. No more blackouts and no more arrhythmic episodes, hopefully!
A week later we travelled to Lisbon and on to Guinea-Bissau for the holidays. Filomena said the African sun would help the healing process and I think she was right. Good times with the family, good food everywhere, especially the seafood!
I lived in Guinea-Bissau in the 90’s so it was a type of homecoming for me. I have had (and continue to have) a special historical and academic interest in Guinea-Bissau’s two founders, its first African governor, Honorio Barreto Pereira (left, below), and the theoretician of its independence struggle, Amilcar Cabral (right, below). We will return to these two later, but as a spoiler alert, my father-in-law, Pedro Pinto Pereira, told me lots of stories about his great-grand father on vacation trips to Lisbon, so I was prepped.
The mango trees decided to pollinate in late December and I developed a hay fever reaction that I still haven’t quite shaken, coughs, intermittent fevers. Tropical living. But no malaria. We have that to be thankful for.
We returned home after the holidays. I picked up a few extra hours at the reference desk, and we plowed through the January snow storm that hit the region. The big news of February was a short day trip to Philadelphia for World Information Architecture Day, and a return to the beautiful mountains for a library meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Library Collective. My lightning round talk proposal was rejected for LOEX but I still plan to go in early May.
This week I gave what will hopefully be my final Congressional testimony. Ever. It wiped me out a bit, as the questions both forced me to open up old wounds and to reconsider events that I’d prefer to be buried in the now distant past. I was scheduled to attend the WRLC (Washington Regional Library Consortium) annual meeting, but went home instead after the testimony.
Which brings me to #radlibchat. I hadn’t focussed on the date and quite by accident stumbled across some tweets towards the end of the livechat. It was ok. It gave me an opportunity to follow up on some of the tweeted links, the most interesting of which was the presentation by Dr. Spencer Lilley at UBC, “To Decolonize or To Indigenize.” I found it to be an interesting set of infinitives, and I am anxious to check out some of his other writings and sources. But I’d like, for a moment here, to address a particular aspect of his talk.
I understand “indigenize,” i.e., to allow a formerly colonized people to return to their own cultural standards and norms, their “pre-colonial,” if you will, way of doing and looking at things. And I understand “decolonize.” i.e., directly from Dr. Lilley, “how hegemonic systems and epistemological violence associated with hegemony can be dissected and restored to its indigenous state.” That’s all good. But what happens to the client class the colonizers developed, the locals who were assimilated, by culture and by blood, to carry out the colonizing process in the place of the colonial masters. What happens to them? They may be in a place where they can neither decolonize nor indigenize. What happens to their cultural institutions, their archives, their research institutes, built over several generations to preserve their place and justify their existence in the colonial ecosystem?
Amilcar Cabral wrote that this strata of society should ultimately commit class suicide:
“This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behavior of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds–of mental set–is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement. Such reconversion–re-Africanization, in our case–may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.”(1)
This may well be beyond the ambit of radical librarianship. But it may well be right smack in the middle of it. It brings to my mind lots of examples, in collection development, in what I like to call “meta-information,” in various aspects of community outreach, even in scholarly communication.
To be continued.
(1) Cabral, Amilcar. National Liberation and Culture. February 20, 1970; Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. Accessed March 8, 2016 at www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/cabralnlac
Love stories with a twist and other peculiar tales
Apps for any screen
Poets, librarians, gardeners, beekeepers, would-be pirates and life-long learners are especially welcome here.