my first library job

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.


Addendum.  More on Vance Chavis for the wikipedia page (Civil Rights Digital Library, University of Georgia):

Chavis, Vance H., 1906-1998

Biography: (

Vance H. Chavis was born January 14, 1906, in Wadesboro, North Carolina. He attended Presbyterian Church affiliated parochial schools in Anson County through the 7th grade then received a scholarship to attend prep school and college at what was then known as Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University) in Charlotte, NC, also affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. 

He continued his education at Johnson C. Smith University, earning a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. At North Carolina Central University he received a master’s degree in Public Health. He also studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University, and the University of Wisconsin.

As a part of his graduate studies, Chavis was one of three students sent for field training in New Orleans, Louisiana as part of the Health Education Program for the New Orleans Department of Health. Under the direction of M.E. Kossack, City Supervisor of Public Health Education, Chavis from North Carolina Central University, and Ada Boyd, and Vernon H. Olson from the University of North Carolina were assigned to analyze health problems in New Orleans and develop health programs. Chavis, as the only African American student, was assigned to the low-cost housing projects of Calliope, Magnolia, Lafitte, and St. Bernard, which were segregated from housing projects designated for the White population. The main objective was to plan and conduct chest X-rays and survey the status of tuberculosis in the community. Another objective was to assist in the organization of groups and programs to address other health needs in the community, such as venereal disease and child health issues. Chavis organized and promoted the mobile chest X-raying unit, conducted discussions with tenant leaders to address issues, scheduled presentations and films for the community, and worked with various public health nurses assigned to the various clinics and programs available to the tenants of the projects.

Chavis taught physics, general science, and biology at James B. Dudley High School from 1929 to 1955.  Of his time at Dudley Sr. High, Chafe wrote,

None exerted a greater influence on generations of Greensboro black young people than Nell Coley and Vance Chavis, two teachers at Dudley.  Both openly announced their participation  in the NAACP and encouraged others to emulate their protest activities. Both also urged students to take home to their parents the message of registering to vote, Chavis even having students in his class address envelopes to prospective voters.  By their own examples, each held forth a standard of pride and assertiveness that students found hard to forget.  Chives taught physics, but, as one student recalled, he also taught the importance of “not selling one’s soul.” Continually, he implored students “not to go in the back way at the movie theaters and climb all those steps in order to pay for segregation,” Chavis helped organize students to support the theater boycott during the 1930’s, reminding them the he himself refused to ride the buses and railroad because of his unwillingness to accept any form of Jim Crow. (Chafe, 1980.)

In 1955 Chavis was appointed assistant principal at Lincoln Junior High School, He was promoted to principal in 1957 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1969. Chavis was known first as an educator but was also a leader in the local civil rights movement. He was an early member of the NAACP in the 1930s, and in 1949 was integral in organizing the Greensboro Citizens Association. He was also an active member of the Democratic Party at both state and local levels, serving on the state Democratic executive committee and as a precinct chairman. From 1969 to 1973, he was a member of the Greensboro City Council.

Chavis received numerous awards and honors, including Johnson C. Smith University’s Alumni Centennial Award for outstanding achievement in community relations and a certificate of meritorious service from the City of Greensboro for his efforts on the Redevelopment Commission; Chavis was the first African American male in the United States to be appointed to a redevelopment commission. The Southeast Branch of the Greensboro Public Library was renamed in his honor. Vance H. Chavis died on November 30, 1998 at the age of 92.”

His education and formative years[edit]

“My education started in the Presbyterian parochial school in the town where I was born, Wadesboro, North Carolina, which is about fifty miles east of Charlotte. From this Presbyterian connection, of course, I was motivated to go to college. In the meantime, however, we had no high schools for blacks in Wadesboro. They built a large one there for, for the whites, at that time about a hundred thousand dollar brick building, which was very, almost luxurious at that time. They built an eight or ten thousand dollar frame building for the blacks. Of course, we only went to the seventh grade. So after the completion of the seventh grade, I went to Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, which was then Biddle University, where I did my high school work. And this of course came through my church affiliation, and I received a scholarship to go to Johnson C. Smith. And I went there in high school and also four years in college. I finished college in 1929. I majored in chemistry. But being a person of, I guess you would say down low on the economic ladder, I had sense enough to realize that I would probably have to teach. So, fortunately, I took enough hours in education so that I had a Class A certificate for teaching in North Carolina. After completion of my degree, I applied for a teaching position in Charleston, West Virginia; Winston-Salem; Greensboro; and Durham. You see, I always wanted to go to a pretty good place, because the salaries were better in these places.” (Link, 1988)

Comparing Dudley to other schools[edit]

“I feel that Dudley High School, along with [Simon G.] Atkins High School [Winston- Salem], and one or two others, were comparable to the best high schools in North Carolina. Dudley had an excellent structure; it was comparable to the best in ’29 and ’30 and ’40. We had very good facilities. It was not equal to what was Greensboro High School then. A lot of the science equipment I found there came from the abandoned high school which was on Cedar Street, prior to their moving to Grimsley. So we had a lot of old equipment, some of it wouldn’t work, but some of it would work today if it’s still there. But I think the faculty was excellent. At that time, you didn’t have too many people from North Carolina even teaching at Dudley. Dudley had a great variety in its faculty; we had people who had finished at the University of Pennsylvania; we had people who came from Howard University, Lincoln University in Lincoln, Pennsylvania; and we had a teacher from Morehouse. I was the only one from Johnson C. Smith, but we had two Fisk graduates. So, you see that our faculty came from all over the United States. We had a teacher that at one time came from Southern California.” (Pfaff, 1979)[3]

“One of the things I noticed, in going through the school board minutes, was it seemed to me that in the period ’54 to ’56, there was enormous—there was an enormous increase in activity by the Lincoln and Dudley PTAs [Parent Teacher Associations], in terms of pressing with urgency and with assertiveness—not militancy, but assertiveness.” (Chafe, 1973)

“Well, I think Dudley played a very important role. It was highly respected in the black community. The teachers were respected. In fact, teachers then were respected more, I think, than they are now. They held maybe high positions and were held in greater esteem by the public, even the white public, and by the students more so than now. I don’t know why, but I think that was true. One thing unique about Dudley was that in order to get the faculty, we had to 7 reach out all over this country. And surprisingly maybe to you, of the blacks who did finish college in the North, as we called it, northeast, they could not get employment in New York or Philadelphia or New Jersey, so those who did complete college had to come south. So, as a result, we had a teacher who finished [University of] Southern Cal[ifornia], we had one who finished Penn, University of Pennsylvania that is. And of course the others had come from all over the United States from all the black schools: Tuskegee [Institute, Alabama], Morehouse [College, Georgia], Talladega [College, Alabama], Wilberforce [University, Ohio] and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and from the schools in North Carolina. WL: So you had a great diversity and a quite talented– VC: Yeah, quite talented. But now you find, I think, if you were to examine the faculty–now, I am presuming this–that most of them would be more or less local people from the schools in North Carolina, primarily. Which means–which, there’s nothing wrong in that, except maybe you’d more ideas where you have a greater variety and people with different attitudes and mores and points of view to add to the total culture there at Dudley. I think that it was an asset.” (Link, 1988)

On Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board[edit]

“I may add further, at that time, integration was not a problem. What they were trying to do, more or less, was trying to get back to the Plessy [v. Ferguson] decision, that is, equal facilities. So Dr. Jones was more or less interested in seeing that Dudley or the other [black] schools got their proportionate share of whatever expenditures were made by the city schools. And I know Dr. Hampton was primarily interested in the streets on the southeast side [of Greensboro], and other problems we had at that time in improving the city of Greensboro.” (Pfaff, 1979)

“Well, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but right after the Brown decision, Mr. Ben L. Smith, who was the superintendent at that time, and a Mr. [Edward] Hudgins, who was chairman of the school board–he worked for Jefferson Standard [Life Insurance Company]–and the school board, mostly–because I knew Mrs. Brown, and a Reverend Smith–I think he worked the Methodist college [Greensboro College?] over here–they were all fine people. And so they agreed after the [Brown v. Board of Education] decision was made that they would abide by it. Greensboro would abide by it, the Supreme Court decision, and from henceforth it would be law. But they ran into some snags. And soon after that, there was an organization, and that comes in at a right nice time, now, as I think about this down in Louisiana–but they found an organization called the Patriarchs. And these Patriarchs, if you research it, were made up of the, some of the leading industrialists in Greensboro.”(Link, 1989)”

On inviting Paul Robeson to Dudley Sr. High[edit]

On one occasion, at the time that—before Paul Robeson had reached the lower ebb in the opinion of a lot of people, Paul Robeson, I invited him. I met him and I invited him to come out to speak to the Dudley student body. And being the humble person that he was, very easy to meet and talk with, he agreed and he came out and spoke to the student body, because I wanted them to see a man. Of course, Paul Robeson—as the younger generation would say—he’s my man [WC laughs], long before Martin Luther King. But Paul Robeson really was more versatile then Martin Luther King. There again, Paul fought for the same things that Martin Luther King did, but he was ahead of his time. (Chafe, 1973)

On the Greensboro Daily News coverage[edit]

“I think the Greensboro Daily News generally has been one of the best papers in the south, and they’ve made an attempt. They’ve never been racist. They didn’t do all that they could do. And–because sometimes that depends upon the people, you know, at the lower level. Sometimes it was hard to get the obituary. And I was reading the paper the other day in the “Public Pulse” [newspaper column], and something had happened, but they didn’t [it] bring out. And folks hadn’t come to me, or gone to folk who lived here and born here. And sometimes people who come here since certain things happened. But we had to fight to get the Greensboro paper to capitalize N when we call ourselves Negro.” (Link, 1989)

“But, getting back to the paper, overall the Greensboro Daily News has had, I’d say, a favorable record and has been good in regard to race relations. They’ve tried to help. But sometimes, you know, people don’t–you know, I mentioned Mr. Weaver. Now Mr. Weaver–and I could understand his behavior. As someone say, we’re the product of our environment. Now, his father was a Methodist minister. And he’d come up and come up in a world where the blacks had nothing, the whites had everything. And unknowingly, a lot of times, they probably had some prejudices and not aware of it, and think they’re doing the correct thing.” (Link, 1989)

Now in retrospect—I was talking about (Greensboro Daily News reporter) Jo Spivey. When I was on the city council, she’d call me, unlike the other reporters. They’d call and sometimes they’d want you to give an opinion right off the bat. “The Supreme Court did so-and-so today. What do you think?” Well, I spoke very honestly. I’d tell them what I  think. And I still don’t regret it. But occasionally, even when they attended a meeting, you know—you’re familiar with reporters—it isn’t always correct. And secondly, sometimes when you say a thing, when you see it in print it’s different. And she’d always say, “Vance, let me read back to you what I said.” Or sometimes I’d go up there if I had a long statement to make, and we’d go over it. (Chafe, 1973)

On Chavis’ election to City Council [edit]

I ran for the city council and I came in eighth. In July I believe it was, or June, after about two or three meetings, one of the council members died, Mr. Folk[?]. And as soon as his funeral was on a Sunday, and a lot of black people in the community, and some white people, began to write letters and send telegrams and make calls to the mayor and the city council saying that I ought to be appointed because I was next. And I think that—well, apparently they were convinced, because they did what was right. Although Jimmie Barber, the other black person, had won and we hadn’t had a black councilman in ten or twelve years, they still were willing to put this second black man because I had come in, of course, behind just behind the wire. But that’s how I got up there. And I think that was in—must have been in July, because I retired in June not knowing that I would be appointed. (Chafe, 1973)  Accessed on May 26, 2016

Obituary, GNR, December 3, 1998


Posted: Thursday, December 3, 1998 7:00 pm

Newspapers like to attach descriptive labels to people, and Vance Chavis carried a number of them: Vance Chavis, civil rights activist; Vance Chavis, Greensboro City Council member; Vance Chavis, political organizer.

But Chavis, who passed away Monday at the age of 92, always knew in his heart precisely who he was: Vance Chavis, teacher.The obituary written by his family identifies him simply as “retired teacher’ and devoted three paragraphs to his education and public school career. No mention is made of his four crucial years on City Council. No mention is made of his help in organizing the Greensboro Citizens Association, now one of the city’s most powerful political forces. No mention is made of his being the first black man in the country to be appointed to a redevelopment commission.

 Vance Chavis, teacher. The true value of a teacher is reflected in the lessons he taught and the understanding of his students. By that measure, Chavis was an extraordinary man.

His pupils have been leaders in Greensboro’s struggle for civil rights for the past 40 years. Among them: George Simkins Jr., head of the Greensboro Citizens Association and winner of the 1998 Brotherhood Award from the local chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice; the Rev. Otis Hairston, retired pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church and 1983 winner of the Brotherhood Award; Melvin “Skip’ Alston, county commissioner and state president of the NAACP.

The lessons Chavis espoused seem simple and obvious today: be proud of yourself; judge others by the content of their character; refuse the shackles of segregation. But they were hard lessons that took courage, intelligence and determination in the 1940s. Chavis broughtthem out of the classroom and onto the front lines by organizing voting drives and business boycotts.

Chavis once said, “The present generation … sometimes doesn’t appreciate what was done by those who came before them to make things possible.’ Not only did he teach his students about those who came before, he himself became a figure in the history books.

Sometimes a man is propelled by a powerful idea. Sometimes an idea is propelled by a powerful man. In Chavis’ case, both forces were at work. He helped teach an entire city about right and wrong, about listening and acting, about peace and justice.

Vance Chavis helped guide the city through a dark, turbulent time. His legacy – in his lessons and his pupils – lives on. For that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

References (Civil Rights Greensboro, UNCG) (Civil Rights Digital Library, University of Georgia)

Reflections on #LOEX2016

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:

au delegation.jpg

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:

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.

Favorite sessions. A toss-up between Rhetorical Reinventions, Everything We Do is Pedagogy, and Concept Inventories: Teaching IL Like a Physicist. (Hyperlinks to follow, I promise!)

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:

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.


#NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)

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.

Resources from today’s #critlib chat

#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!)

Links: (Museum critlib)  (U of Sheffield ISchool)

Books, papers:

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

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
#CritLAM thoughts
more #critlib chats hosted by grad students and recent LIS graduates
#critlib student chapters
Critical Theory
Critical Pedagogy



Upcoming events:
Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium The first-annual Social Justice and Libraries Open Conference APR14
April #critlib Baltimore Meetup

lurked #critlib tonight ISO (in search of) #radlibchat

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:

garden week 0

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.


late for #radlibchat today

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


MOOC MOOC: Instructional Design

Situating Makerspaces in Schools

Week 1 (1/25 – 31): Foundations of Instructional Design

Robert Gagné: The Conditions of Learning
Bloom’s Taxonomy, Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
B.F. Skinner, Review Lecture: The Technology of Teaching
Audrey Watters, “The Future of Education: Programmed or Programmable”
Colin Angevine and Josh Weisgrau, “Situating Makerspaces in Schools”
Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel, “10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do”

Guiding questions
Why did instructional design start where it did?
What are the implications that much of instructional design has risen out of behavioral and educational psychology?
How do theories of instructional design make the student the object of the learning process rather than the subject? What is the difference between subject/object in this case?
What is the role, if any, of agency and authenticity in traditional instructional design? How is they reinforced, how are they not?
How does computing affect instructional design (i.e., when the teacher is absent, who does the instructing)?

MOOC MOOC Discussion
Wednesday, January 27 at Noon EST using #moocmooc on Twitter

Re-blog from last January for #whyICritlib (and poetry and lyrics)

[Note: This post is from January 24, 2015 for a course I was taking called #MOOCMOOC.  In it we discussed at length many ideas/concepts in critical pedagogy.  At the same time, I was preparing for my first teaching experiences as a newly hired reference and instruction librarian.  So it all came together in this blog post that addresses, if obliquely, my attraction to #critped, which in turn fed my initial interest in #critlib.  p.s. Enjoy the poetry links and the video!]

OK. Just what is meant by Jasperian-split? (p. 79) What is this consciousness as consciousness of consciousness other than a poetic play on prepositions?

Earlier in the paragraph, Freire makes reference to “intentionality” as the essence of consciousness and how “problem-posing” education “epitomizes the special characteristic of consciousness: being conscious of, not only as intent on objects but as turned in upon itself…”

I mentioned earlier that I teach my first library instruction class next week. Wednesday. Four sections of Freshman English, back-to-back. One hour each, one hour per semester. I have no intention of boring them to tears with a stack of powerpoint slides. We are going to chat for ten minutes, then turn them loose for 50 minutes to “hunt for stuff” in the stacks and on the library website under supervision. My goal for today is to plan those “hunting” tasks in a way that includes achieving the learning goals already established. It brings us back to “intentionality” and “consciousness of consciousness,” or meta-consciousness.

I don’t want to trick the students into learning, because a “trick” makes it a one-way process that might backfire once they learn the truth. I don’t want to be the guy behind the curtain pulling levers. And ultimately, I don’t want to cut off the opportunity to learn something new from the students, an opportunity that requires, no demands two way free exchange.

Now, back to Jasperian-split. Ok, I admit, I had to look it up. Siri didn’t know, so I went to the Oracle. The Oracle pointed me again to Fanon (see part one) ( and through him, to these Bob Marley lyrics (

We’re sick and tired of your ism and skism game
Die and go to heaven in Jesus’ name, Lord
We know when we understand
Almighty God is a living man
You can fool some people sometimes
But you can’t fool all the people all the time
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our right

And this Rilke sonnet (

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

In short, the Oracle told me, the Jasperian split is the gap between form/format and content/context in learning, and the awareness that to close that gap one must be willing to create, to re-create, to change the normally acceptable structure and order and to be conscious of that closing and that change as an evolving process, i.e., (1) we know when we understand, and (2) you must change your life.

Now, to Emily Dickinson. ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry) folks know of my total adoration for Emily Dickinson and have heard me quote that the only way to approach understanding an Emily Dickinson poem is “on your knees,” implying the academic/intellectual humility required. Here are the lines:

From all the jails the boys and girls
Ecstatically leap,—
Beloved, only afternoon
That prison doesn’t keep.

They storm the earth and stun the air, 5
A mob of solid bliss.
Alas! that frowns could lie in wait
For such a foe as this!

“Jails” as a metaphor for banking approach to education? Freedom from constraints (storm the earth and stun the air) the needful to generate in young minds “their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as static reality, but as reality in process, in transformation.” (p. 83)

Mapping the learner powered knowledge ecosystem

Mapping the student-centered learning ecosystem

As practitioners, we tend to view interactions with information seekers (not users!) as transactions: monolithic; often one-way; linear; seldom transformational.

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We follow a similar pattern in our assessments. Transactional. One way. Linear. Non-transformational.

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We need a more robust, more agile, more comprehensive way of thinking about (1) all the interactions of our learners (who are information seekers), and (2) the total layout of the learning ecosystem.

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Please take this 15 second poll to let me know what you think about the model.  Thank you.