Archive for December, 2011

Punk & Post Punk Journal

December 21, 2011

My friend Kate gave me a heads up about a really awesome-looking new journal, Punk & Post Punk. According to its website, the journal is “the first forum of its kind to explore this rich and influential topic in both historical and critical theoretical terms.”

Although Punk & Post Punk appears to be a proprietary journal, at this point in time anyone can download all of the articles from the first issue for free on the website.

Learning about this journal feels like a really special Christmas present! I’m particularly excited about an article on Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto called “Beth Ditto and the Post-Feminist Masquerade; Or How ‘Post’ can Post-Punk Be?

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Interview with Aliqae Geraci, Part 2

December 15, 2011

3. K: I frequently meet NYC-based librarians and library students interested in participating in library-focused activism. What are some steps you would recommend for them to take to get involved?

A: I would definitely say to go to every library networking event in NYC – Meet Ups, ULU meetings, Radical Reference meetings, Desk Set mixers…  you’ll see how close-knit the NYC library world is. Get on listservs too, but show your face and talk to people. Despite the cynicism of the future, librarians love their jobs and are always happy to talk to someone new.

Get off the Internet and go talk to people face to face. Lots of established people in the profession aren’t hanging around on social websites, and they’ll be your most valuable mentors. Make sure you’re talking to multiple people in different stages of their career – ask people if they’ll mentor you. REACH!

4. K: If you’re scheduled to go to a protest or other event in the middle of a downpour or snowstorm, what do you think about to inspire you to brave the weather in order to attend?

A: I’m from upstate New York so I know how to put on some layers. This year I thought about all of the workers in Wisconsin who stood outside for 20 days in the winter. We need a willingness to experience minor discomfort to stand up for each other, to take such a minimal level of personal risk, or we’re never going to be able to change.

If you keep finding excuses to not dissent or take a stand, if you’re not willing to take a risk, or are afraid of damaging your professional reputation, then you really can’t be surprised with what you get. Find your boundaries and push them and keep pushing them. I think we don’t have enough of that in the library world – to take personal and professional risks.

Suburban Blight #10

5.  K: At this point in history both labor unions and libraries are targets of major financial cutbacks and are also constantly forced to justify the legitimacy of their existence. I would love to hear your opinion on possible partnerships that could be forged between labor and library workers/activists to protect their jobs and peoples’ right to utilize their industry’s services.

A: I think a lot about labor in the library world and how it affects the general trajectory. Unfortunately lots of attacks on library workers are coming from libraries themselves – from the administration, funding sources , etc. to cut labor costs. Whether it’s justified to provide service and staffing is irrelevant, as it has a concrete and chilling effect on the living standards of library workers and the ability of the profession to maintain itself as a respected and sustainable occupational choice.

We may have a million library school students glutting the labor pool, but unfortunately this is justified to create contingent and part-time workers. Even though new workers have a MLIS [Master of Library and Information Science] they may not be treated as real librarians.

Lots of library discourse says we’re being de-professionalized because libraries are using paraprofessionals to replace librarians, but that’s not the whole story. Clerical workers are fired first when cuts happen – librarians can do every job, they can work down. Libraries are moving toward relinquishing full-time staff and instead having an army of part-time and contingent workers. We’ll see more of this as Baby Boomers retire, with every institution that can – or there will be an army of library school students created as a free labor force.

Only 30% of librarians are unionized. Huge chunks are in right-to-work states and can’t form unions. Academic librarians may or may not be able to join a union because of shitty labor law. Zero national bodies exist to address concerns of library workers – ALA [American Library Association] represents libraries, not librarians.

Since there aren’t any national (or regional) bodies we have to fight our own battles, to fashion something resembling careers. This is getting harder and harder. There’s very little ability to join forces and challenge this on a professional basis. I believe that ‘s what unions do, but unfortunately existing labor law doesn’t allow us to form a national body. I think we should still do it, but I don’t know how it will be done.

Until we can build some kind of national or regional organization or form a federation to advocate for and represent library workers as employees, we are never going to solve large labor issues in library work. Every victory we get will be a local, isolated victory.

I fucking hate LSSI [Library Systems and Services, a private company which some libraries have hired to manage their services in an outsourcing framework] and privatization – it’s a threat to the very core of public libraries and we should all be fighting it tooth and nail, as well as fight the neo-liberal plan to destroy libraries.

6. If you could have dinner with 3 activists (living or dead) and after dinner listen to an album and read a zine together, who/what would you choose?

A: 3 activists: Naomi Klein, Barbara Fister, and Elaine Brown. Album: Team Dresch’s Captain, My Captain. Zine: Xtra Tuf.

Interview with Aliqae Geraci, Part 1

December 13, 2011

I met Aliqae Geraci awhile ago at a meeting of the NYC chapter of Radical Reference, and was really interested in her wide range of library work and activism. We happen to know Steph, the editor of  the zine Suburban Blight, in common. While I was trying to figure out what to write about for the newest issue of Steph’s zine, the thought struck me that I would really like to interview Aliqae to learn more about her involvement in both labor and library activist movements.

This interview was featured in issue #10, which was just published. I’ll be posting the interview to my blog in two sections due to its length.

1. K: After several years as a librarian at Queens Borough Public Library (QL) you transitioned into a role as a research analyst at a labor union. What in particular spurred this career change for you? Can you please describe a typical workday?

A: The drive behind my career change goes back to my original academic background, Labor Studies. I planned to go to library school and get a second Master’s and then work in a labor library or as an instructional librarian in an academic Labor Studies program. I also researched other possibilities — what else I could do with this professional skill set—like working as a researcher for a labor union.

I thought it would be a crapshoot given the general labor market, as I graduated in May 2008 right when the economy had kicked the bucket. During my last semester in library school I watched jobs disappear. I had worked in a labor library part-time and was offered a full-time job at QPL when I graduated, which allowed me to be active as a rank and file union member.  This was deeply transformative for me.

I worked at QL for three years, and was getting a second Master’s in Labor Studies at the same time. Right around the time I finished the MA I was hired by AFSCME – DC 37 [New York City’s largest public employee union]. I didn’t come randomly into my job – I walked towards it. I’m very lucky.

I don’t have an average workday because I don’t work in public services anymore. I juggle a variety of long-term research projects with short term requests such as questions about civil service tests, how many people are in a local union, city budget analyses, union contracts… I also work on trying to get the archives into working order, ready reference, and knowledge management… many different things. I get to attend negotiations, meetings and protests for our 53 different local unions – workers from parks departments, botanical gardens, libraries, etc. These practical applications make every minute spent on a spreadsheet worth it.

2. K: I’m aware that you’re very active in the collective Urban Librarians Unite (ULU). Can you please give a brief history of ULU and explain its relation to Save NYC Libraries?

A: ULU was started by Christian Zabriskie three or four years ago as a casual monthly social get-together for NYC librarians. We’d go to a restaurant/bar, talk shop, and meet other librarians. It was predominantly Queens public librarians, but academic librarians and students came as well.

In 2009 Bloomberg proposed unusually bad library budget cuts – we were all scared shitless. Neither the library nor the city were giving us information and we were terrified we were going to get laid off and no one was doing anything about it. Christian had an idea to do a postcard campaign – people could write what they love about their libraries and send them in to the city council.

In the meantime, the city council cut a deal and no layoffs went out – but the seed had been planted. We kept talking, and when next year came around, even worse budget cuts were proposed – 1/3 of the library budgets of Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and QPL. Pink slips went out to 1/3 of the library staff over a 2-week period.

Everyone was shocked because there hadn’t been library layoffs in twenty years. We looked at advocacy materials created by the library and local union, but we thought it was bullshit. ULU said “We see how it is – you’re not going to do a damn thing about it, so we’ll do it our own way.”  Most of the people talking were those who had gotten pink slips. We only had one month before the city budget was settled, so this gave us a window to influence the city council. We knew we had to put independent pressure on the library, the mayor, citizens… tell them that if they supported libraries they’d have to show Bloomberg he would need to cough up the money. Organizing as library staff, we put pressure on the media and tried to get library users to put pressure on political decision makers. We also organized a 24-hour read-in.

Way more media attention was received than we ever anticipated – ULU was covered in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on TV stations…it was a whirlwind. Lots of articles were published in media outlets about cuts to NYC libraries. We built waves of pressure – with rallies, canvassing with petitions, and asking people to sign postcards (6000 in total) to send to city council.

In the end, city council restored almost all of the funding, but QPL still laid off 44 workers, which had repercussions in labor-management relations that can still be felt today. The events of that month shaped Save NYC Libraries as a project and ULU’s utility in building a coalition of city council members, professional groups, student groups, etc. ULU contacts every library group we can find every year to build support, as we’re all in this together.

Some Save NYC Libraries projects have been a zombie march to protest mid-year budget cuts and Hug the Library at NYPL’s Schwartzman Library. We also coordinated with the four public library local unions who did amazing work in the branches – this work of union members resulted in dozens of rallies and outreach events. Library stakeholders build a strategy from January on, and a structure is maintained over the year so that when budget cuts come we are ready to fight – and to think, all of that came out of a monthly gathering where we shoot the shit with our fellow librarians.

Library Science Exhibit

December 12, 2011

Although I have lived in New York for many years now I spent over 2 decades in the boxy little state just to the north, Connecticut. I recently learned that I am going to have something especially exciting to do the next time I visit CT: check out the Library Science exhibit at Art Space in New Haven!

photo by origamidon

Here’s an excerpt describing the exhibit from its website:

“Through drawing, photography, sculpture, installation, painting and web-based projects, the artists in Library Science explore the library through its unique forms, attributes and systems: from public stacks to private collections, from unique architectural spaces to the people who populate them, from traditional card catalogues to that ever-growing “cyber-library,” the World Wide Web.”

Road trip up north this winter, fellow librarians?

Wayback Machine

December 6, 2011

Does the idea of a “digital time capsule” interest you? Even if it doesn’t, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has the potential to be very useful to you as an Internet user.

The Wayback allows you to view archived versions of web pages across time, which can be especially useful if you are greeted by a broken web link. According to the Wayback’s stats it boasts billions of web pages from 1996 to a few months ago.

Next time you want to visit a specific web site and the address you have no longer works, go take a surf on the Wayback!

Legal Dictionary/Legal Encyclopedia

December 5, 2011

If you or anyone you know needs any assistance with legal terms, Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute maintains Wex, a freely available legal dictionary and legal encyclopedia.

Users can browse all entries alphabetically or search for a specific term. In order to search, however, you will need to create a free account.

In its FAQ section Wex describes its targeted group as a “broad audience of people we refer to as “law novices — which at one time or another describes practically everyone, even law students and lawyers entering new areas of law.”

Wex is open to contributions from legal experts- editing/authoring guidelines can be found here.