Archive for the ‘Librarianship’ Category

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?

A Short Post on What the OWS Library Has Meant and Continues to Mean to Me

November 18, 2011

Anyone who is a librarian and takes this identity seriously knows that it is not one which you crawl into when you get out of bed in the morning and habitually shrug off when you step out of the building at night. This becomes especially evident when you’re sleeping not in a bed, but on the ground in a tent, and the library you work in isn’t contained within a warm building, but is located outside in a park, and you work, nights, too.

If this is the case, and you sacrifice your ordinary comforts to work without any financial compensation to construct the most freely accessible library that NYC has ever seen, and you believe in the power of yourself and your comrades to enact radical political and social change, than you embody the truest and rawest principles of librarianship that I’ve ever witnessed.

And if after several months of living outside in the open air, and collectively running this library of the people, some unexpectedly come into the night, and destroy what you’ve created, and deface and steal all of this communal property… if you nonetheless are found the next day rebuilding your collection, and pulling carts of your remaining books around the city for all to access, and refusing to give in an ounce in the face of all of this adversity- you are the bravest librarians that I’ve ever known.

Cookies & my favorite coaster

Radical Reference Copyright Podcast

November 11, 2011

I’ve been meaning to blog about this excellent podcast for awhile now! Titled Compensation, Access, and Theft: Copyright in the 21st Century,  the podcast is a recording of a panel presented by Radical Reference at NYC’s 2011 Anarchist Book Fair.

The panel featured 6 people – Aliqae Geraci, Karl Fogel, Victoria Law, Melissa Morrone, Jim Fleming, and Craig O’Hara – and was created to address these questions (as quoted from the podcast’s website):

How can authors/illustrators be fairly compensated for their work, particularly by radical publishers? How can the above be accomplished while also maintaining broad access to authors’/illustrators’ work? How does current copyright law work with and against what you’re trying to do (whether you’re an author, a publisher, or a librarian)? How should digital versions/editions of work be treated?

Anyone interested in librarianship and publishing in general should definitely check it out- it’s a really useful resource to anybody interested in both learning more about and questioning a wide variety of copyright issues.

Critical Feminist Pedagogies presentation

October 31, 2011

This past weekend I had the opportunity to present on a panel at a conference held in my home state, Connecticut! The conference was called “Critical Feminist Pedagogies: Towards an Education of Activism” and was held at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

My panel was called “Technology and Pedagogy,” which my presentation fit into nicely, as I discussed free Internet resources for feminist researchers/activists. In the open access spirit, I wanted to make the presentation available to anyone, and thus here’s a link to it via SlideShare: Feminist Activism is for Everybody.

Open Access Scholarly Publishing event

October 27, 2011

Once again, CUNY is hosting another awesome, free library event! This time it’s called Open Access Scholarly Publishing as Thought and Action, and is a culmination of CUNY Open Access Week.

The panel is tomorrow, October 28th, from 5-7PM in room 9204 at the CUNY Graduate Center. Presenters are Emily Drabinski, James Davis, Joseph Entin, Matthew K. Gold, Michael Mandiberg, and Trebor Scholz.

I can’t make it because I’m speaking at a conference the next morning in CT, but if I wasn’t going away for the weekend I would be there in a heartbeat!

Library 2.011 Virtual Conference

October 25, 2011

I love when conferences are free. It makes me so happy. It makes me happiest when they pertain to libraries! Thus, I was really pleased to learn about the Library 2.011 worldwide virtual conference. Founded by San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science, the conference will be held from November 2-4 online.

Those interested can browse the current list of sessions, as well as a time zone viewing page, as the conference is international in scope. As far as I can tell, the conference looks like it could be useful to people in public, academic, and school libraries.

Que(e)ry V: Open Access Party

October 20, 2011

Dear fellow queer librarians and people who ❤ queer librarians:  The Desk Set’s Que(e)ry is throwing an amazing party on November 19th at the Stonewall Inn. The event, Open Access, will benefit the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP), a website which digitizes past and present queer zines.

Queer zinesters are invited to bring their zines along – the first floor of the club will feature queer zines for sale and trade! The second floor, as I understand, will be a wild dance party with “queer-lit drinks” (my vote is for something called the “Beebo Drinker”).

Admission is suggested donation of $5-10, and all proceeds will go to QZAP. Check out Open Access’s Facebook page for more details on the event.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a party.

And don’t forget to ask a queer librarian to dance!

New Occupy Wall Street Baking Page

October 18, 2011

Last week I wrote about my vegan baking project for Occupy Wall Street People’s Library volunteers in NYC. I just created a web page in addition to the existing Facebook page in hopes that it will better promote this baking adventure/venture! In particular, I would love to see this idea spread to occupiers in other cities. For example, I just recently learned that there is now a library at Occupy Boston!

As always, please do contact me with any ideas, comments, delicious vegan recipes, etc. 🙂

Baked Goods for Good Librarians: Vegan Baking for OWS Librarians

October 11, 2011

As an open access blogger I was blissfully happy to learn about The People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street. I read on their blog that they were looking for book and zine donations and plastic bins to shelve the books, as well as volunteers to staff the library. Some members of the NYC Radical Reference collective went on Friday to help process books – my friend Jenna wrote an account of her experience there.

In addition to loving books, I also love baking- and figured I’d bake some vegan cookies to bring down to the occupiers. I dropped the cookies off at the kitchen and the next day baked some vegan muffins. My first stop last night at Liberty Park was the People’s Library, where I dropped off some books. It struck me while talking to the librarians there that they could use some tasty baked goods, so I left some muffins there.

Taken on 10/8/2011

During the train ride home I began to hatch a plan on how I can replicate this vegan baked goods project on a bigger scale. I created a Facebook page for this fledgling project inviting others to either join me in baking and/or delivery, as well as encourage people to do it on their own!