Monday, July 6, 2020

PBS: Philly Free Library workers say 'No Confidence' in library leadership

Less than a day into the return of library workers to the physical spaces of the Philadelphia Free Library, and with no patrons allowed in the buildings, employees were already sharing stories of a woefully under prepared system that was beginning to open back up.

According to local PBS affiliate WHYY, employees reported expired and missing sanitizing wipe, nearly expired hand sanitizer, lack of soap, overheated, unclean spaces, and inadequate PPE among other concerns of misallocated resources and racism.

These concerns inspired a petition launched by unionized employees of the library system declaring "no confidence" in library leadership and demanding the Board of Trustees force the current library director to step down and for the union to be consulted on finding a replacement. The petition followed a day after Black library workers had released an open letter regarding racism in the library system.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Articles on Library Labor and Related Industries

Several recent developments in conversations and actions regarding labor in library and related fields have come up in recent weeks, some important stories and articles ULW Blog readers may be interested in are below:

First, Library Journal published an editorial at the beginning of the month by Meredith Schwartz, calling for a national library labor organization:

There have been two recent developments in the publishing industry as well. On the 8th, Vulture published an article on a one day strike by 1,300 publishing sector workers who were protesting systemic racism in the publishing industry:

Also, authors have begun a social media based movement hashtagged #publishingpaidme to highlight disparities between what Black authors are paid compared to non-Black authors. Buzzfeed has more on that story here:

Monday, June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter in the Library and the Workspace

Over the past two weeks, the nation and globe have been rocked by demonstrations set off by the police and vigilante murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Despite the continuing fear of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, people have turned out in the thousands in their local communities; and many more have offered their support online, unable to attend the demonstrations due to health concerns. Communities that have never seen demonstrations before have seen hundred take to the streets, and even historic hot beds of Klan activity have seen communities demand justice for Black victims of police and vigilante justice and an end to systemic racism that regularly strips Black Americans of their most basic rights.

Library workers should take this moment as an opportunity to support this movement in what ever way we are able as a field committed to equal access to information and information justice. Further, we should take a deep look into a profession that has long upheld white supremacist power structures and relied on systemic gate keeping that has resulted in a disproportionately white profession, even in libraries that serve predominantly Black communities.

Too often, library professionals decry the inequality in our profession or wax philosophically about ideas like antiracist practices and decolonization without changing the ways our libraries function. Comfort is often given precedence over the difficult changes that will need to be implemented within our libraries and our profession.

It is well past time to listen to our Black colleagues and patrons, who are all to familiar with the disregard given to their concerns. Our libraries were built upon white supremacist ideals of propriety, civilization, worth, individualism, objectivity, and space by the likes of Melville Dewey, Andrew Carnegie, and the Boston Brahman class. The literary cannon reflects these same ideals, and the publishing industry has yet to make the changes demanded for years by authors of color. This is to say nothing of higher education which remains painfully unrepresentative of society and pushes the voices of Black academics along with other marginalized groups into the periphery or niche fields.

While the labor movement was indusputably founded upon the racist ideals of the early AFL which sought to elevate the white labor force from the newly freed Black work force following the Civil War and white workers benefited the most from the labor peace that followed WWII, we also know that the labor movement has a long history of anti-racist struggle when Black workers have been allowed the space to lead. From the Industrial Workers of the World to the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement to Amazon workers who have launched one day strikes just 25 miles outside of Minneapolis, Black workers have often been at the forefront of the labor struggle.

Those of us fortunate to be in a union ought to be asking our union leadership what it plans to do to ensure more Black librarians are hired. We should all be examining our library collections and programming, as well as library policies about handling disturbances in the library. We must be aware that every time police or armed security is called we are putting our Black coworkers and patrons at risk.

Calls are being raised to defund police departments across the country and redirect those funds to services that will help communities without having to turn to law enforcement as the first and last choice. Libraries that have been starved for funding, that have seen the very real needs of our patrons to receive social services, psychiatric help, improved education systems, housing, food security, jobs, and so much more have an opportunity to lend our voices to this discussion and this call. Libraries and library workers often lament that the library has become the catchall in the wake of the hollowing out of our social safety net, with library workers needing to wear many hats that we have never been trained to wear, now is the opportunity to join the efforts to see that that is no longer the case.

Those of us who work in libraries ought to join the call, loud and clear:

Black Lives Matter
Black Books Matter
Black Library Workers Matter
Black Communities Matter
Black Education Matters
Black Health Matters

Thursday, June 4, 2020

UC-AFT Statement on the Police Murder of Floyd, Taylor, and Protection of Arbery's Killers

On Monday, UC-AFT Executive Board, released a statement on the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the failure of law enforcement to protect Ahmad Arbery or persecute his killers in a timely fashion. The UC-AFT represents all non-senate faculty and librarians in the University of California system. The statement can be read here.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Scapi: CPL employees ask patrons to not come to open library

Last weekend Scapi Magazine ran an article in which it quotes an anonymous Chicago Public Library employee imploring patrons not to come into the library when it reopens.

The plea comes in the form of an unsigned letter circulating on social media (the employee has withheld their name fearing retaliation from management) that states safety concerns are being brushed off, hand sanitizer in the libraries is expired, and the libraries lack enough plexiglass to run the library safely.

This letter comes after previous statements by AFSCME Local 31 in which the union said it had not been consulted in reopening considerations and was caught off guard when Library Commissioner Andrea Telli emailed staff earlier in the month asking them to report to work May 20th.

While Mayor Lauri Lightfoot initially seemed to backtrack on a proposed June 1st reopening after details of Telli's email leaked, Illinois and Cook County are preparing to enter phase 3 of reopening even as the county is seeing one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country -- surpassing even Queens in New York City.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Tribune: Lightfoot contradicts CPL statement, Union responds

Following coverage by Book Riot last week on an email sent to Chicago Public Library employees setting a June 1st reopenning date, Lori Lightfoot, the city's mayor, disputed that any timeline had yet been established for reopenning the library.

The Chicago Tribune has both Lightfoot's response to concerns about the library's reopening as well as a response from AFSCME Local 31, which represents the city's municipal workers.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Guest Post: Call for participation in survey regarding Librarian's Perceptions of Union Participation

Today we have a guest post from Mary-Michelle Moore and Heather Hughes of the University of California, Santa Barbara Library:

You are invited to participate in a survey about the benefits and effects of participating in your library’s union. Your responses will help us better understand how participation in union activity informs your workplace morale and professional identity. This questionnaire should take no more than 30 minutes to complete and will ask about your experience with your library’s union, your participation with the union, and how union participation or non-participation affects your interactions with colleagues and morale.  

We are employing a mixed-methods approach to our research and may want to follow up with individuals to learn more about your experiences. If you are willing to speak with us further, please provide your name and contact information. Names and identifying information will not be associated with individual answers, nor will personal identifying information appear in the final paper. 

We invite you to take the survey if you work as an academic librarian in the United States.  Please feel free to share.  We anticipate collecting responses until June 15th.