For those of you who don’t know much about my undergraduate activities, let me fill you in. A little background on me: I used to be an activist. A sign carrying, march organizing, conference-speaking activist. My major battlefield was LGBT equality and secondarily understanding and acceptance. I also was very involved in highlighting issues of racial representation and sexism within the LGBT community. I was, and still am, also a fervent animal welfare advocate [and imagine my chagrin when my professor annouced the origin of his sneakers]. I was vocal, I was vigilant and I WAS TIRED!
I decided to hang up my superman outfit and become a librarian initially to escape “the battlefield.” To have a nice quiet day job in meetings with budget people, working with classes and helping people with research projects that were only as urgent insomuch as they were just projects. I didn’t imagine that by running away from the exciting but tiring world of activism that I was so passionate about.
“The Atlas of New Librarianship” makes an unquestionale claim that just about inspires incontinence in this retired activist: Librianship is about activism. As a librarian, I am involved in the social project–responsible for bettering whole communities by leveling access to information and knowledge creation resources, and facilitating conversations that could lead to the erosions of social divides. Everything I wanted to take a break from is what I’m being trained to do. All that passion that I once had–and perhaps still do have–is now to be channeled and refined with skills and familiarity with systems and policies and procedures so that I can get back into the ring with a new set of weapons and skills. The basic message that’s beginning to take shape in my head is that if I truly want to not be an activist, library science is not the place for me.
Then I have to ask myself, whether or not I always knew that on some level. I’m besieged with doubt at the prospect that I simply arrived here by chance. Was it fate or something of that transcendant nature that brought me to the calling that I was attempting to run away from? Or did I know that being a librarian would be more than just tweed blazers and book shelves?
It’s pointless now to belabor the prospect any more as that question is not going to get answered satisfactorily in any regard. A more fruitful use of my concluding paragraph would be to ask the right questions. What is “my community”? This question boils down to identity and also to ethics really. I’m Trinidadian born… is my responsibility to the Trinidadian people to help wrest agency from an increasingly corrupt and detached government? I’m a queer person. Do I have responsibility to facilitate conversations that affect the rights and agency of the LGBT community? Or do I facilitate those micro-political conversations within it? I currently live in central New York? Is my responsibility to level the educational gaps within that community as a means to improve urban Syracuse in the long run? I could go on and on with this. The problem I run into is the fact that my mission is to improve “society” as a whole outside of the scope of the niche areas that need to be addressed. So even though I’m facilitating conversations and knowledge creation in “my communities,” I’m supposed to be doing it in the interest of society at large–does that render the question of “which community do I serve?” irrelevant?