Activism as Leadership: Lessons from Occupy Library Workers

Research into Practice
Lua
Gregory
Assistant Librarian
University of Redlands
Shana Higgins
Associate Librarian
University of Redlands

Abstract

Librarians wrestle daily to negotiate licenses for access to information provided by privately owned companies, to lobby for open access to publically funded research, to provide access to resources for a diversity of human beings, and all of this with limited budgets, inadequately staffed libraries, and the constant change in the tools and means used to provide services. This presentation will focus on leadership for social change, rooted in activism, advocacy, and the need for action. The dedicated individuals who maintained tent libraries constructed during the Occupy Movement present a unique case study of leadership outside of traditional library spaces. Using research data gathered from questionnaires sent to Occupy Library workers, common themes of library activist values will be identified and discussed within the framework of social justice leadership. The researchers argue that activism is an essential leadership skill needed to bring about social justice changes in the library world and to the communities we serve.

Description

“Social justice is central to leadership preparation because without addressing issues of difference and inequality then there will be no substantial improvement of student learning for those in ‘challenging circumstances’” (Blackmore, 2009, p. 8).

The presentation will begin by defining social justice leadership and activism. Scholarly literature on social justice leadership (Blackmore, 2009; Furman, 2012; Hoffman, 2009) and the social justice implications of librarianship (Samek, 2001; Lankes, 2011) will be reviewed to provide a solid theoretical foundation for attendees.  In addition, examples of activism and advocacy in librarianship (Bundy & Stielow, 1987) will be covered, such as the work of E. J. Josey, the founding of American Library Association’s (ALA) Social Responsibilities Round Table (Samek, 2001), and political skills expected of library leaders (Goulding, Walton, & Stephens, 2012), to illustrate activist leadership in the discipline.

Using research data gathered from questionnaires sent to Occupy Library workers, common themes of library activist values will be identified and discussed within the framework of social justice leadership. Research findings indicate a strong correlation between the ALA’s Core Values of Librarianship and the activist work of Occupy Library workers. These findings resonate with Jacobs and Berg’s (2011) statement that “librarians can use the ALA Core Values as a way to reengage with the possibilities and potentials within information literacy to meet larger social goals” (p. 385). Reflection upon core values such as democracy, intellectual freedom, diversity, and access, points to the need for action, or activist librarians, who can lead the charge in bringing about social change in these area within our libraries and communities.

References

Blackmore, J. (2009). Leadership for social justice: A transnational dialogue. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 4(1), 1-10.

Bundy, M. L., & Stielow, F. J. (1987). Activism in American librarianship, 1962-1973. New York: Greenwood Press.

Furman, G. (2012). Social justice leadership as praxis: Developing capacities through preparation programs. Education Administration Quarterly, 48(2), 191-229.

Goulding, A., Walton, G., & Stephens, D. (2012). The importance of political and strategic skills for UK library leaders. The Australian Library Journal, 61(2), 105-118.

Hoffman, L. P. (2009). Educational leadership and social activism: A call for action. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 41(4), 391-410.

Jacobs, H. L. M., & Berg, S. (2011). Reconnecting information literacy policy with the core values of librarianship. Library Trends 60(2), 383-394.

Lankes, R. D. (2011). The atlas of new librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Samek, T. (2001). Intellectual freedom and social responsibility in American librarianship, 1967-1974. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

 

Presentation Materials

When

Date and time: 
Sat, 04/05/2014 - 3:45pm - 5:00pm

Where

Monterey [LL]