…a shiny new LOC name authority! My book had been listed under another Julia Skinner (who oddly enough also has written books about English food history), but the good folks at Library of Congress were very helpful and got my work disambiguated quickly.
Celebrating tonight with whatever the appropriate food/beverage combo is for such an occasion!
I’ve been talking a lot about my dissertation lately (surprise), and wanted to go ahead and stick a quick run down of what I’m doing here too. I’m very excited about the work I’m doing, and I would love to hear your feedback! I’m also happy to share my documentation and talk more about my process with anyone who is interested.
What is this project about?
I started thinking about this topic after being encouraged to look at Ernestine Rose by one of my mentors. The project has evolved over time, and while her career is still the jumping off point, I’m now focusing on her work at the Harlem Public Library in particular. She was at this library from 1920-1942. There are a handful of articles in our field that argue that Rose helped make the library into an innovative community space and an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance (e.g. Anderson, 2003; Jenkins, 1990). While she initially worked to integrate the library by hiring people of color, there are some indications that she dampened her support for the advancement and inclusion of these same folks later on in their careers (Whitmire 2007, 2014).
I’m using the documents held in several New York City repositories (New York Public Library’s 42nd Street Branch and Schomburg Center, Columbia University archives, and New York Municipal Archives) that relate to the library to describe the library, and also to test two theories (more on why that matters later). There are a couple challenges/considerations that I want to mention right off the bat. My research is very context-heavy, so it’s vital for me to describe that context and how the library fits within it, rather than describing the library as though it exists in a vacuum. Equally as important is discussing the role of other people besides Rose within the library. While my focus is on her career, I don’t want to risk overshadowing the contributions of others by only talking about her.
Why does it matter?
There are several big reasons (in my opinion) why this project is important. First of all, most of what’s out there focuses on the library’s role in the Harlem Renaissance, where became a well-known center for events and a place where authors often went to write (Anderson, 2003; Jenkins, 1990). There is not a lot of information currently about the library during the Great Depression and the beginning years of World Way II, both of which would have presumably had a big impact on the library. In addition, no one has thoroughly discussed her work and the library within the broader context of New York City, the New York Public Library system, or society as a whole throughout this 22 year period.
Additionally, no one has applied the two theoretical frameworks I’m using to historical research. The first of these is a framework I’m developing to analyze change (called, appropriately, Change in Historic Institutions). I’ve made a model of this, and plan to share the model in a more detailed post later on, but for now I’ll just focus on the broad concepts. This model focuses on identifying change, discussing whether that change is innovative or adaptive, and its impact and perceptions. Second, I’m looking at Information Worlds, which envisions actors within the variety of contexts they navigate, and uses five concepts (Information value, information behavior, social norms, social types, and boundaries) to describe those worlds and the interaction between them. Both theories are very broad and adaptable, and very context-focused, making them appropriate for this study. These are drastically oversimplified discussions of both theories, so if you have questions, I’m happy to go into further detail!
Finally, I think this work has the potential to be used by professionals in public library settings. When she was working in Harlem, Ernestine Rose had already had some experience in her career (she was about 40 when she took the job), and would have needed to draw on this experience while remaining adaptable and flexible to meet the needs of a quickly changing neighborhood. Her employees also faced discrimination from the library system, and used their own experiences to make the library a dynamic and community-oriented place. The story of Rose and the library as a whole might offer some useful ideas for modern librarians on what to do (and perhaps what not to do) in their own institutions.
References for your reading pleasure:
Anderson, S. A. (2003). “The Place to Go”: The 135th Street Branch Library and the Harlem Renaissance. Library Quarterly, 73(4): 383–421.
Jenkins, B. L. (1990). A White Librarian in Black Harlem: Study to Chronicle and Assess Ernestine Rose’s Work during the Renaissance in Harlem. Library Quarterly60, 216–231.
Whitmire, E. (2007). Breaking the Color Barrier: Regina Andrews and the New York Public Library. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 42(4), 409–421.
Whitmire, E. (2014). Regina Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
#YesAllWomen is taking off on Twitter right now, and if you haven’t given it a look, you should. It’s heartbreaking to hear people’s stories of feeling unsafe and unsupported even in the face of reporting sexual violence and stalking, and being denied privileges ranging from the ability to use public transit without incidence to being able to go to work and have an uneventful day. All of these stories are important and need to be heard and taken seriously. Far too many of these stories were ones I can relate to. This tweet touched on something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: Sexual violence on college campuses:
As a researcher, I’ve been a part of a project that starts to look at getting information to survivors, particularly on campuses. As a woman, I’ve experienced assault and stalking on and off college campuses, as have many of my female (and a few of my male) friends. Once I finish my dissertation, this is a research stream I want to dive into again, and Soraya’s tweet helped reinvigorate me, especially after the recent coverage FSU has gotten for its treatment of rape survivors.
So why am I posting about wanting to do this research on my blog? Because I want feedback, and right now seems like a good time to get feedback from the people I ultimately want to help. On a lot of campuses, there doesn’t seem to be much survivor-focused information that’s pushed out where people can access it easily and anonymously (and without prodding to pursue a certain course of action during their healing process). Libraries are an important part of the campus community, and are already a resource people are using (and are potentially less intimidating than other resources might feel). What I’m hoping to do is to construct a shell web resource, available without cost to university libraries, that gives survivors the information they need and can be added to by the library so local resources are also included. This way, it could be included on the library site as a desperately-needed information resource, although it should be emphasized that it will be there to point people to the things they need and provide information that is empowering and nonjudgmental, but it will not be something that turns the library into a counseling resource or anything like that. I eventually want to expand on it more to include resources for other related issues (domestic violence, mental health, etc.) and to offer resources to public libraries as well, but this is such a huge problem on college campuses that it’s important to start there.
So here’s where you come in: What do you want to see in this resource? What do you think would be helpful information to share with survivors at various stages of the healing process? I have plenty of ideas, but I want more! And while we’re at it, what other ways can information professionals (librarians and researchers like myself) be involved in bringing these conversations to light, and what kind of research can we be doing to help (hopefully) make an impact? I’m happy to hear from folks in the comments, but I also don’t want to jeopardize the privacy of any survivors (or non-survivors) who want to share their thoughts, so I’m happy to get emails as well (juliacskinner at gmail dot com). And last but not least, I want to thank everyone who has shared their stories on Twitter–you are strong and courageous for putting yourself out there, and I’m grateful that there are so many people out there inspiring and supporting one another!
If either of these are of interest to you, I would love to have you in my class, and I’d love to hear from you about what kinds of things you would like to learn. For those of you who have expertise in these areas, are there any must-read resources you always refer your students to? I have some already, but the more the merrier! I’m looking forward to teaching the class, and hope to see some of you there!
Recently, Lee Rainie came to visit the good people of SLIS, and gave a great talk on the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s findings, particularly as they relate to libraries. As many of you know, I am an avid conference/colloquium tweeter, and I tend to tweet as a way of taking conference notes. Typically, I can compile those notes in something like Topsy or Storify, but this time around only three of the tweets showed up in either platform, so I’ve gone to my Twitter account, taken some screenshots, and lined them up here so I have an archive of them (and of course so you can read them as well). What do you think of what Rainie had to say? Does it match with your experiences as a librarian and/or researcher?
I’m hoping for better luck with my next round of live tweeting as I attend our Colloquia series (the first one was yesterday). If you’re on Twitter, follow along at #fsuslis13 to see my tweets and join the conversation. Technically, it’s the College of Communication and Information Dean’s colloquium series, but hopefully they’ll forgive me for just including my department in the hashtag! Some incredibly awesome and influential folks from the field will be visiting here and sharing their visions for iSchools in the 21st Century, and I’m very excited to attend the talks and engage with people beyond the walls of SLIS as I learn from the speakers. I plan to compile those tweets too, and we can continue the discussion here when I do!
This morning I read a great post by Inger Mewburn called The academic writers’ strike. I loved the sentiments she expressed about academics being compensated in some way for their content and expertise, which keeps these journals going. I wanted to start a conversation here because I think LIS students, professionals, and faculty are in a unique position because of our chosen field. A couple points I want to raise (and these questions aren’t just directed to the groups I mention, anyone is welcome to add constructive thoughts to the discussion):
-Academic librarians (and other info pros impacted by these journal prices): One of the big things I see missing in many non-LIS discussions about the high cost of journal articles is the libraries. Would you be satisfied if the university (but not necessarily the library) received payment for every download of an article created at that institution? What are ways these publishers can improve interactions with libraries? Lowering prices and giving libraries the option to buy individual journals (rather than bundles) seems an obvious start, but what else can be going on there? Also, does demanding change threaten a library’s ability to get needed materials?
-LIS students, faculty, and other research producers: One thing the post stressed was the potential danger to students and early career faculty that could come from speaking out and signing petitions like the Cost of Knowledge, in that it would limit options and make it harder for students to build up their CVs. Some of the comments brought up excellent points about rethinking how we produce knowledge (why does sharing academic knowledge via blogs count for nothing?), but what I found most striking was the number of PhD students who agreed with her point (as one said ‘beggars can’t be choosers.’) I feel like the view of students as being at the bottom of the pecking order and scrambling to publish in whatever journal that will take them is less pronounced in our field (or at least the departments I’ve been involved in). Maybe it’s because our field consists of practitioners and researchers, nearly all of whom have graduate degrees and some exposure to research.
By the time I commented, I was the only PhD student to say that I signed the pledge to not publish with Elsevier. Granted, there aren’t a ton of LIS journals published through them, but I feel like it was important to add my name to a growing list of people who have their whole careers ahead of them and want to see a real change in one of the major industries we will be interacting with. Other students, have you signed? Would you? Does anyone (students, faculty, etc.) see benefits and drawbacks to signing? More importantly, what impact does speaking out have on our publishing options (if any, which in LIS I feel like it may be minimal) and what else can we be doing to shape the future of publishing in a way that better addresses our concerns? I argue for Open Access, but the way the journals I work with do it, where it’s truly free for the reader to access that content and for the researcher to share it. We’re already volunteering our time and effort to review and research, it would be nice to put it toward a journal that will share those ideas with the world!
-People from other fields: Researchers, students, faculty, whomever. What do you think? What barriers do you face in your field? In your position? What would you like to see changed in academic publishing?