March 28, 2021

[Guest Author] Updating LibGuides with an Anti-Racist Framework: A Reflection by Jaime Ding

This month, we are delighted to have invited guest author Jamie Ding on the blog! In August 2020, Jaime presented virtually on the topic of ‘Updating LibGuides with an Anti-Racist Framework’ which can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/453453521, or click on the video image below. While we wanted to circulate this excellent presentation for our fellow colleagues to watch and consider, we also wanted to hear Jamie’s thoughts on this topic since her presentation last August. Please read on!


Updating LibGuides with an Anti-Racist Framework – A Reflection by Jamie Ding:
Perhaps as a somewhat relatable endeavor, I have taken until my deadline to write this. The day that I find myself doing so marks my own full year of officially working from home. Remote work has created dependency on digital space, space that is often presented as an objective, common space. But on my feeds, this week marks yet another cycle of newsworthy white supremacist violence, and the milestones of vaccine distribution press against tweets about modern histories of sinophobia;, understanding the idea of pain through a disability community’s conversation;, the harm journalists have caused in their ‘neutral’ Orientalist takes;, disappointment about the University of California – Elsevier agreement, the voting rights movement in Georgia;, and continuous, further proof that the police absolutely need to be defunded. I am sure these ideas are not objective, nor may they indicate a universal, common viewpoint. They are the viewpoints, thoughts, and ideas from my own chosen, trusted sources. 

In Jesse Stommel, Chris Friend, and Sean Michael Morris’ Critical Digital Pedagogy, critical digital pedagogy is defined as a way we treat each other. In the LibGuides Open Review Discussion Sessions (LORDS), we practice community care, by creating a space for conversation, critique, and criticality. We use a rubric that holds our collective ideals to review a LibGuide, one offered up by a colleague. We take the space to come together with each of our own individual experiences and expertise in understanding information, to then give ourselves the time to understand each guide and author in what it means to reference, to organize information, to acknowledge the biases in the systems that we are in. We talk about how much and what context to give, understanding the politics of citation, what professionalism or personal positionalities really mean. We emphasize pulling apart the nuances of language that we use and the hidden assumptions that they bring about (what do we mean when we say the word ‘database’? Or even, ‘book’? Who are we talking to?) and how to really center people of color, and, if not decenter, but acknowledge, the pervading whiteness of academia. This work takes time to continue to build trust in how we treat each other. 

[Critical Cartography, from Russ White’s LibGuide]

LibGuides have been the platform for this work, as the universality of the tool provides the common ground to begin these conversations. These LibGuides, especially as digital publications, are more important than ever as directives for scholars; hence, they need to be clear that they are not objective, or pretend to be in a common, digital, neutral viewpoint. The reviewed LibGuides, however, are not the sole purpose of the work: much of the criticality comes from being in community to talk about the why and how we provide (or do not provide) service to our communities. A LibGuide can show a process, not necessarily attempting to be a perfect product. Being in community has helped us talk through ideas of hierarchy, of sacred individualism, of good/bad dichotomies, of how we understand and can share our own positions of power. When we gather to discuss, we gather to practice criticality, transparency, and accessibility in the systems that we are a part of, potential injustices that we perpetuate. We have needed a space to (continuously) hold these conversations at this library, to embed ideas of what anti-racism can look like in our everyday work. While we at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo have had these local sessions, efforts have been made to expand this work throughout the California State University consortium system. Having conversations  about a LibGuide and our ways of reference with participants from multiple campuses has begun to develop a peer-to-peer network to discuss these ideas.

What is a Book? (with feedback) From Laura Sorvetti’s
Artists’ Books in Special Collections LibGuide

It seems more efficient, and easier, to write out generalized statements for becoming better at producing LibGuides, for being able to point towards an anti-racist practice. Yet we needed to begin to understand what racism and institutional racism is (continuous centering and neutralizing of whiteness, for example)  before understanding what anti-racism can look like. The webinar, “Updating LibGuides with an Anti-Racist Framework” maybe has a title with the lure of checking off a DEI box; would “Conversations about Criticality with Care” have that same lure?  Students – and ourselves – deserve the time, care, and grace to holistically understand individual perspectives and how they are important in shaping, organizing, and disseminating knowledge. 

[Jaime Ding’s Visual Bibliography, a step towards further contextualizing citations, from polypublishing.calpoly.edu, discussed throughout these sessions ]

Embedded in this post are a few of what I believe are important ideas that have come up in these sessions. They may not be prominently shown in the final products, but personally they are carried with me as I continue to work [1]. It has been a tough year working through this pandemic: I am grateful for those who are in my digital communities who have kept me going, and hope to continue to grow them. 

[1] The ideas, motivations, and frameworks for this work has been greatly influenced by many Black feminist scholars (bell hooks, Safiya Umoja Noble, Tressie McMillian Cottom, Ruha Benjamin, Joy James), critical librarians (Fobazi Ettarh, Nicole Cooke, Jennifer Ferreti), and others (some notable ones: Stuart Hall, Melissa Adler, Jia Tolentino, b.m. watson, Kathleen Fizpatrick, Imani Barbarn, Nelson Flores, Eve Tuck).


About Jaime Ding:

Jaime Ding works as the Digital Publishing Research Fellow at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Through designing a more equitable digital publishing workflow, she strives to collaborate to rethink ideas about the ‘public,’ accessibility, and knowledge organization


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