Thursday, January 13, 2022

Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership - edited by Shirley Lew and Baharak Yousefi

I spotted this collection of essays on the New Books shelf at the library as I was looking for something to read over the holidays. While this wasn't really light reading, it was the only book I finished of the three I checked out. The other two were novels that just didn't keep my interest.

The essays in this book explore leadership, feminism, racism, sexism, diversity, and intersectionality (among other things) within the library profession. It is most definitely an academic book, written primarily for other academic librarians

Of course it is no surprise to those of us in librarianship that "white heterosexual men in feminized professions...benefit from 'the assumption that they are better suited than women for leadership positions'". However, as Maura Smale quotes Chris Bourg out in the first essay "Always a Novice" 

If all of you who don't want to play politics, who don't want power & influence to change your values, and who want to have a healthy work life balance shy away from leadership positions; it might mean that you are leaving the leadership of our profession in the hands of those who aren't concerned about those things.

It is a truth that men tend to get the leadership positions in libraries. My own library just hired a white male as our new Dean. In collective memory of the university "white male" describes every library leader we have ever had. 

 "Isn't feminist leadership just about being a decent human being" is the question explored in the final essay "Feminist Praxis in Library Leadership". While the question may seem simplistic it spiraled into quite a lengthy essay. Through targeted interviews with eleven library leaders the authors asked six open-ended questions

  • What is feminism?
  • What is leadership?
  • What are some examples of your feminist leadership actions?
  • How are you addressing issues of diversity and inclusion?
  • What do you read that informs your feminism and/or your leadership?
  • What other related topics would you like to tell us about?

From there three more questions emerged

  • What does being a feminist mean to you?
  • What makes leadership feminist?
  • What tips or advice do you have for others looking to activate their feminism at work?
Readers are provided with some perceptive answers to these questions.

A timely work.

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