I attended the CALC Conference on 24th and 25th May and can thoroughly recommend this annual event to other professionals interested in critical librarianship. The gathering was welcoming and introduced the day by stating “we will operate within a spirit of liberation at this conference”. If you have not heard of CALC before, their website states that “The Critical Approaches to Libraries Conference aims to provide a space to discuss all aspects of critical practice in libraries and librarianship including (but not limited to) decolonisation, critical pedagogy, equality, diversity and inclusion in library work and the representation of marginalised groups in the workforce, academia and literature.”
The 2 day conference was packed with a diverse range of topics and speakers, so I can only highlight a few here. At the end of the blog post I have included links to further reading.
Some of my key take-aways were:
- When designing a support resource for ebook accessibility question your assumptions about students understanding of platforms, and co-design courses with students.
- When investigating library ‘decolonisation’ initiatives there is no such thing as “neutral”. Be clear about your positionality and privileges. Find actionable recommendations to solve a problem (move beyond critiquing, to action). Look at Algorithms of Oppression book (on DiscoverEd).
In the Day 1 conference Keynote: Decolonising bibliographies, referencing and citational practices Dr Gurnam Singh shared so many important reflections for where we find ourselves right now, such as:
- “Enlightenment belongs to humanity not to Europe!”
- “Colonialism is an economic endeavour and is still happening”.
- “Critiquing the canon means exposing the othering and silencing of people”.
Dr Singh discussed the various types of colonisation to be aware of such as settler colonisation, extractive colonisation, and plantation colonisation.
(Colonialism is generally classified by one of five overlapping types according to the practice’s particular goals and consequences on the subjugated territory and its indigenous peoples. These are: settler colonialism; exploitation colonialism; plantation colonialism; surrogate colonialism; and internal colonialism.)
Dr Singh then went on to compare the fixed hierarchies of arborescent thought versus rhizomatic thought’s interconnected multiplicity and networks of thought, which rejects fixed categories and sees connections and dialogues.
Some of his comments might be challenging to some people, such as “Citation rankings are monetised and racist, and so therefore is the REF [Research Excellence Framework]”. It is true that currently citation rankings perpetuate certain dominant authors and global voices, which position Western discourse as the most “valid” or important. Dr Singh said “When an article has 10 authors you just know its gaming the citation rankings – its fraud. The publishing industry is colonial – it’s based on colonial attitudes.”
“Decoloniality is about building a new humanity not going back to a “purer” time. This isn’t a specialist subject, its about being human. Maybe AI could release us to be humans and not robots?”
Other topics covered by other speakers included multilingualism in public libraries; using reflective practices to extend the impact of teaching in libraries; developing collaborative cataloguing codes of ethics; setting up Library Decol Working Groups in academic libraries; exploring working class roots of library staff and their experiences in the mostly middle class populations of HE library staff; being a neurodivergent librarian in HE; using critical race theory in medical curriculum decolonisation work; and using the Homosaurus for cataloguing in a public library consortium.
We were encouraged to develop the attitude that everybody brings something to the workplace – a richness of their own, rather than making assumptions about the limitations of people based on their assumed backgrounds, identities, or experiences of “othering”.
I can thoroughly recommend attending this very affordable and welcoming conference!
ECA Academic Support Librarian
Further reading links:
The recordings of the sessions will soon be uploaded to the CALC Conference site:
If you are interested in the topics raised at the Conference these links will be useful to explore:
Future Learn course on Anti Racist Technologies https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/anti-racist-technologies
Cataloguing code of ethics:
Journal of Information Literacy article on working class library staff experiences: https://journals.cilip.org.uk/jil/article/view/20
Critical Race Theory book: Knowledge Justice (on DiscoverEd):
Critical Race Theory definition:
Neurodivergent librarians supporting each other: https://neurospicylibraries.flarum.cloud/
One neurodivergent librarian’s experience: https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2017/neurodiversity-in-the-library/
CALC conference on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqB_9b3mgcJ0yu8cHK9kIoQ