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Practicing Social Justice Through #Critlib

Practicing Social Justice Through #Critlib

#Critlib, or critical librarianship, is the ongoing work of turning a critical eye to the functions of libraries. As well as drawing the principles of social justice into the profession in this critical eye. You can practice critlib in all types of librarianship. Even in library school! It began in earnest as the result of a Twitter chat in April 2014. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the inaugural chat. Here are some places to start learning about critlib and putting it into practice.

What is #critlib?

First of all, critlib focuses on many issues within and adjacent to library work. This is just a short overview. There are more resources below where you can dive into the work and conversation about critical librarianship.

According to critlib.org, critical librarianship addresses “regimes of white supremacy, capitalism, and a range of structural inequalities” and seeks to “intervene in and disrupt those systems.” Researchers and workers confronting critlib issues work on more than just those problems, however, and consider gender, labor practices, information privilege, and disability and library services, among other areas. Annie Pho describes critlib perfectly when she writes, “I don’t see #critlib as a unified ideology, but rather a gathering place for people with similar goals to meet and talk.”

So critical librarianship has also inspired movements toward #critcat, or critical cataloging, and critical literacy, which are worth reading more about too.

How can I do #critlib in library school?

Critlib is often discussed in terms of practicing library work. But it is valuable to consider it and use its tenets while you’re in library school too. To participate in the #critlib, Twitter chats is a great way to get started in these conversations. Furthermore, this Hack Library School article on participating in them provides helpful tips. The author of that article points out that the #critlib community functions as an ad hoc professional organization. This is where the community provides opportunities for collaboration and development of critical competencies outside of class.

Furthermore, considering the role of a library degree is also an important part of critlib discussions around access and economic issues. Being around other engaged students in your classes might provide an opportunity to tackle that issue in a familiar community.

Overall, it can be intimidating to get started in critical librarianship work. So is collecting the background knowledge on issues that are relevant to the conversation and your interests within it. The resources below can provide some of that background, and this article by two LIS students at the University of British Columbia provides some additional high-level overview.

Where can I learn more about #critlib?

There are lots of places to learn more about critical librarianship:

Georgia Westbrook

Georgia Westbrook

Georgia Westbrook is a first year student in the MLIS program at the iSchool. She works in the Learning Commons at Bird Library. Georgia is interested in oral histories, news librarianship, and open access.

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