Where in the World is Ingrid Conley-Abrams?, Feminism (A-Z) with Gayle Pitman, and a Little on Vocational Awe™

Croon this in a crunchy 90s Paula Cole voice: ♩♪♬Where have all the blog posts gone?♬♪♩

So, yeah. Not much for the bloggy blogging as of late. You may remember (or not) that I semi-recently left the world of public librarianship for school librarianship. I’m pretty happy with this change, though quite often I’m reminded about how different the public library culture differs from independent school values. I stayed for two years at [name redacted] school but found that the library’s mission didn’t quite coincide with my personal principles. While I very much enjoyed the school, its students and faculty (I still have moments, daily, when I dearly miss that place), I still needed to find the library environment that was, in true Goldilocks fashion, just right. I think I’ve found it, and am quite pleased to be Co-Coordinator of Library Services at an independent school in Manhattan. It’s not easy being the new kid (again!) but I feel like I’ve made the right decision.

In addition to settling in at the new school, I’m also serving on the Stonewall Book Award Committee this year. If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m trapped under a large pile of queer books for kids and I can’t reach my phone.

I miss blogging a lot. I feel like there’s so much going on in the world of librarianship that I’ve wanted to weigh in on, but it’s been hard to find the time, energy, and motivation to talk about it lately. I have to say that the news has done nothing positive for my mental state, so when I’m not sending tiny, manageable donations to Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brady Campaign, recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, and sending faxes to my elected officials, I’m usually curled up in my living room, feeling useless and inept. I’m still searching for the best way to use my strengths to help out in the best way I can. How are you coping? How are you making a difference? How are you resisting?

The current political climate has encouraged me to double-down on my commitment to empathy-building through literature. It is my aim to make my library collection as inclusive as possible. I am often reminded of the Huffington Post article “I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People.” Adults who have not been taught to show compassion for their fellow human beings may be a lost cause (at least, that’s how it feels to me right now), but I fully believe that, as a librarian, I can model the behavior of kindness for my students, as well as provide a collection full of windows and mirrorsI talk a bit about this, through the lens of feminism, over at author Gayle Pitman’s blog. You may know Gayle as the author of one of my favorite picture books, This Day in June. Her new book, Feminism From A-Z, is available for pre-order here. Gayle has also featured some great interviews with Alex GinoLesléa NewmanPhyllis Lyon of The Daughters of Bilitis and many others.

Fobazi Ettarh (in her infinite wisdom) coined the term “vocational awe”, a term meant to convey the misguided idea that librarians and libraries are inherently good. We are sold this idea in library school, by ALA, and by mainstream library publications and organizations, that we, as librarians, are always on the side of good. We are “radical”. We are guardians of free speech and gatekeepers to safe spaces. We are anti-racist, inclusive, feminist, and progressive. And we are. Sometimes. Infrequently. Rarely. At our best, we are all these things. But quite often, vocational awe prevents us from seeing ourselves as who we really are: a profession with the history that proves we have the ability to be racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and downright regressive. Instead of resting on the idea that we are intrinsically good for our communities, we must instead make concerted and deliberate efforts to actually do so. Even in small, manageable ways. For me, I give myself the daily task of making sure I’m providing a diverse literary selection of protagonists, communities, and experiences for these students. There’s an entire world outside this school’s neighborhood. If I want our very young students to care about this world, I can provide books which offer a risk-free way of interacting with a variety of concepts and issues. Hopefully, I can be part of a larger effort to turn inquisitive children into empathetic adults.

~Nevertheless, persist, ♥ Ingrid

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P.S. You may have noticed that my last name is now Conley-Abrams. I got married around this time last year, and this is the last name my partner and I have both adopted. I still answer to Abrams.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

P.P.S. I still write a lot, everyday, over at my blog’s Facebook page and Twitter. My Twitter page is locked because Twitter is full of garbage Men’s Rights Activists, but if we have a friend or two in common, I accept follows.

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