In 1992 Roma Harris wrote Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession, a book that challenged the rhetoric around librarianship as a “feminized profession” — that it was something to hide, apologize for, or fix. This panel will revisit Harris’ call to embrace the strengths women bring to the profession and will ask how things have changed in the decades since her book was released. Which of Harris’ concerns still resonate with librarians today, and what new challenges have arisen with turns to the such things as the iSchool model, neoliberal management and accountability measures, and new media and technologies? Can we identify the current attention toward emotional labour, intersectional and queer theoretical approaches, and ethics of care as feminist turns within the field?
In looking at Harris’ publication, the panel will each take one chapter that resonates with their research and thinking. These chapters include: In Pursuit of Status, Self-doubt and Self-blame, and Technology and the Deskilling of Women’s Work. In turn, we will each examine the central tenets of Harris’ writing in our respective selected chapters and will begin to examine what has (or has not) changed since this book’s publication. What do these changes (or lack thereof) mean for librarianship?
One of the aims of the panel is to unearth certain tensions and subtlety of terminologies. If the profession is “feminine” or “feminized,” what barriers stand in front of structural change toward feminist librarianship? What does it mean to be a feminist profession? What does #metoo mean for a historically “feminized” profession?
As we begin to ask these questions, we will turn to the audience to engage in an interactive discussion that explores the session’s themes and that allows for participants to express their own experiences and questions. The discussion will serve to encourage feminist expression and inspire ongoing conversations at attendees home institutions.
3 learning objectives:
1. Participants will discuss the distinctions between the terms “feminized” and “feminist” in relation to librarianship.
2. Attendees will gain important historical context for current discussions of emotional labour, social justice, and ethics of care in librarianship.
3. Participants will examine some of the structural impediments to change.