I see myself as a work-in-progress. I try to really listen to my students, colleagues, employers, grads, family, and friends so that I remain connected to their experiences so that I can avoid reproducing and supporting practices that are ultimately harmful or unhelpful to others. This is difficult work because I must constantly remind myself of my own privilege as a white cis gender woman. Both librarianship and higher education are dominated with whiteness and heteronormativity and I know that if I do not constantly expose this, remind others of it, and create spaces to explore its implications, I risk reinforcing the systems of power and oppression operating in these fields.
I experiment in my teaching a lot – it is hard work and I am always trying to balance this with my interests in just being a regular human that likes to read, draw, putter in the garden, and spend time with my family. I want my students to recognize the systems of power that they experience as students and as workers so that they might find ways to resist. I am also trying to unpack the diversity issues in our field and I think there is incredible space for improvement, if we were able to acknowledge that hierarchies we have designed in the field (the MLS, tech diplomas and workplace hierarchies) inhibit diversity initiatives. The students I see are a more diverse group that what you see at library schools, largely because the program is more financially accessible. I have a lot of really bright and motivated students who, in positions of greater power and influence, have the potential to “shake-up” the profession. Instead, many hit concrete walls in organizations that refuse or resist the kinds of change needed that would allow those with different backgrounds to engage in the difficult work of modernizing our institutions.
Like the representations of librarians I see in popular culture (an area I studied in my doctoral work), libraries, as organizations, are “stuck in the past.” Many Western libraries are not only colonial institutions that were originally established to facilitate cultural assimilation, they are institutions designed by privileged white men who also were instrumental in designing the profession. To disrupt the ongoing effects of this heritage, we must first call out that legacy. I try to do this with my students and with my scholarship. I want the upcoming generations of library workers to have the power and the ability to reinvent notions of the “library” so that they are feminist and inclusive spaces that incorporate other ways of knowing and doing so that they remain forever relevant and integral to the social fabric of our communities. I recently rebooted by blog (Resistant Librarian) as a way of practicing a form of public scholarship, sharing my work in a way that (I hope) provokes further discussion and thinking on such matters.
Bio: While Christina Neigel wears many hats (she is an Associate Professor in Library and Information Technology at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia, a feminist, a labour activist in her union, a mother, and so much more), she tries to focus on work that empowers others – in whatever shape that might take. Once a library technician herself, she is deeply committed to work that advances the interests and needs of library workers – of all types – so that their work is supported by the same values that libraries hold for their members/patrons. After all, library workers are part of the communities they serve!
Read more here: http://summit.sfu.ca/item/18659
Christina's Blog: https://resistantlibrarian.home.blog/