RBMS 2020
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RBMS thanks Jonathan A Hill, Bookseller for sponsoring this Sched.
Wednesday, June 24 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Organizing for Power

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Want to change your world? The first step is understanding the power you have and the power you don’t, and finding ways to build more toward the ends you seek. Labor organizing principles and practices are one way forward. As we watch public school teachers strikes from West Virginia to Los Angeles to Chicago, and graduate student organizing in higher education, we see what good can come from owning and deploying the power of an organized group. Whether you need to advocate for a new copy machine, make the case for the adoption of new enterprise software for managing digital objects, or address wages and working conditions within your institution, you can’t do it alone: you need a crew of impassioned people working together to effect change. The proposed seminar will begin with a discussion of power and how we can understand it as a collective resource, built together and deployed for shared ends. Drawing on models from a handful of political struggles, participants will discuss and develop an analysis of power that positions information workers as active agents in our future, rather than passive recipients of what our deans and directors decide. Understanding power can be a critical tool for staff in special collections and/or rare book jobs that are increasingly precarious due to their reliance on grant (soft) money. Workers in precarious employment may find challenges to building relationships that help facilitate workplace organizing; this seminar will help staff identify avenues of opportunity to create the conditions that lead to successful organizing in your institution. Following a facilitated discussion, the seminar will introduce some fundamental organizing skills: how to make and assess lists so you know who you need to talk to; how to get participants on board; and how they’re most likely to effectively participate. Participants will learn—and practice—necessary organizing skills around issues that tend to surface in a special collections or rare books shop, such as advocating for proper digitization equipment, or more equitable job descriptions—and will leave the session ready to get started at their home institutions. The presenters will share an organizing model drawn in part from Labor Notes, a resource for democratic unionists, and share two additional interactive components. Participants will first learn about the role of lists in organizing. Lists of people, their relationships in an organization, t-shirt size, and their level of participation in workplace actions are necessary for building and maintaining power. We have to know who we are building power with, and when we have majorities for successful mobilizations. Second, participants will learn how to deploy lists toward concrete workplace actions and campaigns. This seminar is tied directly to this year’s RBMS focus on power and resistance. As participants learn about list-making, the workshop reframes the labor of archive, museum, and library workers as the work of building power. Regardless of the impact participants feel they can have in their workplace right now, participants will leave the seminar empowered as everyday workers to take collective action.

avatar for Leah Richardson

Leah Richardson

Research & Outreach Librarian, Special Collections, George Washington University


Emily Drabinski

Critical Pedagogy Librarian, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Stacie Williams

Director, Center for Digital Scholarship, University of Chicago

Wednesday June 24, 2020 11:00am - 12:30pm
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