All Good Things …

Looking back on 14 years of In Practice

June 1, 2021

In Practice, by Meredith Farkas

When I started writing for American Libraries in 2007, my column was part of a newly redesigned magazine that had a goal of increasing its technology coverage. I worked in a small rural library in Vermont at the time, and my Tech­nology in Practice column would focus on sharing simple, low-cost technology success stories that most libraries could replicate. I wrote a lot about using social media in libraries when these platforms were in their infancies, long before they became tools of polarization and disinformation. So much has changed since then.

What’s striking to me in hindsight is how homogeneous the magazine’s contributors and staff were back in 2007. It has been encouraging to see the efforts AL staffers have made to include writers of diverse backgrounds and points of view, and with that in mind, I’ve decided to end this column. There are so many voices in our profession who deserve this platform and whom you deserve to read.

When thinking about how librarianship has changed over the course of my tenure writing this column, it’s hard not to consider my own perspective shifts. The fact that I didn’t initially notice the lack of diversity of AL writers speaks to my awareness gaps at the time. A lot of us were in the grip of vocational awe and technosaviorism in 2007. I remember reading articles where librarians were portrayed as selfish for not spending their personal savings to attend library conferences. There was ample rhetoric suggesting that if we didn’t adopt the latest technologies, our libraries would become irrelevant. And most of the writing about diversity and inclusion in our profession was authored by library workers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, as if it were something we didn’t all need to focus on.

A profession driven by fear of obsolescence can’t look inward and meaningfully improve. It has been encouraging to see discussions about labor, collective organizing, mental health, self-care and community care, critical librarianship, and dismantling white supremacy becoming mainstream in our profession. Many conferences now focus specifically on these subjects. Not until we can see ourselves and our work clearly can we create the inclusive libraries all library workers and patrons deserve. We still have a long way to go, but I’m encouraged by the progress.

A profession driven by fear of obsolescence can’t look inward and meaningfully improve.

Former AL columnist Andrew Pace (currently of OCLC) championed me for this gig, and his belief in me still means so much almost 15 years on. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for the late Leonard Kniffel, former AL editor in chief, who gave an incredible opportunity to a librarian in her 20s who had more chutzpah than experience. He made the columnists feel like part of a family, and I’d never felt so seen and valued as I did with him. I owe a tremendous debt to my editors, Amy Carlton and the late Beverly Goldberg, who supported my work as this column evolved from being focused solely on technology to reflecting on how we work and how we build a better, more values-driven profession. If I look back at my columns over the past few years, they advocate for a slower and more reflective, humane, diverse, and inclusive librarianship. I’m grateful that the AL staff allowed my column to grow with me.

Looking at my own learning over these years reminds me of the importance of always being open to change and rethinking—never assuming we already have all the answers. It’s through communicating with others, really listening, and reflecting on our work that we can progress. I’m grateful to the many library workers who generously shared their ideas with me over the years.

I believe we can deeply connect with our communities, foster antiracist spaces and policies, embrace values-driven work, and develop environments in which every library worker feels supported as a whole person. I can’t wait to see what we all do next.


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