Reflexive Mirrors

Other pastures


Original images: Omar Robert Hamilton, Fortress of Solitude, Birzeit: GG, Palestina libera!: PalFest, Palfest 2014: PalFest, Palfest 2014: Jillian C. York, Falafel Republic:

Back in October The Informed saw its fist birthday. I have been involved in The Informed, a “blog has been set up with the aim of providing a neutral space for library and information professionals to share their thoughts about wider information issues”. For the first year I have operated as a moderator, which was neatly defined a a role “to manage the upload of blog posts to the site. We ask contributors to adhere to some basic editorial guidelines, so the purpose of the editorial process is primarily to ensure that authors adhere to these.”

I think it would be fair to say that it has been a successful first year for the blog. It has received a healthy and diverse range of submissions. Given my remit, I have found it quite  a challenge to not engage more critically with the pieces, but I do see how this offers a unique space for The Informed, whereby the administrators do not function as reviewers or editors in the context of a journal, and thus the issue of discoursal “gatekeeping” and the associated issues of limiting dissent, criticism, and potentially constricting new methodological processes or perspectives.

However, following a busy year for the blog, after the first anniversary, a meeting between the founding administrators and the three moderators was held via Google Hangout. During the meeting, it was decided that “the division of moderator/admin isn’t really relevant any more”. As such, all the of the team are now working as administrators. This doesn’t substantively amend the role in moderating received submissions, but does mean that we are all now responsible for commissioning submissions, uploading content, and handling social media (via a rota that has been configured on Google Calendar). This extends my engagement with The Informed and gives me some different opportunities to develop my skills.

I’m particularly excited by the possibility to proactively source submissions by encouraging new and established professionals to write on topics that I feel they may be able to contribute from a new perspective. My personal social media engagement has given my a reasonably good base to start from as I have engaged with hundreds of librarians and information workers on a wide range of topics. I have already made contact with a couple of people regarding a possible submission on burgeoning topics such as research data management. This has been a topic of particular interest in academic libraries, and so I feel that it would be a valuable contribution to title like The Informed which is aimed at a much broader LIS readership.

Building on some of the experiences I have gained in my role at The Informed, I have also been involved in founding the Journal of Radical Librarianship. The journal, launched on 01/01/2015 through the Radical Librarians Collective and is, to some extent, a fusion of some of the principles of The Informed but within the framework of a scholarly journal. This is because RLC is looking to keep the title as open and inclusive as possible, and we are therefore happy to publish non-peer reviewed content with the aim of not making the title exclusive in terms of the readership and contributions.

All of the decisions and policies have been agreed by consensus using tools such as Loomio to help making the process simple. This was also a way of assigning or nominating oneself for roles. We have shared a lot of the editorial content between the team according to areas of knowledge deemed most appropriate. Indeed, with some of the work I have undertaken in critically proof reading peer’s work to date, it seemed like a good opportunity for me to co-edit the sections based on scholarly communication and the politics of information and knowledge. We also paid for the hosting via Reclaim Hosting by splitting the cost between the collective and have chose the use the OJS software. We are planning to run a training session on using the software due its less-than-intuitive interface (which is why the content is currently only available in HTML format.) Stuart Lawson has done the bulk of the work in terms of configuring the website and creating the text for the policies, and he has done a fantastic job!

On top of the non-peer reviewed content, we are also looking for peer reviewed content, and have sent messages out on various lis-servs in order to try and encourage this. Our desire is to make open peer review the default in order to keep the review process discoursal and to encourage responsible and constructive responses. Having previously experienced some contradictory peer reviews, with some of a reviewer’s commentary bordering on the unfair or unprofessional, this is something that I am passionate about for LIS literature and for scholarly communications more broadly. We will offer a double-blind peer review if an author is particularly keen on it as we do not want to dictate the process of a scholar’s research follows, but we would encourage the open peer review process.

Similarly, we are offering CC-BY licences by default to try and maximise the opportunities for scholarly communications as new techniques evolve to make use of research. As a primary, this also makes the research accessible and usable in a wider range of geopolitical contexts. Although we do not support republication of the articles in order to derive profit, something that this licence does allow, we are aware the the -NC licencing could limit the scholarly communications in certain legal frameworks, now and in the future.

We are also keen to offer CC0 licences to try and facilitate information and knowledge as a commons. We appreciate that this will not be all contributor’s preference, at least as this point, however we do believe that it suitable for scholarly communication. Indeed, we have already had two non-reviewed items, both book reviews, and an editorial, all issued under CC0 licenses. Indeed, my review of  Informed agitation: library and information skills in social justice movements and beyond‘ is one of these.

This is the second review that I have completed within the last twelve months, with the first being in in Ardiane back in February. I learned a lot from the experience of that review, where my critical insights were limited to aspects that I was perhaps more concious of, or at least where that I had sympathies for. This meant that I failed to criticise the somewhat problematic language of the text and its appropriation of fat-phobic metaphors in relation to information. As such, when I came to review the Informed agitation, I was concious of being more concise and to be more reflexive throughout the review.

As a direct result of the review, I received thanks from the editor of the book along with various contributors. Indeed, Two of the contributors that I covered in the book, Vani Natarajan and Hannah Mermelstein, contacted the journal and eventually me, to see whether RLC would be interested in joining the second Librarians and Archivists with Palestine. As such, I am going to Palestine in April! I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to meet and engage with librarians in Palestine. There are several streams to the trip, and one of the main ones is academic libraries. Given my political support of Palestine in the face of oppression, the opportunity to directly learn from the experiences of colleagues in the region is immensely exciting. I have already raised some topics to discuss with peers in Palestine, such as scholarly communications, commercial (financial) limitations of access to electronic information, and the ideology and practices of library systems, all of which were deemed to be on topic for this trip.

It is perhaps also worth me clarifying that I plan to make contact with fellow information workers in Palestine as a member of RLC, rather than necessarily as a representative. Aside from my own personal learning and the development opportunities that await me, the opportunity to directly build a network with Palestinian peers and colleagues also provides an opportunity to gather information that could lead to more explicit international links of solidarity for RLC.

Indeed, I have also been liaising with Gul Inanc of behalf of RLC. Gul is a Turkish historian based in Singapore. In a move outside of her discipline, she is undertaking a project to try and bring higher education to refugee camps around the world. A PhD candidate at the University of Bath, Ben Bowman, was present at a speech given by Gul, and he noted the absence of librarians in the project. Having passed this along via social media, I thought it would be an excellent practical possibility for RLC to engage in.

I collated and contributed to some of our collective ideas and concerns regarding the provision of scholarly information to support higher education in refugee camps. Gul was very pleased to receive this input. Indeed, after enquiring the possibility of me having funding to attend a meeting, funds I am afraid I do not have available to me, Gul has requested my CV to see whether she is able to source funds from her end. Having recently discussed how I feel that engaging with international librarians could be mutually fruitful with my Chartership mentor these opportunities to sharing skills and experiences and trying to synthesise these to produce new, improved modes of praxis are being very warmly received and thoroughly interrogated.

This entry was published on February 1, 2015 at 10:34 am. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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