outback witch house s01e16ish: send me a vision so at least i know

Whew! A long week, but some cool things are afoot – I can’t talk about all of them right now, but I will soon. A bonus cool thing is I now have a laser-cut lap loom that I have been attempting to wrap (warp? lolol) my head around all day. And slightly apropos of nothing, if you’re reading this and you’re a library-ish person, would you consider submitting something to our call for proposals?

Tonight’s show was stuffed with excellent requests from folks, so please keep those coming in. As I mentioned on the show, I like finding a way to try to make all this stuff work together. If this program had a more professional name, it would be something like “Interstitial Lines.” But instead, we’ve got no rules and it’s just right.

(photo cred: internet k-hole – no, this is not me; yes, this is something that very plausibly could have been me)

Living in a powderkeg and setting off sparks.

Minutemen – Corona
Amyl & the Sniffers – Born to Be Alive
The Damned – Fun Factory
Soft Kill – An Open Door
Pond – Pink Lunettes
Romare – Dreams (BED)
LA Priest – Rubber Sky
MGMT – Little Dark Age
The Human League – Do or Die
Legowelt – Your Angels Drowned on the Beach
Funeral Flowers – Поиграй со мной
Schonwald – No Return
Alex Kennon – Blinding Lights (Joris Voorn Remix) (BED)
Boy Harsher – Send Me a Vision
Solid Space – Spectrum is Green
Sisters of Mercy – This Corrosion
Dave Gahan & the Soulsavers – All of This and Nothing
Cluster – Hollywood (BED)
Linea Aspera – Synapse
Body of Light – Time to Kill
LCD Soundsystem – One Touch
Steven Wilson – Personal Shopper (Nigel Rogers Remix)
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
The Polish Ambassador – Lost Kingdom (Acid Pauli Remix)
Muse – Darkshines


outback witch house s01e14: you must be aloof

Oy, I’m worn out. I am very much looking forward to being off next week, because in truth, the recent ambiguity combined with grief cocktail is just not making it very easy for me to chill–at least not to the extent I need to in order to recharge these days.

Not much to report ’round these parts that’s suitable for the ol’ blorg. I remain befuddled at people’s sense of timing, and infuriated at the degree to which library database providers have melded with data analytics surveillance deathray companies. Also, I got a bit of professional-personal news that put a smile on my face this week. I look forward to being able to share it with you, inevitable tide of criticism be damned.

Spring is definitely starting to get sprung ’round here and at least there’s that. I pulled the Empress, and I do intend to see my mom this week, so that’s a thing.

Flowering tree
(cred: me)

Playlist (also available on Spotify here):
Cold Cave – Night Light
Yaz – Don’t Go
The Human League – The Lebanon
Cabaret Voltaire – Don’t Argue
VR SEX – Minor Case
Com Truise – Air Cal (BED)
KMFDM – Megalomaniac
The Men (a.k.a. The Human League) – Cruel
Ministry – Effigy (I’m Not An)
ACTORS – Like Suicide
Colorbox – Breakdown (12″ Version 1 Remix)
Depeche Mode – Big Muff (BED)
She Hates Emotions – Ghosttown
Heaven 17 – Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
Simple Minds – Theme for Great Cities
Nine Inch Nails – Metal (Gary Numan cover)
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms
Mount Kimbie – Ode to Bear (BED)
Catherine Wheel – Chrome
Slowdive – Sugar for the Pill
The Raveonettes – I Wanna Be Adored (Stone Roses cover)
Purity Ring – Lofticries
Deerhunter – Helicopter
Boards of Canada – Dayvan Cowboy (BED)
Ratbots – at 39 is annie the oldest cat?


outback witch house s01e13: (we don’t need this) fascist groove thing

I hate to disappoint you, but there wasn’t much editorializing here; I don’t want to get this 2+ hours of bliss conflated with Fuckgate.

If you’re here to tell me you’re sick of me, I am sorry I am residing rent-free in your head. :\ In the meantime, you might as well check out this ill playlist? otherwise shoo plz 😀

the future’s open wide

Playlist (also available on Spotify here):
The Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way
Tears For Fears – Head Over Heels/Broken
New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle
Depeche Mode – New Life
Heaven 17 – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing
INXS – Don’t Change
The Cure – Another Journey By Train (BED)
The Human League – Being Boiled
Modern English – I Melt With You
Howard Jones – What Is Love?
New Order – Temptation
Bow Wow Wow – Fools Rush In
B-52s – Mesopotamia
The Glove – Like An Animal (RS Vocal Demo Mix)
Silicon Teens – State of Shock, pt. 2 (BED)
Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
Spandau Ballet – Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)
Devo – Freedom of Choice
Cabaret Voltaire – Nag, Nag, Nag
Robert Hazard – Escalator of Life
Silicon Teens – Red River Rock (BED)
Echo & the Bunnymen – Do It Clean
Propaganda – (Dr. Mabuse) First Life
Yazoo – Situation (U.S. 12″ Mix)
Murray Head – One Night in Bangkok
Kraftwerk – The Model
Silicon Teens – Chip N’ Roll (BED)
OMD – Almost
Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over
Duran Duran – Ordinary World
Billy Idol – Eyes Without a Face
Ultravox – Vienna
Depeche Mode – Agent Orange (BED)
The Cure – A Night Like This

library mgmt

on the #blossom2021 debacle

If you’re a Library Twitter person, you probably saw a good amount of stuff today about the closing panel at the BLOSSOM conference, which I mentioned in my last post. Alex Brown wrote an excellent piece on their blog that should catch you up to speed if you want more details than what I’ll share here, but the gist of it is that I was on this panel and Alex and I swore a few times. Instead of choosing to interact with us privately or directly, the conference organizer, Bobbi Newman, elected to write a blog post condescending and criticizing our language choice and when called out on it proceeded to block me and at least a handful of other supportive folks.

I wanted to share a few things from my perspective, not because mine is the one that should in any way be centered during this, but because it will be cathartic for me. On Friday afternoon, for two hours almost right before the panel started, I attended a memorial service for one of my students who unexpectedly died on March 14; he and I had grown close this semester. In a year already pockmarked by tragedy and loss, this has broken our little community, and less than an hour before I was scheduled to speak at BLOSSOM, I was on a Zoom call grieving with my colleagues. I could have stepped down from the panel given the timing, but I decided not to because it was a challenge to pull it together in the first place. Bobbi asked me to be on the panel almost two months ago and I loved the sound of it, but I did not want the panel to be majority white voices. I reached out for help to a colleague who initially intended to be on the panel and recruited Alex, but this person ultimately had to step down due to medical needs. I asked Ray Pun, who I know from Library Freedom Project, to join us as well, and he found our fourth panelist, Nicollette Davis. All in all, it took about a month and a half to get the panel pulled together. Ray was instrumental in writing our questions, and as Alex notes, we discussed other logistics like Alex’s preference for not speaking first. Bobbi was minimally involved in this planning, and she did not even add the description we came up with for our panel to the conference website (and before the recording of our talk was taken down at our request, the page it was embedded on only contained the title of the talk and a content warning).

By the time 4:35 rolled around on Friday and we got to the final question on the panel, I was exhausted and ready to blow off some steam. Alex had said two swears and I decided to validate their ability to do that, thinking there’s strength in numbers (and I hold privileges that they do not). Did I say “fuck” and “shit” a couple times each? Yes. Did I do it because I thought I was in a safe space where I could speak honestly? Yes. Did I do it because I was exhausted from grief and nerves? Yes. Was it intentional? Yes, because I felt as the sole white person on the panel that I should try to absorb potential criticism, and because I wanted to release some of my feelings. Were these things we could have talked about with Bobbi like colleagues instead of stumbling across the equivalent of a post-it note from a roommate indirectly telling you to put the dishes away? Yes. Did she give us an opportunity to do that? No.

I didn’t find out about Bobbi’s post until I saw an email from Alex about it. In the post, she writes about a separate instance of fatphobic comments made by another presenter but – intentionally or not – winds up likening that with the swear words used during our panel. She also makes a few comments that dismiss the expertise of me and my fellow panelists, and goes on to deny that she could possibly be engaging in tone policing despite how others might hear her message. After consulting some friends early this morning, I decided to reply to Bobbi’s tweet about the post to try to shed some light on how she was manipulating the truth: “I really appreciated all of your work last week & standing up about the fat talk–I was cheering for you. But re: swearing, I’m disappointed you made this public in your post and didn’t reach out to me and the members of the panel first with your concerns. We are all pretty hurt.” It wasn’t exactly guns-ablazin’, but I still didn’t get a response.

As the day went on, the other presenters and I decided to write a joint statement:

On Friday, March 26, we spoke on a panel at the BLOSSOM symposium titled Reframing Library Work: A Discussion on Centering Staff Agency, Advocacy and Well Being. While we were impressed by and appreciative of many of the other talks offered during the event, we were deeply dismayed to see yesterday’s blog post by conference organizer Bobbi Newman, On moments of courage and the lack thereof.

In the post, Bobbi likens the use of profanity (specifically the “s-word” and “f-word”) during our panel to the use of fatphobic language used during another talk earlier in the week. Instead of speaking to us privately, Bobbi decided to air her concerns about our panel publicly and implies in her post that she spoke to us about her concerns. This did not happen; she had a chance to speak to us privately after the panel and congratulated us, leaving us with no impression that we had done something “wrong.” She also writes, “[the swearing] wasn’t used to make a point, it was used because the presenter felt they could.” Both of the panelists who swore did so intentionally, which is something that could have been discussed during a conversation between colleagues, but we were not given the chance.

While we are appreciative of our many fellow panelists and speakers during the event, Bobbi’s words feel very underhanded and hurtful, undermining the community vibe that BLOSSOM had seemed to so successfully knit together. We understand that this was posted in Bobbi’s own personal blog and although we acknowledge that she has a right to share what she feels on her own page, we disagree with how this situation was handled. As a result, we have asked that the recording of our panel be removed from the conference website. We apologize to folks who were looking forward to catching it later, but we felt this was our only choice given how things were handled.

Not long after this was posted, I found myself blocked by Bobbi. I have to say I was surprised and disappointed by this, too – I’ve worked with her twice in the past, most recently jumping on a panel at the ER&L conference she was moderating at the last minute. I would not expect this kind of behavior from her or anyone else I’ve worked with on multiple occasions. As Alex writes, “To discover Bobbi’s post by chance was hurtful and frustrating to me personally. If we’re going to talk about professionalism in the field, then this is a good example of what not to do.” Blocking me and other folks who backed us up is another shining example of what not to do.

While I was driving home from campus on Friday evening, I remember thinking “wow, that felt so great; I hope we can do this again next year and I can be involved again somehow.” It was so affirming to go to a conference where being frustrated about the administrative failures of our field and unreasonable expectations for each other and ourselves were being aired out in such a frank, solidarity-building way. Now, though, I feel like I was tricked into believing this event to be a safe space where if I did legitimately step on a rake, someone would talk to me about it and try to understand my perspective before passive-aggressively taking me to task on a blog post I may not have even seen if it weren’t for my co-panelists.

Today, I spent most of my waking hours being stressed out and anxious about the ramifications of all of this, having already experienced potentially devastating tone policing in the form of a letter written to my employer last summer. I also had to do my job, and right now that includes consoling grieving students and helping them deal with the last slog of an academic year that has felt like traversing the circles of hell. It was kind of a classic situation of the sort I at least thought we were trying to steer away from at an event like BLOSSOM. I thought we were focusing on the whole self, preventing over-extension, fostering empathy and clear communication, and recovering from the trauma we’ve all experienced since the pandemic began. But thanks to this unnecessary kerfuffle, I did not have a day where my morale, outlook, or well-being were in anything resembling a good place. We have a long fucking way to go if we can’t even make good on these things during the confines of a conference.

library mgmt

normalize accountability

I went to two conferences I very much enjoyed this month – the Conference on Academic Library Management and BLOSSOM (Building Life-long Opportunities for Strength, Self-care, Outlook, Morale, and Mindfulness). Both of them had a ton of great information and ideas to unpack around being a better manager with a more holistic, empathetic approach. Both had sessions that dealt with how “burnout” narratives are framed – i.e., usually the blame for them falls on the individual rather than underlying concerns, power imbalances, or other systems that lead to worker struggle. I learned a ton and I am eager to rewatch the sessions that were recorded when I have the time. We had a great time commiserating about the myriad failings of our top administrators. But I couldn’t help but notice there was something that didn’t really get covered: what do we do with problematic colleagues or reports?

I bring this up because we have a serious toxicity problem in libraries. There’s a Green Book that exists for BIPOC library workers to help them avoid the most racist workplaces. I’ve been in several conversations lately where folks have said we need a whitelist of places that aren’t miserable, filled with drama, or under-resourced to the point of constant crisis. I am all about treating every staff person as a whole human being deserving of dignity and safety, but we need to talk about what we do with the individuals that actively add to the toxicity, whether that’s in the form of the -isms, chronically shirking responsibilities (and therefore sticking more work on the plates of their already overworked colleagues; a surefire way to get that resentment going), or being socially destructive, manipulative, etc.

Early this morning, because–to be frank–I am stressed out about work to the point where it’s interfering with my ability to sleep, I posted some semi-related thoughts on Twitter; I’m going to gently reword them here.

I think some of us library folk put up with dysfunctional, if not toxic, situations because we care so much about our patrons. And certain…architects of dysfunction know this and take advantage of it. This can go for caring about your colleagues, too. I’d say it’s not even intentionally malicious from the powers that be at times, and I’d expand this dynamic beyond libraries and to education as a whole. I think the blame for this is not on individual “carers,” but on patterns of neglect (lacking accountability for problematic colleagues, deficit logic, devalued work/life balance, lack of direction & vision, failure to acknowledge the importance of the library or congratulate its accomplishments, and territorial or siloed behavior). This is something different than vocational awe, although it’s a compounding factor. It’s maybe more like vocational exploitation: it’s not only our vision of ourselves as carers or helpers but the ways that makes us vulnerable (in a way that’s not our fault) to dysfunction.

So what I’m saying here is because I am able to self-motivate with things that are relatively consistent and separate from institutional whims that may or may not have my best interest in mind, I can get pretty far on the energy and reward I get out of helping students. Most of the time, that’s enough to take my mind off the underlying issues, but is that how we should be handling this? Should we continually be running down the lists of pros and cons in our heads and trying to find ways to justify sticking around when things are bordering on or crossing over into toxicity? There are situations where that may legitimately be the best option, like when you’re unable or unwilling to leave a job and need to actively compartmentalize things, but can we even measure how much energy that sucks up?

It pains me to try to write this because there is nuance beyond what my brain is capable of right at the moment, but if we’re going to deal with how rampant toxicity has become in this profession, I think we need to balance whole-self management with accountability. There are unfortunately people in this field who reproduce poisonous, outdated, and/or hateful ideology. They can be malicious; they can thrive on drama and undermining their colleagues instead of what keeps many of the rest of us going (helping patrons). We should not be trying to open the hearts and minds of absolutely everyone we work with, particularly if they’re xenophobes, but also if we’ve tried to do that for a long damn time and gotten exactly nowhere with it. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as “the boss” in the last almost-two-years is that management is a two-way street. The person being managed has to, on some level, want to be managed. If that’s not the case, I feel like it’s a Top Chef/Project Runway situation where they sometimes let people go when they don’t feel like they can impart any new knowledge or mentorship to them.

It’s an incredibly delicate balance to strike. I want people to not lose their jobs and livelihood, but I also don’t want them to stay working in places where they are miserable and shittily taking it out on other people. And it’s clear that the toxicity is out of control. In no way do I fault CALM or BLOSSOM for not covering this – they were excellent experiences, and both were free. But I’d like to see a lot more discussions about this, because the situation has got to change.