Save Your Outrage

So, we’ve ranted about a lot in the past year. Giving credit for other’s ideas. Not giving yourself enough credit for amazing work. Privilege. Imposter Syndrome. All of these topics provoked numerous reactions, both in agreement and disagreement. Then, Kendra decided to rant about the holidays. Not even the holidays themselves, simply holiday celebrations in the library. Are we atheists? Communists? Do we hate Santa? The answer is that it doesn’t matter.

 

The holiday rant has provoked some intense reactions. SLJ picked up the article. Someone from Horn Book wrote a response. Blogs reacted. Rude things were said on social media. Some people had extremely intelligent arguments that made us examine the issue again. Others made us shake our heads in disbelief. Some of the comments took our collective breath away with their ignorance.

 

We started asking ourselves, “Why did this strike such a nerve in our library community?” Then, we starting asking, “Why is this such a big issue at all?” Frankly, why can’t we get people this riled up about more issues? Serious issues. Issues that affect a child’s development and education. Issues that affect an entire community. Issues like literacy, poverty, racism, hunger. All very HUGE issues. REAL issue. (Maybe people feel they’re too huge for “us” [children’s librarians] to talk about? Maybe people think their community is exempt from these issues? Maybe people simply want to ignore them?)

 

Why are people willing to get so publicly upset about someone asking them to rethink their holiday celebrations?

 

But, really, our bigger point is: why is this even an argument? Does someone believe they will be recognized as Librarian of the Universe because they defended or fought against holidays? Do they think new ALA policies will be written because of holiday action? Do they think their community is being served to the best of their ability right now while they’re talking about Santa? This is an example of a time it’s easy to dismiss Children’s Librarians. While the world around us is being burned, we’re arguing about Santa Claus.

 

NOT EVERYONE. Not by a long shot. Look to Angie Manfredi. She saw a huge issue and tackled it the best way she knew how. The whole country is seeing this amazing thing Angie is doing and continues to do every day. She’s just one example of many. However, not as many as there should be.

 

So please, let’s have meaningful discussions about holidays when we need to, but let’s save our outrage and shock for things that truly matter.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Save Your Outrage

  1. Profile photo of BrytaniBrytani

    Sometimes I feel like when one librarian gets a little sunshine (Mover and Shakers, Emerging Leaders, articles in SLJ), and especially on topics that others don’t agree with, I see librarians rising up simply out of envy. In the comments for Kendra’s article, specific librarians (poor Ingrid and Angie) were called out as if they were attention-seekers for receiving awards and recognition. I see this all the time and a little voice inside me reminds me that it’s hard to be a woman in an under-paid, highly-educated position where there’s not enough applause to go around and it’s been thus more often than not for our gender. I don’t know for sure if this in-fighting stems from those feelings, but I have my suspicions.

  2. Profile photo of Charlene SwansenCharlene Swansen

    I am new to the blogosphere and find myself often making a faux pas (s?), each time my mistakes become clear to me, I am both embarrassed and humiliated…though hopefully this process will help me develop a more meaningful and respectful approach (ultimately more productive). This topic while perhaps considered trivial by some clearly struck a nerve in others. I think another approach to working through the turmoil is to lay out an object path to disagreement, clarifying points of difference objectively and recommend respectful style while encouraging personal responsibility. I know that would help me as I stumble my way through this process, find my voice and harness my passion.
    I find the topic of X-mas in the library helpful to consider and I was energized by the topic, I am currently mentoring a new staff person on delivering story times and found we both think differently about the X-mas in the library topic. So the conversation was timely and important to me. I believe we cannot always take on the truly big issues in this medium without working on the smaller ones, learning how to do it, including various positions and trying to move the thinking forward. You are correct there are plenty of pressing big topics but it is fascinating as to why this topic generated so much energy. I’d like to understand that.
    Currently a big fan of R. David Lankes who writes about the library as a place to facilitate the improvement of community through learning and making. (http://vimeo.com/111488694) I think this topic fits within that theme of how best to serve our community as librarians and by making choices based on our perspectives, bias, and understanding of community goals and dreams.
    Do youth librarian’s best serve their communities by engaging with their communities in X-mas activities at the library? If so why and are we working to improve our communities through these practices? I think these same questions apply to incentives (Toys, food etc.) in library sponsored youth reading programs, etc… These are not the big issues, nor are they the most newsworthy, but the everyday chop wood, carry water issues. Hopefully, if we can work on those and learn through engaging in those discussions when the truly big issues develop we will be better able to participate and be productive.
    So my question is does anyone out there have some insight as why this topic became so divisive and angry? Do you have suggestions on a better way to lay out an argument that will help when this develops? How best to encourage respect, personal responsibility and objectivity while acknowledging our bias?
    Thank you for the time and space to participate in this dialog Story Time Underground!

  3. Profile photo of Melissa DepperMelissa Depper

    SU Team, I love you and I also think this post is a little unfair. Kendra made the rhetorical choice to take a passionate and uncompromising position (some might even say she seemed…outraged) on the topic of holiday programming in libraries. In addition, even if you set aside their religious aspects, holidays hit us all on some super fundamental levels: they are all about what food we eat, who we spend time with, the places we live, and the stories we tell ourselves. Did you really expect that a complicated, emotional topic combined with an adamant voice would elicit only dispassionate answers in response? You want to reserve the right to rant here at SU, and I fully support your decision to speak up and out about the things you feel strongly about. I just think we need to be especially cautious whenever we find ourselves wanting to suggest to others when and how they are “allowed” to feel strongly, and over what. There are too many people in this world for there to be only one set of “real” issues to be outraged about. Very sincerely, Mel

    1. Profile photo of Amy KoesterAmy Koester

      Thank you for sharing this perspective, Mel. I very much appreciate your reminder that peoples’ reactions to specific topics are indeed quite personal, and what individuals feel strongly about is going to be quite varied.

      For my part, I was a bit caught by surprise at how massive the response was to Kendra’s original pieces , both here and on SLJ. Not because the topic is trivial, but because we as a profession don’t seem to get this up in arms about many topics. It’s my hope that we in youth services continue to be passionate, but to also funnel that passion productively–toward discussion, toward constructive change, and toward tackling the subjects that have been historically ignored or uncomfortable. I very much want us to have these heated professional discussions, but I would also like to see them expand to topics that are more fundamental to the needs of our communities and the underserved.

    2. Profile photo of Kathleen Connelly-BrownKathleen Connelly-Brown

      Thank you Melissa for stating what I was thinking so well!

      With the exception of a few comments on the SLJ article, I did not see personal mudslinging. However, I also do not follow Twitter where I am assuming most of the personal attacks occured – after all, that is what many people seem to use Twitter for, and also the exact reason I can’t bring myself to use it.

      I am sorry that discussions devolve into drama and I think that is more worth discussing than saving outrage for topics that don’t seem as big as others in our society. I also think that if “This is an example of a time it’s easy to dismiss Children’s Librarians. While the world around us is being burned, we’re arguing about Santa Claus.” gives Children’s Librarians a bad name, then that is just wrong! I am incredibly passionate about what I do, some say I live and breathe it! If holiday programming is a hot topic this week, then let’s discuss it. I don’t ignore larger issues, but I don’t feel ashamed for not discussing them in library related venues (blogs, social media, etc.) when a specific library discussion was currently on the table.

      Kudos to Kendra for being equally passionate about holiday programming and for having the guts to state her opinions! But putting yourself out there also means people will react. I’m sorry for those that made it personal and disrespectful (again, I didn’t see most of that), but I am not sorry that I commented and attempted respectful discourse on the topic.

    3. Profile photo of BrytaniBrytani

      I’m going to chime in because something just clicked with me. In the comments here and in SLJ, people said that they found Kendra’s wording very strong, which hadn’t come across to me at all. I didn’t read her statements as meaning, literally, everyone absolutely should think the way she does. I didn’t even really see it as raving. I can’t deny that’s what the content implied, but what I know that some may not is that Kendra’s piece was written in a very common rhetorical style that lots and lots of young female writers/bloggers employ. It’s so common, in fact, that I didn’t need to blink to understand that what she meant was not, “you’re ignorant if you do holiday programming, ” but “let’s give this strong consideration.” I’ve been following lots of smart female bloggers for years and I’ve seen this style evolve out of a desire to put our ideas out there with as much authority and conviction as anyone truly in power.
      I think that’s why there’s a little “what’s all this?” going around. It may be that there’s a bit of a generational divide in how we read that was amplified when it was spread to an even larger audience through a medium with even more gravity.
      Do you think?

      1. Profile photo of Tess PrendergastTess Prendergast

        I didn’t consider this as a possibility but if you say so then sure, that explains it sufficiently for my interest. Whatever the history behind this “rhetorical style” is , I have some trouble believing that it achieves anything other than impress people who already agree with the writer/ranter. But then again, I am on the other side of the generational divide you speak of.

      2. Profile photo of Amy KoesterAmy Koester

        Brytani, I find this observation FASCINATING. I think it certainly puts words to a phenomenon that I hadn’t been able to articulately describe before.

        And I think, in that vein, it’s worth considering some of the larger implications of how predominantly female bloggers, in particular, have developed a tone and style for opinion pieces. When we at Storytime Underground have published these sorts of pieces, almost immediately people chime in about how they don’t like our tone, or they think we’re being too abrasive, or we’re being too mean. Essentially, these criticisms boil down to the fact that we’re speaking on a platform with an authoritative voice. Somehow it seems men are dealt less of this particular type of “criticism”–not criticism again the argument, but against the style of the speaker. In my mind, this phenomenon speaks to a larger question about how we respond to individuals speaking out, to whom we attribute “legitimate” authority, etc., especially in a profession that is predominantly female.

        How, for instance, would people respond to a male libraryland figure making an articulate argument about reconsidering holiday programs? Would we consider it thought-provoking and his topic worthy of our consideration, or would be immediately go into confrontational/defensive mode?

        It troubles me that when female professionals make arguments in this predominantly female profession, a significant response is to tone police and denigrate the speaker for daring to speak out with personal anecdotes; when females speak out, other (mostly) females of the profession take it as a personal affront or attack. I don’t see that happening with anything like the same frequency when male librarians make arguments.

  4. Profile photo of Tess PrendergastTess Prendergast

    In addition to agreeing with Melanie, I have some thoughts of my own I wish to share. Librarians are paid to do the work, not write about it on their personal blogs. I think you have conflated your observed lack of online (virtual) response on important topics with an actual lack of response. I do not see anything resembling a lack of passion or commitment to working on these important topics in the real world of children’s librarianship. Also, I think anyone who has known me for more than five minutes will assure you that I am more than sufficiently riled up about child poverty. However, many libraries, mine included, do not allow their employees to identify and write about their work on their personal blogs, especially if the work involves vulnerable people. Additionally, personal writing builds personal brands. I have no right to use my employer’s brand to advance my own, without the express permission of my employer. When I respond online I am necessarily vague on some details and I tend not to overtly identify the library system that pays me to do the work I love. In one instance, I obtained advance permission before writing print piece about my library’s unprecedented work with families but I might not be free to discuss it on a blog. This does not mean that the work never took place nor that my colleagues and I were not incredibly committed to doing it. We need to be careful not to assume that what we see online is all there is to see.

    1. Profile photo of Amy KoesterAmy Koester

      Tess, I think that Kendra’s, and Brooke’s, and all of our arguments/rants on Storytime Underground illustrate that not being able to share the details of our professional projects and responsibilities does not prevent us from speaking up on issues about which we feel passionately. In fact, we have spoken up without using the specifics of our professional situations because we feel so strongly about topics. Restrictions against blogging about the work one does for one’s employer does not preclude one from speaking personally about the issues on which one feels strongly.

      1. Profile photo of Tess PrendergastTess Prendergast

        Amy, I obviously failed to make myself clear. I did not mean to suggest that librarians cannot speak to issues that they believe are important. Obviously, they can and they do, myself included, without revealing details of their workplaces. However, I also suggested that we consider the reality that many librarians are doing the work and not blogging about it (nor participating here or on other forums) AND that a lack of blog response on important societal issues is in no way reflective of the profession as a whole. People do not need to blog or participate in any online discussions or forums to be committed to social justice in their professional or personal lives.

        1. Profile photo of Cory EckertCory Eckert

          While I agree that people are doing a ton of amazing library work without it getting seen online (it’s one of the core missions of our site to get it seen), I, at least, was struck specifically by the response to Kendra’s post because I’ve ranted here, on this site, about privilege, poverty, sexism, racism, classism. . .to almost no response.* The responses to my post about privilege were almost entirely about impostor syndrome and sidestepped the rest of the conversation (except for Melissa who was thoughtful and brilliant and luminary AS ALWAYS). There basically was no response to my rant (http://storytimeunderground.org/2013/12/28/its-not-just-sexism/) calling out the entire profession for racism and classism. So, maybe people are incredibly passionate about it? but they don’t seem to be driven to involve themselves in an online discussion with their colleagues and PLN about how to fix the issues. The public face we as a profession are putting forth is people who don’t talk about these things.

          One of the core reasons we as a site exist is that we believe that if we don’t change how we present ourselves publicly, we won’t change the public’s perception of us. I LOVE if you’re doing amazing things in your community, but if no one knows about it. . .no one knows about it. Other librarians can’t use it to recreate the programs in their communities, to convince their boss that it has a precedent, to reassure themselves that they’re one the right path, or to show the general public that we’re social justice warriors.

          *I acknowledge the real possibility that Kendra’s post was just better than mine.

          1. Profile photo of Tess PrendergastTess Prendergast

            Hi Cory, thanks for the background / perspective on this – you are right – your post (and others on the same vein) should have more uptake online for sure. I just read your post from last Dec (late to the party! ) and will respond soon as it touches on so many issues that bubble under the surface of our profession and my particular passion regarding inclusion. So – point taken, I get how a holiday discussion could pale in comparison to the bigger issues and I understand the disappointment that something powerful gets little traction. Also, I think Kendra’s post got a great deal of traction because it seemed to me to spring out of the related Facebook discussion,(the question about Hannukah) then went to SLJ which drew in all manner of comment from readers who maybe don’t know Storytime Underground – so it snowballed in the way it did. The upside is, I am pretty sure we all learned a lot and even when we disagree I think we had some solidarity against the trolls who did not help advance the dialogue at all. I am all for using every tool available to us to advance the public perception of our profession and I definitely see the value of the blogosphere in this regard. Perhaps you could repost “It’s not just sexism”and see if it takes off – I would love to see that on SLJ too. It might ruffle feathers but that, as we know, is just fine.

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