This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Stacie Williams. Stacie manages the University of Kentucky’s Learning Lab, which is an archives internship program. You can find her on Twitter @wribarian, W-R-I-B-A-R-I-A-N.
Stacie, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much, thank you for having me.
So you are an archivist and a librarian of course, working at University of Kentucky. I just wanted to get sort of the backstory of how did you originally get started in librarianship. What got you interested in librarianship in the first place? And then the specialty of archives?
Ah, well, so I, I was a journalist, I was a journalist for about 11 years, and at that time it was just before the recession had gotten in the full swing, but what I was seeing a lot of, certainly at that time, media was another one of those fields in which disruptive technology had changed a lot of things. So, just before the recession I was starting to see these sort of large scale layoffs and, and what I was really struck by also was a lot of older people kind of saying oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life now if I’m not a journalist. So, I just kind of felt like gosh, I really don’t want to be in that situation, I don’t want to be 40 or 50 years old and possibly get laid off and, and then the feeling like I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. So, it kind of started there when I just felt like perhaps I need a, an additional skill. So I, I was really wracking my brain because I didn’t necessarily, I didn’t want to totally have to reinvent the wheel in terms of skills that I had versus skills, new skills that I would need to acquire starting I wasn’t going to jump up and become an astronaut. So, I was searching for things that I felt that I could do well, but also be passionate about and librarianship, I mean we’re, honestly it was weird, it was almost like somebody whispered it into my ear or something. I was at a journalism conference watching everybody secretly freak out about what was happening in the field at that time and I was, I was talking with friends and it was like all of a sudden it just popped into my head, libraries, and it’s, it was so weird, it seemed so obvious and I don’t know why it had never occurred to me before that. Yeah, never, never occurred to me before that, and so immediately I started looking into it and, and researching programs and researching fields of study. I think I just, I, I saw more about what I could do with the current skillset that I had and, and I’d always been certainly a long time lover of books and reading and, and literacy and grew up going to the library all the time. It’s so, I think how I feel into archives was kind of feeling like alright here is something in the field that is somewhat, somewhat of a specialization. I spent some time volunteering at different types of libraries and archives. I had a bunch of really interesting library experiences before I actually started my program and I think. I was compelled by some of the larger implications in archives. In archives work, it mostly, this idea of, I’m compelled by the idea of patterns in history and being able to sort of chart those patterns. Some archivists will tell you like they really love the old stuff, like they love looking at old letters and, and seeing the daguerreotypes, and I, I find those things interesting, but I also, I also really find it fascinating to see some of these things that we just sort of keep doing over and over and over again. And maybe, maybe the format changes, maybe the metadata changes, but, but that was essentially humanity keeps doing these things over and over.
Right, history repeating itself, so.
History is always repeating itself, so I really, I think I liked archives for the ideas, because of the idea that it would allow me to explore that further.
Well what’s interesting of course is that you jumped from a career that was disrupted by tech into another career that was disrupted by tech.
I know! I had crazy timing! Timing was really, I mean that’s, and that’s what it was. I think I probably had been one of those people who read the predictions, like oh there’s just going to be so many library jobs left, the profession is great, so and I read that and thought like oh, great. Yeah and then jumped right into another situation that had been disrupted by technology, disrupted by the recession. It, but I think, I think one of the ways in which I had a, a bit of an advantage was simply that I had helped, I had been working for all that time prior, I essentially had a whole other career with many of the same skills, I utilized many of the same skills and I know what is different now is that the, the field is certainly trending younger. I think when I first got in I had been told that librarianship was one of those things that was a second career for most people, so I, I’d probably fit in with that particular demographic, but, but the field is, is xxxx younger, you have more and more people who come straight into it directly from, they go straight from undergrad to grad school and then they hop right into it. So I think maybe that was, that was one of the differences that ended up helping me in a way, even though we were still just coming out of the recession.
Right. How do you feel like archives in particular have embraced technology, do you feel like they’re doing a lot. It seems like in your job you do a lot with technology.
That is an interesting question. I think that, I think that archives that are well funded, and that are either well funded or, and that’s maybe funds are key for everybody, but I think that those that are well funded and, and that have sort of forward thinking people on staff try their very best to integrate technology and is, in a way that is relevant as possible for our users. I mean our patrons are a little bit different, it’s, it’s different from being at a public library and saying okay well we’re going to provide like a digital lab where everybody can use computers and maybe they can create their own music. Our users might say I need, I need these scans of a really rare or fragile book, or, or image or something scanned. Or they might say I’d really love to be able to look at things in your collection, but I’m located in another state, I need stuff for research so I think our technology tends to skew towards access. Access and the, the cataloging portion of it, how we, how we catalog our collections through the profession and I do think that we, we try, we make every effort to make sure that those things are updated.
Do you feel like you got good education in library school on archives specifically? Or do you, picked up a lot of that on the job itself?
I do think that I, I got a good intro to it at Simmons definitely, Simmons has an archives management program. It’s, it was one the specialties, it was kind of the reason I had narrowed down on them as, as one of my choices, so they had that option, you have to do these internships as part of your, as part of your degree, so I definitely feel like I got good introductions to it in that way. But certainly yeah, it, I think it’s like all things, you, you learn better just on the job by doing it. You can certainly, you can practice processing a collection and you can practice writing a finding aid, but it’s, I think it’s not until you’re actually in there every single day doing it, every single day researching, every single day writing that you finally kind of get the hang of it.
Can you talk a little bit about the work you did at your previous jobs, like at, you mentioned you worked at Tufts and Harvard Medical School and Lexington Public Library.
Sure. So, so that was interesting. Tufts, I want to say Tufts was the first sort of job that I had in the archives, first paid job in the archives and it, so there I was working on a grant-funded project and they were creating, they were creating a series of linked data biographies, or historical sketches about buildings on campus and people related to these buildings on campus. Tufts was an old school and many of the buildings on campus, I think like all old schools you had departments that started out in one building and maybe it moved, one building maybe used to be where the, the janitors were at with the physical plant and then eventually that turned into like a math department and maybe the maths department morphed into the engineering building etc etc. So, they were working on this really neat project that was designed to sort of link the histories of all of these buildings and all of these people who the buildings were named after, so that was, that was my job. I was research, I researched the history of the buildings and I created biographical or historical sketches for all of those things. And then they were linked in the, linked inside the content management system. The work, and now at Harvard that was, that was an interesting situation because I came in, again on a grant project, and I started out in the archives at the medical school, it’s called the Center For The History Of The Medicine, and that’s at their Countway Library which is located in the medical district. So, it’s, that particular situation on the whole was unique because it was the only Harvard Library not located in Cambridge. We were, as a medical library located by all of the hospitals to better serve our patrons. So I did start out there in the archives and really just doing like digitization projects and things of that nature and I had the opportunity once the grant ended to work upstairs in access services. Somebody was going on maternity leave, they needed somebody and I, I had been recommended for it. So that seemed to me like a really great opportunity where even though I had been trying to maintain this archives focus, I still also wanted to sort of ensure my, ensure my relevancy in the job market and so I had, I decided to then take the job in access services because I figured I could learn even more, add even more to this, this skill set. Plus I did really enjoy working with people and that was the thing that I’d missed about being in journalism, I missed like interviewing people and talking to people on the phone and going to meet sources and stuff. So access services was an opportunity for me to kind of give that back, get that public, public service thing going.
And then at Lexington Public Library?
Yeah, then I was at, and I know, it’s crazy, it feels like, it feels like I’ve had a lot of jobs. So yeah, so I moved to Kentucky and that was an interesting situation, I mean Kentucky was not necessarily on my radar shall we say. And.
I was actually wondering that. Are you, are you from that area at all? Or.
I am not, I am not from that area. Long story short I met a great guy and he was, he was also a journalist, we met at a journalism conference and it just, it became clear, and certainly I understood that the politics and the nature of journalism which is that you wouldn’t tell someone who had a steady job at a newspaper, hey drop this and leave it and come move out here with me. If they have a good journalism job and no other offers anywhere else, you, they should keep that good journalism job. And as an additional factor he also has a daughter from his previous marriage, so it, there was just a lot of factors that made it, made it so that I knew that I would have to be the one to move. And, I mean, interestingly enough I, I was kind of planning to leave Boston anyway because Boston is really expensive, it’s so expensive and I just, I was, I kind of felt like I was barely keeping up with that. I suppose if I reached out and gotten a second job or something I maybe could have, but I, I always knew that my time there was finite, just because the city was so expensive. So, the universe mixed some things up and all of a sudden I was presented with this opportunity to, to move to Kentucky. So that was an interesting situation for me in that I had, prior to meeting this person and doing these things, I had not scoped out the job market before that point. I didn’t, I didn’t know, so I started looking for jobs almost right away, like almost as I knew I was going to move and that process took about, I want to say I looked for about nine months and mostly trying to apply to either the large university, UK, and the public library because at that point I had, I had those two sets of experience. I’d volunteered at the Chicago Public Library so I had, I had a little bit of public library experience going on, but then I also had worked in the academic library setting. So, so I had these, had these things happening and finally just, with, I got to town and I left for a weekend, maybe I was there two weeks, and I left for a weekend and finally got a call back from the public library on that Sunday. So, I was very excited because I think public librarianship, it kind of gets at the essence of librarianship. Most of us when we are, when we’re young, that’s your introduction to what libraries are. You go to the public library with your parents, you’re checking out books, you, they’re telling you about it at school, you don’t know when you’re nine what a systems librarian is or does, you have no clue about that. You know, you know the people are who stand at the desk and help you and help you check your books out, so.
Yeah, “What’s an archivist, Mommy?”
Yeah, yeah, I have had to employ that actually. I did an elevator pitch at the Society of American Archivists conference once year and I based it on what I would tell a six year old because my, my fiance’s daughter, he, she was always, she knew what I did when I was at the public library, it was very clear.
But once I started working at UK, that was her question, like what is an archivist? What is that? Oh no, find out what you do. So the pitch that I told her which I suppose I could share was, I said archivists are people who take old things and create new stories about them. The new stories essentially being the research that you would, the research that you would create after you’ve seen archival materials and primary source materials. Now, of course, that’s simplifying it. I mean obviously we do born digital materials, much, much has certainly been made of Clinton’s emails and her server and 30,000 emails that she deleted, so that is a great concern to archivists because those are the types of things that we are, that we are trying to collect and preserve. So.
It’s funny, with things like that archivists freak out about a completely different part of it than politicians do. Like, “Oh no it’s not being preserved!” is what we…
Yeah, I mean, well.
If you’re thinking about it critically too, like we talked about this in terms of critical librarianship, or thinking about yourself as a critical thinking archivist, or radical archivist, you do definitely think about it in terms of outside of just the basic preservation, you also think about it in terms of what is, what does this do for government transparency, and what does it do for the rights of the people to know what their elected representatives are trying to do. So, there’s that. But, but yeah. So the public, I was at the public library part-time and I had also gotten a part-time job at Transylvania University, which is interestingly enough one of the, the oldest university in Kentucky. It was built in the late 1700s, so I was working there part-time as a, as a reference librarian. So, did those things part-time, got a bunch of new experiences, new skills, just different, different things to learn, all these different things to learn. And then finally this job got posted at UK that I was just really excited about, I felt like I could do really, I felt like I could be bang up at this job, I was so excited about it and it was, they were creating what they called a learning lab. So it’s basically an archives internship for undergraduates and undergraduates who, undergraduates who are not necessarily interested in library science, just graduates, undergrads from different disciplines. So I had kids who, I had a couple of kids who were history majors, I had a couple of kids who, I had kids who wanted to be teachers so they were going for education, I had a fine arts major. Interestingly enough after being through an internship she decided she wanted to do more with archives, so she has gone onto do the program at University of Pittsburgh. But, yeah, I, I was so excited by that because it just, it combined a lot of things that I liked. I do, I do tend to place a heavy emphasis on technology in my particular job and I’ve been very supported by that, by my supervisors, so the kids have been doing. I think what leans more towards like digital humanities projects because of the internship is not so much that they learn about archives and processing a collection and writing a finding aid, but that they also have to create a scholarly project at the end of the year, it’s a year long internship. So they create the scholarly project and, and then they present it at the end of the year. And it could be anything, they could do a poster, or they could present at a conference, they could write a paper and try to get it published.
The students of mine that wanted to be teachers, they created a full curriculum and, and also used the assessment tools that we use in the libraries based off the, based off the ACRL standards. So it was a, it was just a really neat exercise to try to figure out what they all liked and how it was applicable to archives, so, good stuff.
Was this a new thing that had just been created? Or…?
This was new, yes. And I’m told that, we’re still only one of a few schools that is doing that and especially for undergrads. There are programs that exist like that for, for the teachers definitely. But, for undergraduates a lot, it’s a lot harder. Being able to work with the students, mentoring, really being able to get into that mentorship role, sitting down with them one on one and talking about the projects, talking out the things that they’ve learned, having discussions about it, and then and seeing them apply that and take it to the next level, I love that.
Yeah it’s always, that’s the one thing I like about, I’m in management now at my public library, but it sort of, you always want to have that one-on-one with people as much as possible cause I, cause you really want to work with the people that you’re helping, cause I mean it’s obviously important once you get up in that administration stuff that you’re doing important things, but I like that face-to-face kind of stuff, so.
Absolutely, absolutely. So that’s, that has been great. And it also I think just because of the nature of it, the students once they start working on their projects were, were still sort of checking in, but then there’s a certain point at which I become a bit hands off, so I think one of the other awesome things about it is that my, my boss has been really awesome about allowing me to explore these other aspects of, of academic librarianship, so I’ve been able to help, help pull the, pull grants together and, and help do research and help do exhibits and join the, the information literacy working groups and I, so, taking the, teaching, I’ve been able to start teaching, so that was really interesting. I mean it wasn’t anything that I necessarily came into the field expecting to do, but I had been given opportunities to do it over time so I recently taught the archives and manuscripts management class at UK in their school library information science, so that was pretty, that was pretty fun as well. But also challenging because it’s an online program and at least in the program I had we’d come to look at archives as this very hands-on discipline, like you need to be there, you need to touch the stuff and you need to, to be able to assess it properly and figure out what it is and why it’s important and here’s how you make it access to researchers. It was just, it was a great challenge and I enjoyed doing it and the students got a, I got good feedback from it so I guess that’s always, that’s always good, you want good feedback when you’re in the classroom, when I know you’re not screwing them up, or steering them wrong.
Yeah I was going to ask you about access in sort of like now in the 21st century when people can’t go get these things, how do you make more things more accessible in archives when you can’t necessarily come touch it. I mean before it was always kind of that you had to be careful about touching archives, if it was old enough too like that, but how do you make things more accessible, especially in the digital world?
Well, that is a great question. One of the questions that we are frequently asked is how come it’s not all online. How come you haven’t digitized it all? So, as someone who has worked on myriad digitization projects. It just, it costs a lot of money and it takes a lot of time to do that. One of the simplest ways I can explain that is this idea that digital time suck, which I hadn’t even, I hadn’t considered this concept and I heard a really great talk about it at SAA by some archivists who work at Wayne State in Michigan and so they were saying that essentially when you do a digitization project, it takes, it takes so many seconds, or so many minutes for an image to actually scan. And then once the image is scanned, it takes so many more minutes to maybe like adjust it or crop it or do whatever you have to do there and then resave it. And you can eliminate conventions all together and all of these various things which the seconds add up and the minutes, the minutes and the hours and before you know it, you have spent a crazy number of weeks on like not that many images. So it just is, given the sheer volume of materials that we have, I mean it, it would be almost impossible to try to digitize all of it. So we do try to, certainly we try to create access digitally, but especially here in Kentucky, I mean we, we have a situation where we have very poor broadband access throughout the state, so we could throw up a bunch of digital libraries, but to our immediate patrons which we serve in the commons world, do they all have equal access to the internet? No, they do not. So we try to create access in different ways. I think primarily we do a really great job at reference. We get all kinds of phone calls especially, or researcher school come in, especially with genealogy. You get researchers who come in and they, they’re from various parts all over the state. Sometimes they’re even from around the country, they’re coming in to see stuff and I think we do a really great job of communicating with them and making sure they have what they need when they arrive. I think that, that face-to-face in person access is just as important as anything that we could put online.
Is your special collections open to just students and researchers? Or can people from the public come?
Oh no, we are open, we are open to the public, absolutely, which is another thing I think is great. I think this, and this was sort of born out by my experience at the public library here, but I think that Kentucky Library, I think Kentucky, Kentuckyians are avid library users, they utilize library services and they utilize, they utilize the archives. I think when they know that we’re here and they know what we’re doing, they’re, they’re here, they’re here for it, so, so yeah I think that the, that’s, that just plays into it but it’s a big part of it.
Does your archives where you are now, do they have any particular specialty that you would want to talk about? Any special collection that is unique to them?
Well, I mean we definitely have, we definitely have a really strong collection of like pre and post civil war materials. We have a really, certainly we have a really strong collection of Appalachian region materials, we actually just got a really huge clear grant to process a collection of materials related to, basically related to social justice groups who were trying to do work after Johnson announced the war on poverty.
So we had, that’s, that’s something I’m not, I’m not necessarily directly working with that, though certainly there’s possibilities for my particular program to look at some of those materials after they’ve been processed through the grant and stuff. But, that’s something that I’m really excited about because it’s just, it’s so huge and it’s still so relevant here in Kentucky today, I mean we’re still talking about the war on poverty and what it means and it, and again there’s my excitement about the patterns of history, like we talked, we talked about this a long time ago and now we’re, we’re still talking about it, it’s still very relevant, so being able to look back historically and see okay these, these were the things that people did before, did they work, did they bear out, and if they did work, why are we, why are we still, why is, why is poverty still such a huge issue here?
In addition to all those, I mean into seeing all these patterns and things, I think you even mentioned in the, in some of the emails we exchanged before we started that culture preservation was a big part of what interested you in archives, can you talk a little bit about that?
Absolutely, absolutely. Well cultural preservation, that is, that’s something I have explored a lot, it, in a casual and even in a more scholarly way because I think that’s the biggest part about archives, they, they tell us essentially who we, who we were and I think to a greater extent who we, who we could be. So, with cultural preservation, I think what we’re trying to do in the archives is, is make sure those things aren’t lost and what are the types of things that, what are the types of things that reveal culture to us. A series of collected musical scores, for instance, by a local composer. What might, what might that music tell us about, tell us about a period of time in this country’s history. Why, why music was written a certain way, why, why did we end up moving from like the big band era to the jazz era, then to rock and roll, like how do we, how do we see those links and make those connections and I think that archives are a big part of helping us capture that. Socially what I think is, has been very interesting, especially when we’re talking about form digital materials is, when we’re talking about things like social media, for instance, and the manner in which that’s being archived, what we’re seeing here now is unprecedented because archives have traditionally, we, it’s been said that history is written by the winners, so archives have tended to be very heavy on collections of dead white men essentially. So, what’s been happening on social media is unprecedented because what is being archived is not just the voices and perspectives of this tiny group of, of dead white men, you, you have all sorts of voices chiming into the fray now with their opinions, their perspectives on, on history and it’s, it’s beautiful and it’s messy and it’s, it’s complex, but it’s also really exciting because it’s a chance to fully expand the narrative from what it’s been for, for so, so many years to being more inclusive.
And like you said, it’s, it’s messy but history, real life is messy, so…
Absolutely, absolutely, real, real life is messy, the idea that we, the idea that we could even think to think or hope to distill it, just in, in these very narrow experiences, or perspectives is, is pretty crazy. So I think archives where they can, they try to, they try to get a variety of those experiences. Now certainly if you have a, a subject specific archives you’re, you’re not going to do that, but, but I think, like a university like ours is certainly making attempts to, to try to be as inclusive as possible about the histories that it’s collecting and preserving.
And do you think that, that’s what ties into the idea of ethical stewardship, of doing it in a way that is inclusive and including everybody, yeah.
Absolutely, absolutely. Some very interesting, I guess an interesting perspective is that it, so before I came here, and I’m not a native Kentuckyian, the university did have a somewhat contentious relationship with, with local communities of color and I don’t think that that’s anything that was unique to University of Kentucky, I mean I’ve, it, once I got here I started meeting people and black people especially who had been maybe some of the first black students to integrate the University of Kentucky, so their memories of, of what happened on campus are far different I think than, than other students might have been, so when it comes to maybe trying to approach that group of people to say hey, your histories and your stories and your collections are really, really important and we’d be honored to be the stewards of that, when we say that to those groups, it takes, it takes a bit more conversation and it takes a bit more outreach because those are groups who have very good reason to be somewhat wary of the university’s interest in their, in their things. So I think that, absolutely being, being and presenting yourselves and in, in practice as well as being ethical stewards of the material that you have and, and that you’re preserving, that’s, that’s incredibly important and I think it’s a really big part of, of having that complete picture. Everybody’s, everybody’s histories are important. We are trying to, we are trying to preserve, collect and preserve the histories of everyone in the commonwealth, not just, not just the tiny group of, of dead white men.
Right, exactly. I know that once I sort of gotten my brain around some of the things that you’re not sort of in high school when you start breaking down those easy stories that you learn in elementary school about how the country was founded, I found it actually more interesting when you had to learn about these conflicts they had, about slavery and things like that, of creating the country of, well we have this larger good of wanting to create this country, but we have this other thing, that kind of stuff is more interesting to me, is when you have these conflicts that, to have that eliminated from when you are a kid to learn is just sad.
Absolutely, I mean it, interestingly enough I, so I did an outreach program last year and it was based on this Wikipedia entry that I read about Daniel Boone and it was, the entry itself was worded so problematically in the early part of the text and it said something like Daniel Boone was this trail-blazer and yadda, yadda, yadda and so it sets up just very briefly, it said well you know he, helped found the state of Kentucky, and the commonwealth of Kentucky and he did all these things and it said he, he started, he started acquiring land in the state and the wording was after, it said after like a brief skirmish or, it was something very odd that minimized the, the interactions that he had with natives groups across the state and I just, I was reading it like whoa are you for real? Is that, is that, he had a skirmish? Like no this is war and you essentially gave in and told people who were here that they had to go cause you’re building Kentucky. So, from that I, I came up with this idea of doing a, a project where you would explore movies and popular culture based on primary source materials that you could find in the archives. So I found a copy of Daniel Boone Trailblazer, which is a really awful movie, it’s terrible, like all of, any and all of like the bad awful stereotypes that you could think of, of like settlers and Native Americans, like all of it, it’s bad, it’s really terrible.
But, it, one of the more interesting things about that movie is that living in the popular imagination Daniel Boone has come to be portrayed as like this really outdoorsy, like big brawny dude that got an, he’s always got the, he had the coonskin hat on and he’s, he’s mixing it up and scrapping it up, and in an actual photo of Daniel Boone, he just, he kind of looked like George Washington, I mean he was a, he was kind of a gentile dude, he had the, the wig and he wore like, he wore the colonial garb and stuff so this, this idea of him as, as a strapping outdoorsman, I mean even that is, it’s, it’s false in the popular imagination, but as you go through the archives you can see what that dude looked like and how, how his actual experiences don’t necessarily square with what you, how you ended up seeing him portrayed in popular media. So, so the series was using a bunch of different movies and then going through collections that we had in our archives to say hey, here’s where this movie might have gotten some things right, or hey, here’s where this movie just like screwed it up, like Daniel Boone Trailblazer! Exclamation point. I’m pretty certain it’s an exclamation point after it. Daniel Boone Trailblazer! So.
Or is it, it really needs that little shrug emoticon thing after it.
It does, it does. I mean it just, it’s insane, so, so yeah, I love, I love being able to, to use the archives for things like that, to constantly sort of question what’s, what’s real, what’s accurate, from whose perspective is this story being told.
You mentioned just a little bit before that we’re still sort of doing that today, even with current culture, that it’s still dominated by certain groups, but things like social media are helping to break through that and that ties into I think what I wanted to ask, the last thing I wanted to ask you about was the presentation you did at South by Southwest, about Twitter activism in libraries. Can you talk a little about what you talked about there?
Sure, sure. Well so I was presenting on a panel with Dr Mark Anthony Neal who is a professor of African-American studies at Duke University and Dr Meredith Clark who is a professor at University of North Texas, in Denton, she teaches journalism, and so we, we sort of took the approach that, we took the approach as information professionals, so I was the librarian archivist, at the time Meredith, Meredith was still a working journalist and then she had a column for a newspaper in North Carolina and then Professor Neal who, who is an educator. So we were taking the tack of how, how information professionals can sort of harness the power of social media to do their job, and deliver information to the masses essentially. So, from the library’s and archives standpoint, I was, I was trying to argue that, I realized that one of the things that I think makes us great is that we’re supposed to be giving access to things in a democratic way, that everybody, everybody’s supposed to give this information, that’s, that’s a library’s standpoint. So, one of, one of, as an example one of the things that I used as an example in the talk that I’d done as a librarian was when I was at Harvard in access services, I was in charge of the Twitter account and, which in hindsight seems like a really big, a really big thing to have been in charge of so early in the game, but I, I had a great boss and he trusted me a lot, so, so I was in charge of the Twitter account and in one of the first instances of, of activism amongst certain groups on Twitter that I saw was the, the publicized, journalists that I knew were publicizing this upcoming execution of Troy Davis who was a man in Atlanta, Georgia.
And much doubt had been cast upon his conviction anyway, so just before the execution his, his situation was giving a lot of media attention and that’s where I saw journalists and then other grass roots organizations start really harnessing Twitter to, to use it and, and discuss what was happening and say hey this probably shouldn’t be happening and not even probably, this shouldn’t be happening at all, this man should not be executed. So, what I did, because I wanted to still have a Twitter space be somewhat objective in nature, I mean obviously at a large university I knew, I knew that it would have been inappropriate for me to go making personal statements, whatever my personal beliefs are about the death penalty. So I then did was I started going through our collection and our catalog and I started posting links to articles and books and journals that we had, being at a medical library there was quite a bit of information on doctors who either chose to, what’s the word that I’m looking for, not, well I guess it is kind of supervised, you have doctors who have to, have to stand in when an execution happens, it, so there was, there was literature available at the library for doctors who were interested, so I found information on that and I found articles that pointed to, articles that talked about the drugs and chemicals that are used during executions and things like that, cause I figured okay, if people are talking about this, here’s my opportunity to point them to some, some materials that are like really official in nature and that could really help to understand and give context to this conversation that they’re having and I can do this without necessarily injecting my personal views which some people could find, you certainly would run the risk of like offending people, or drawing negative attention to your library and really what you want to do is make sure that you’re giving people the information that they need, information that they can use, so. So I think that was one very simple way that you, you do have that ability to help serve people in a manner that doesn’t trample on their right to have whatever opinions they want to have, but in a way that also helps them be better informed when they are making these opinions. Another thing I could point to was from the archives side, was that I, I was working with radical reference and another group of librarians on the Occupy Boston site and we were work, we had a, the Occupy Boston A and C library, the A was for Audrey Law and the C was for Howard Zen, both of whom were librarians and it was very important for us to have that inclusive focus, not just have it be this, this movement that was focusing on one group of people, but that the knowledge that we were going to house inside this library was, was going to be inclusive. We wanted that from the start, it was very important to us, so from the archives standpoint, and we, we’ve been having this, we’ve been revisiting the archives because now it’s time to talk long-term stewardship, but it was very important to us to make sure that we were capturing these things that were happening on the ground and in the camp, so, so collective word posters and, and notes about certain, notes about certain like committee, committee meetings that were being had because they, they really documented what was going on in the camps from a variety of different perspectives. There was, there were certain groups who felt like hey, this, this movement is maybe only focusing on this group of people and not being inclusive of this other group of people, so we’re gonna have a meeting about it. So by simply collecting the fliers discussing that meeting, you’re making sure to include that hey these other people were part of this movement as well and there was a discussion had about the ways in which we can help make them more inclusive. So, it, certainly from the archives standpoint, I think if you’re, you’re hands-on and on the ground, you, and you are, you’re trying to think about things with a critical mindset, you have that ability to say this is important, let’s make sure we’re including as much of this as we possibly can. So that the whole story of this is told.
That’s excellent and I. Stacie thank you so much for talking to me and can you tell the audience if there’s, how they can get in touch with you, Twitter handle and anything like that.
Sure, sure. Well I, I stay on the Twitter on my, my handle @wribrarian, W-R-I-brarian.
All right, excellent, and thank you so much for talking to me, I think it was a great discussion.
Oh thank you, Steve, very much.
All right, bye bye.
You know it’s funny, I sort of came into listening to podcasts kind of late. And certainly I knew about like This American Life and stuff like that, but I had only recently started listening to them, so I felt like perhaps I had heard about your podcast, or I had a very ambient awareness about it, but it wasn’t until I saw the call go out on Twitter and it just happened to coincide with this time that I had also been listening to a lot of podcasts where it was like oh, okay.
It coincided well, so.
Yeah, it coincided very well.