On slow librarianship and scholarship, union slow downs, and creatively and collectively resisting neoliberal time

I intended this to be a micro essay as part of this GLAM blog club challenge, but once I started writing on the theme of Lessen for GLAM blog club, I couldn’t stop… I guess words were one thing I couldn’t lessen, which is a bit of a common theme in my writing, and even though this isn’t exactly micro, I think it might be a bit shorter than my usual posts.

Lessen makes me think of a certain questionable framework deal our university and union executives came up with in an attempt to protect jobs that means we’re all currently doing more while getting paid less and being forced to reduce leave too.

While I am very happy for those who’ve escaped, lessen also reminds me that voluntary redundancies are still redundancies and they have already started to have pretty devastating impacts on morale, culture, technical systems, and workload for those who remain. It sounds like there have been forced redundancies in areas that started restructuring before the framework period began and several more seem highly likely after it ends. Additionally, so many casualised workers have lost work and even more have experienced wage theft and I expect things will get even worse for our casualised comrades so we must stand and work in solidarity with them and try to lessen the impacts.

Workloads have certainly not lessened and I don’t know how anyone could think that they would during a pandemic. The “wellness days” off we’ve been given are like “cram five days of work into four days” (or work on the weekend) – an individualistic and token ‘solution’ to systemic problems.

However, lessen also makes me think of slow librarianship and slow scholarship movements to resist neoliberal time and the cult of productivity and focus on process before product, cooperation before competition, facilitating connection and deep listening, critically evaluating assumptions and power structures, “wasting” time, reflective practice, and building learning cultures, and ways colleagues and I have been trying to do this.

It reminds me of reading How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy by Jenny Odell at the start of this year and learning from diverse disciplines (from ecology and philosophy to IT and creative arts and beyond) that this was not about doing nothing at all but rather about doing ‘nothing’ or ‘unproductive’ work according to capitalism. If only more people in power in universities and government had read this when planning ‘reset’ after the pandemic – then perhaps they wouldn’t have proposed such short sighted and damaging cuts to arts and education, particularly at regional campuses, in an effort to please our very short sighted and harmful government.

This in turn makes me think of union slowdowns or go slows – an arguably less risky form of industrial action than strikes – which could be quite a powerful way to resist workload increases, demonstrate the impact of job losses, and build worker solidarity and our collective power. It seems similar to ‘work to rule’ actions but appeals to me more as feels like there is more room for creativity, collective reflective practice, and even some joy.

Some reading and resources on and ideas related slow librarianship and scholarship:

Resisting Achievement Culture with Slow Librarianship by Meredit Farkas

Wayne’s world: How universities are crushing academics by N.N. Trakakis

Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., Basu, R., Whitson, R., Hawkins, R., Hamilton, T., & Curran, W. (2015). For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal UniversityACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 14, 4, 1235-1259.

Saved by slow scholarship by Ali Black  

librarian, read thyself by Lynne Stahl

Sloniowski, L. (2016). Affective labor, resistance, and the academic librarian. Library Trends, 64(4), 645-666.

Intersubjectivity and ghostly library labour by Leo Settoducato:
“Libraries are haunted houses, constructed sites of possibility inhabited by ghosts. As our patrons move through scenes and illusions that took years of labor to build and maintain, we workers are hidden, erasing ourselves in the hopes of providing a seamless user experience, in the hopes that these patrons will help defend libraries when the time comes. But I ask that we think deeply about what it means for libraries to be under attack, and why the attachment to that narrative persists…. Library workers at all levels, but especially those who have institutional power, must care for one another and prioritize community wellbeing. Individual actions will not solve structural problems, but they can improve people’s immediate material conditions: that’s something to start with.
Haunting is a complex and rich lens through which we can explore what it might be like to be fearless, or to harness fear in a way that is creatively powerful. If we think like ghosts, we can experience time creatively and less urgently, better positioning ourselves to resist the demands of neoliberalism; to imagine and enact positive futurities.
When a ghost speaks, those around it are compelled to listen.”

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1 Response to On slow librarianship and scholarship, union slow downs, and creatively and collectively resisting neoliberal time

  1. Pingback: GLAM Blog Club January – Neighbour – newCardigan

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