Is thirty years too late for a sequel?” K.R. Roberto and Jessamyn West didn’t think so, and another five years isn’t too late for a review. Revolting Librarians Redux is the sequel to Revolting Librarians, edited by Celeste West and Elizabeth Katz (see my review). There should be one of these for each generation of librarians. Like its predecessor, Redux is a collection of essays and expressions by outspoken librarians seeking progressive change in their profession. It is a timely publication, therapy for the hangover from the 90’s deep draughts of digital technology and corporate modeling, and a wakeup call in the face of the Patriot Act. After all these years, revolting librarians still have plenty to say.
Redux opens with updates from the original cast. The spirit of Celeste West is clearly living in her revolutionary language. “Each one teach one. Each protegee become a mentor. Each mentor become a dare-devil’s apprentice.” Sandford Berman notes with concern that library leaders are increasingly enamored with the corporate mainstream. But is it already waning? Varlejs sees library students less enchanted with technology and corporatism.
Today’s revolting librarians offered Redux many opinions of which I disagreed as often as I agreed. If an MLIS course tried to teach me professional dress and hygiene, I would run screaming in the opposite direction, though I can’t object to needing to learn more about outreach. Bourrier-LaCroix’s disdain for “stupid” people was rather unpalatable; what is she doing in reference? On the other hand, Beachamp’s monitoring of the US political right sounded like a terrific job, and Tsang’s analysis of the effect of the Patriot Act on racial profiling was instructive. While I found Denton’s anarcho-terrorist background chilling, I appreciated his insight that libraries provide a non-violent mechanism for revealing the true nature of the state.
Getting deeper in library issues, Litwin observed with dismay that those who defend traditional library values are accused of being “stuck in the ’60s”. Boomers now see themselves as defenders of the status quo, deferring the responsibility for social change to the next generation. Sigh. With a foot in each generation I have to agree. I admit to finding my way to progressive librarianship somewhat slowly, sometimes preferring the rush of technology, but ultimately seeing a bigger and more engaging picture. As I observed at the end of the review of the first Revolting Librarians, if there is no radical in the librarian, if nothing is professed with passion, something that challenges us toward real progress, why then a profession? Turn it over to the business administrators and technicians.
Several other entries touched on lingering problems with librarian stereotypes and subject headings; good fights. More entries vented frustrations about patrons; get over it. As Willa Cather famously said, there are only two or three human stories. If you feel like you’re in a rut, recall that each story is being repeated as if it never happened before. Try again listening for the first time.
So are you a revolting librarian? Am I a revolting library student? As Roberto and West said, revolting librarians are not defined by what they are, but by what they do. Can you count my occasional posturing here at this website? Soon I hope to post, An Unofficial and Uninvited but Hopefully Not Unwelcome Belated Contribution to Revolting Librarians Redux.