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Soliciting Performance, Hiding Bias: Whiteness and Librarianship — In the Library with the Lead Pipe

May 17, 2018

From Soliciting Performance, Hiding Bias: Whiteness and Librarianship — In the Library with the Lead Pipe:

In 2014, I sat on a panel discussing gender, agency, and resistance where one presenter–a scholar from India–expressed concern in the context of her research how wearing a sari during her talk would mean risking objectification and dismissal in a room full of feminist folklorists. The academic job talk is similarly concerning, as the growing tendency to record and make available such talks transforms the interview process into a mediated performance. An intellectual understanding of bias isn’t enough, it must be interrogated to dismantle the mechanisms which produce bias.

Finally, when librarians who are not white and middle class arrive, they are alienated as the diversity hire”, erasing their skills, talents, and expertise (Sendula, 2015). Librarians with visible minority status are assigned more work, as many marginalized librarians are appointed to diversity and hiring committees by default. This strands non-white and middle class librarians in a murky place between gratitude and anger” (Bennett, 2015) as their visibility changes to suit the needs of the organization. That librarianship remains overwhelmingly white suggests marginalized librarians are seen when the institution finds it convenient, but rarely heard during critical stages of the hiring process.