Academic theory subject of fear, misunderstanding

This op ed I wrote was published in the Morning Call on 6/15/22.

Recently, a flyer publicizing “..the Facts about Critical Race Theory in East Penn School District” has been circulating our community. This flyer says that Critical Race Theory (CRT) may be masked using terms including “Social-Emotional Learning,” “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” and “Privilege/Supremacy.” It also lists effects of CRT, including “an elementary student feels guilty for being white.” This is yet another attempt to create or exacerbate fear in white parents who are hesitant to have honest conversations with their white children about the historical and present inequities of life within the United States. 

CRT is a scholarly, political movement that originated in legal studies and points to the struggles to advance made by people of color in the United States (voting rights, school desegregation, etc) and suggests that the law is a viable channel to challenge institutional and structural inequality. Saying that CRT is not being taught in our schools may be disingenuous. One of the core tenets of the movement is that “racism is endemic to the United States and as such is a permanent, though shifting, organizing force of American social and political life.” Racism is present in the history of the United States and in the social structures that facilitate school funding, incarceration rates, lending rules, voting disenfranchisement, and others. Our students should be learning about this, according to their academic ability. Perhaps one of the greatest fears of our community is that our children will come home wishing to speak about things that we, ourselves, are not prepared to discuss. 

Creating a better community requires all of us to do a significant amount of learning, reflection, and consideration of others. Understanding of privilege is not, in fact, a precursor to white guilt. Instead, it is a stepping stone towards advocacy for “the least of these” within our community and an understanding of social structures that block the achievement of our own. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is also, likely, misunderstood. SEL values student coping skills, interactions with others, and other behavioral skills that promote learning. Citizenship, goal-setting, responsible decision making, and work habits are part of the spectrum of skills included in SEL – and are valued by all members of our community. Students aren’t robots that need to be programmed with facts and figures… they are developing humans that need to be supported socially and emotionally to succeed academically. Remove SEL from schools and we are undermining student learning.

The crux of this issue appears to be fear and misunderstanding of language. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are now buzzwords used to trigger fear about human difference. Diversity recognizes that there is a range of human experience, equity is the path towards supporting one another in achieving happy, healthy outcomes – we each need different things based on our differences. And inclusion occurs when every individual feels that they belong. Each of these is an admirable outcome for our children and, incidentally, recognized by governments and corporations alike as requirements for success. The meeting advertised by the flyer in question has happened. None of these issues were discussed in detail, but parents voiced concern that students are not prepared by their education for success. 

So, who do we trust to define success?  We rely on academic expertise for most social advancement and acknowledge the authority of those who achieve degrees from credentialing institutions. Parents, undoubtedly, have a role to play in their children’s education and development, but organizing and seeking influence based on misunderstanding and fear will not benefit our children. Parents who want to engage in their students’ education should model the practices we’d like our students to embody most – communication across differences, acceptance of complexity, personal reflection, and consideration of others. Otherwise we are risking alienation and distrust as our children become the free-thinking adults we would like them to be.

Antiracist pedagogy panel

I was honored to be asked to sit on a panel about antiracist pedagogy. Here are the thoughts I prepared ahead of time:

Library instruction is traditionally, and incorrectly, identified as “point and click” instruction, teaching students to navigate databases and search catalogs for books. These technical skills that are imperative to implementing successful search strategy are no longer the most important learning outcomes of a library instruction class. Our students struggle in an information environment that includes news aggregators and misinformation, not to mention social media. My grant application was to learn about and pursue flipped instruction as an opportunity to carve out time to facilitate conversations during class time and attend to critical information literacy learning outcomes. Critical information literacy emphasizes the ways that power and privilege influence our experiences with information. Therefore, information literacy lessons, or conversations about information creation, use, and maintenance, that are focused in this way allow students to investigate power and privilege in their daily lives.

Learning outcomes are important to my antiracist classwork, as is the pedagogical approach. Flipped instruction is an example of collaborative and antiracist teaching practice. There are two components – the instructional material -tutorials, videos, etc- and a classroom discussion. In my discipline, library and information science, it is part of the ethic of the profession to make work open and able to be reused by colleagues. Through my research for this grant I discovered PRIMO, Peer-reviewed Instructional Materials Online, which is an amazing database created and maintained by the Association of College and Research Libraries. Using other individuals’ instructional materials goes against White culture norms of competition and individualism. Being open to using others’ materials in class has allowed me to put my energy into understanding antiracist facilitation and topics of conversation for class time. Collaborative teaching practices like flipped instruction allow me to build my own capacity through my ability to focus on facilitation by leaning on my teaching and learning community. This is my small way of challenging norms and decreasing my complicity in a white supremacist system that asks us to stand independently of one another and decreases our connections as community.

To me, flipped instruction is really an intermediate location between a banking model of lecture, described by Paulo Freire as an oppressive practice and an inclusive classroom that focuses on relationship development and dialogic learning as described by bell hooks. At Muhlenberg, librarians are often included in a classroom environment in one or two 75-minute instruction sessions at the invitation of the professor. This is referred to by librarians as a one-shot model. I often feel like an interloper and so it is difficult to engage a class in conversations that include analysis of race, privilege, and power. Flipping a classroom means I have twice as many touchpoints with students to pursue the intended learning outcomes. But this literally wouldn’t happen without collaboration with professors. In order to facilitate classroom dialogue in this less than ideal circumstance, I feel that practicing vulnerability and utilizing my own experience and consideration of social identity to begin conversation is necessary. It sets the tone for the class and models the type of personal reflection I seek to inspire in students. Asking students to consider information access as a facet of social identity or which voices are privileged in information structures is important for students in information literacy learning, but specifically within a primarily White institution.

The Books I Read in 2019



As you can see, I read a lot for pleasure this year.  Reading has always been a great source of pleasure for me – a bit of escapism, a love of silence and comfortable corners, and a good story can get me into a happier brain space.  I think that Sally Rooney’s novels were my favorite of the year, but I clearly also got into Liane Moriarty and Armistead Maupin.

My professional life was guided by the wisdom in Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks.  I also have a copy of The New Jim Crow by Michele Alexander and Mary Oliver’s Devotions on my desk… I return to these frequently while I’m working, though I haven’t read them in full.

One of my best friends was married this year and another had a baby – and I drove to each of these life celebrations to the tracks of audiobooks.  In fact, I rarely get in my car these days without jumping into another novel.

I read Chocolat by Joanne Harris while traveling in Spain.  I was struck by the number of relevant themes, both to my travels and to the current global political phenomenon of refugees.  The refugee crisis that the United States government currently perpetuates is the embodiment of the same fear and close-mindedness that Harris describes in the reactions to Vianne Rocher and Anouk.

I spent seven months of this year pregnant and, if you ask any person who has been pregnant they will tell you, it isn’t the easiest experience. Books have been crucial in the passing of time when I’ve been tired, sick, or uncomfortable.  But, as I reflect on all the occurrences of the past year, I feel that, in the end, it has been one that has passed in joy, comfort, and hope for the future.






The Books I Read in 2018

I was browsing through Instagram this week and saw a post by @samjstirling: “Adulthood is completely understanding why Britney Spears shaved her head.”  And so I concluded that 2018 is the year that I’ve become an adult.  No more judgement from me, Britney.

I want to be vulnerable and open about my professional struggles.  If you would have asked me last year what was on my mind I would have likely told you that I felt frustrated that I didn’t have a passion, a purpose, a specific project or interest that would make my work meaningful to me.  Then, in November of 2017 I saw Janaya Khan speak and decided that I wanted to be more politically active.  I began working out my frustrations through local organizing.  I also decided that 2018 was the year that I would radicalize myself – and so I began reading.

all about love; where we stand: class matters; the will to change; fates and furies; arcadia; the girl with the back tattoo; the nix; sula; beloved; pedagogy of the oppressed; giovanni's room; the book of joy; the last season; norse mythology; between breaths; don't call us dead; the divergent series; new and selected poems by mary oliver; just mercy.

As you can see, I wasn’t entirely focused in my radicalization efforts, but many of these books changed my life as my awareness of the white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist patriarchy increased my drive for justice.

Consequently, I organized programs:

  • The Power of Partnerships: Building institutional and community alliances to transform research and learning, Delaware Valley Chapter of ACRL – April 20
  • Development in Allentown: Are you being left behind?, Allentown Coalition for Economic Dignity – April 29
  • Structures of Power in Information, LVAIC Information Literacy Learning Community – May 23
  • People Matter: The changing faces of Allentown, Allentown Coalition for Economic Dignity – October 13
  • Librarians as Advocates: Leading activism on your campus and beyond, Delaware Valley Chapter of ACRL – October 26
  • Party for the People: A night of art, community, and social justice, Allentown Coalition for Economic Dignity – December 13

I taught classes and focused on critical information literacy praxis.  I began to develop a game to help students critically evaluate the Library of Congress classification system.  I helped a class in which half the students were incarcerated.

I began research on dialogue and news evaluation, information literacy and metacognition, and Allentown community dreams.

I canvassed for a candidate during the primaries and advocated for my communities needs at city council.

And in spite of all of this, I have had many mental health challenges.  Awareness of the horrors of our hate-ridden society has produced a lot of internal anxiety and an unprecedented amount of frustration about things I previously loved in my life.  This is the year that I’ve practiced meditation, abstained from drinking, and started cognitive behavioral therapy.  I’ve had to work hard to be happy in spite of the intersections of my privileged identities, love from friends and family, and a happy place to work.

I share this in the spirit of renewal and practice.  This year wasn’t just one of radicalization, but one of increased awareness, empathy, and compassion.  I’m thankful for my new direction in life and will continue to make small changes until I find more balance.  May the new year bring peace and connection and freedom from fear for you and yours.



The Books I Read in 2017


Keeping track of books I’ve read over the year helps me reflect on what else I have accomplished as well.  2017 has been a year of growth – I have more roots and have become more of who I am; I am also branching out and trying new things.  When I take a look at these books I am reminded of my progress in my career, my commitment to rediscovering my love for reading, and the trips my partner and I have taken to visit family and friends.

Spring 2017 was my first semester as an adjunct professor – I taught Web Page Design and began my year hurriedly brushing up on HTML and CSS with the textbook.  I also started a library Student Advisory Board, which was a fun but short-lived experience because I accepted a position at Muhlenberg College as their Assessment and Outreach librarian.  I absolutely recommend Library Assessment in Higher Education for anyone who wants to brush up on how to create an assessment plan, it provides a straightforward guide and good questions to prompt brainstorming.

I attended my first ACRL Conference this year on a scholarship and read Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State and Bad Feminist in preparation for her keynote.  Gay is AMAZING, frank, perceptive, and brave and I read the rest of her books this year as well.

In my new position I’ve connected with some amazing professors.  I’ve worked very closely with one individual to prepare for her upcoming course this coming semester.  In working with her I’ve read Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Satin Island as well as Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?  I’m so thankful for this special relationship especially since it’s so challenging to make true connections in an entirely new campus community.

I’ve done a lot of reading for fun this year – I basically doubled the number of books I read last year.  In my childhood I chose to read for fun at every opportunity, but I’ve diversified my interests in part because I’ve struggled to find books that I find truly engaging.  This year I’ve read so many books that I loved.  Honestly, every book on this list has sucked me in… though I’ve felt more satisfied after some (The Woman Warrior, A Tale for the Time Being, Typical American) than others (The Shadow of the Wind; Boy, Snow, Bird; The Circle).  

Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods were listened to on trips to Baltimore to visit my best friends.  They moved from Corvallis, Oregon during summer 2016, so these books remind me of the gratitude I feel that they are only an audio book away.  A few of the others I read on vacation to Texas, where I met my partner’s paternal family for the first time, and at the beach, where we enjoyed the sun and surf together with my family for the first time.

Firsts abounded this year and included: slack lining, skiing, hosting a best friends week-long staycation, hanging pictures in our new home, planting an extremely prolific vegetable garden, participating in grassroots organizing, and I started printing and water coloring.  I’m looking forward to a new year, reading books new to me, and continuing to grow roots as I develop in new directions.

Creatives and Open Access

Open Access is *supposed* to inspire additional creation of work, specifically because there are no barriers to access or use.  However, it seems that we are so used to working within the realm of traditional copyright we rarely know what to do with work in the public domain or work licensed under Creative Commons.  My upcoming project with the Muhlenberg Open Scholarship Faculty Learning Community will hopefully increase people’s awareness and increase use of open data, textbooks, scholarship, art, etc.

I’m exciting about combining my librarian tendencies towards collection and organization with my penchant for visual design and communication.  Right now I’m in the research stages of this project – trying to identify open resources and looking into other ways that they have been promoted (via libraries, Creative Commons?).  I’d love to hear how your library promotes open resources and creation!  And, hopefully, if this project is successful, I will eventually have a set of posters to share with Librarian Design Share!  

The Books I Read in 2016


2016 was the first year I began and ended as an academic librarian.  The books I’ve read definitely reflect that professional change – learning about assessment, information literacy instruction, critical pedagogy, developing a student advisory board – it’s been a busy year!  (I must admit, I’m still working through the essays of the Critical Library Pedagogy Handbook, but they are so good I couldn’t wait to include it in next year’s review.

I also made a bit of time for reading for fun.  Ever since I finished graduate school I don’t take any moment spent reading fiction for granted.  I received Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth and Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem Essays from my dear friend Katie Eelman of media + events at Papercuts J.P.  Obviously, she has great taste and there are other recommendations from her and others on their site!  My first Margaret Atwood was a head-scratcher, but fun.  I’ve always loved Louise Erdrich.  And Mark Magro is a friend, and his first YA novel is really good!  The Interestings and Station Eleven were gleaned from a Twitter conversation from Anna Sale of Death, Sex, and Money and Marc and I read them aloud to each other during our honeymoon.  We spent an entire day in bed… reading.

There are probably a few books that I’m forgetting; I’ll do a better job of keeping track next year!  If you’re reading this and have a book suggestion please comment below!  I think you can tell my interests are pretty eclectic!

Reflections on Summer #1

I have a note on my desk to remind me to reflect on my experiences and problems and construct my own understanding.  Time and time again I remind myself that reflection is an important part of the learning process; I need to be mindful of my successes and failures and in my day-to-day activities.  The following text is a bit jumbled, as it is my reflection on my first summer employed by a university.  I think this is representative of my experience.  I’ve discovered that summer is a time to work on many projects in rapid succession.

Other academic librarians that I met had told me that the summer is a time to recoup after a long year.  I imagined that my summer would be spent accomplishing a big project (didn’t happen…).  It didn’t occur to me that I would teach for the entire summer.  Yes, it isn’t quite as busy, but the ACCESS classes that I serve go through the summer – so there wasn’t a break.

I did finish a few marketing projects.  I have become more fluid in Adobe Illustrator, so these kinds of projects don’t take me nearly as long as my first design project.

We met as a group of librarians and started trying to identify learning outcomes across the EN-103 classes. This type of project needs to be developed in the summer and then implemented in the fall.  We still have yet to establish a plan for implementation.  Hopefully that occurs in the next week or two.

I utilized LibWizard, a new Springshare tool, for the first time this summer and developed a few quizzes with embedded tutorials.  Students and faculty have responded well to the interactive aspect of these tutorials.  I also implemented a new library space in Blackboard  utilizing the Springshare LTI. Embedded services and resources are more user-friendly, right?  Great interest in this application across campus as well.

Thus far, my entire experience as an academic librarian has been at break-neck speed.  The clear difference I see between my summer and school year schedules is in my priorities.  When students and faculty are on campus my priority is providing great service.  When the library is empty and my inbox isn’t raining e-mails I am able to focus on library improvements and developing new resources.  It’s an interesting and engaging cycle.

Framing the Information Conversation: Framework v. Standards

It’s June 2016 and the ALA rescinded the Standards.  I’m writing primarily for this reason because here I am, a librarian, and this is the first time I’ve seen my professional community up-in-arms.  I’m lurking on the ACRL Framework listserv and have received over 50 e-mails in the past two days in which my peers are “venting” about how the ACRL, an organization that is usually lauded for their professional resources and support, is not supporting the needs of its members.

Personally, I’m baffled.  The Framework appears to me to be an inclusive, progressive document.    All of the Standards are included within the frames.  The frames even include knowledge practices and dispositions that are written in a similar format.  Of course, I became a librarian right after the Framework was published.  It was suggested to me that I take a look at the “new Framework for Information Literacy” as part of the preparation for my interview.  My immediate reaction to the document was one of excitement – I find the Framework to be exciting and inspiring.  I appreciate its “richer, more complex set of core ideas.” The Standards didn’t do justice to describing the information landscape as it is now.  Students come to higher education having lived a life overwhelmed with information, but by being taught particular concepts their own dispositions and mindsets change.  I love the Framework’s attention to novice learners and their development through education and practice towards expert understanding.  This is a story to which every librarian can relate, not one that is exclusive or pejorative.  I’m happy to be a librarian in a post-Framework world.