Something I’ve been thinking about recently is the consequences of visibility, mainly the visibility of my politics and ethics that I’ve been told over the years are “radical” compared to the average person. On a good day, I would define myself as a Marxist feminist; I have pretty strong opinions about female labour around the world. Class identity is a big part of how I define myself and how I understand the world. I’m confident in sharing my views and interpretations though I’m not one to dominate conversations with them.
Lately I’ve been thinking more about how sharing these views could be detrimental to me, especially as I shift from my career as a library technician (something I’ve been doing for almost a decade) to one as a librarian. I’m an active Twitter user and a big fan of the LIS conversations happening there, but I also worry if my online activities will cost me a job in the future. Will a headhunter find my profanity-sprinkled feed and cross me off a list? Will my comments on the inaccessibility of higher ed cost me a promotion?
As an emerging professional, I’m concerned both for my own future career goals (because library school loans are not small things) and for the larger implications of monitoring or censoring current or future employees.
To soothe my own worries, I’ve turned, figuratively, to my late grandmother who also happened to be boss as hell. She was a foster child and orphan who became a career nurse who refused to get married for years. She protested for human rights at the UN in New York City, leaving her kids home on the farm with her husband. She ran the local rest home as Head Nurse. After she retired, she was a seniors rights advocate who consistently critiqued legislation and had a major part in a new rest home being built. I want to believe that if anyone is my proof that I can have a successful career and have radical politics, she’s it.
But it’s a different time and my Grannie didn’t have Twitter or any other kind of backlog of things she said as a teenager waiting to ruin her career. On the surface, she was a devout Anglican, a wife and mother, and a compassionate mentor. She was basically the perfect portrait of a nurse. I’d like to think that she embodied the ethics of her profession and that the same is possible for me, but I’m unconvinced that my career goals will overlap with my ethics to make a Venn diagram that makes sense.
The library school I’m attending is pretty radical in its curriculum (or so I have been told!). In my first semester, we discussed and debated topics like open access, privacy and anonymity, net neutrality, critical librarianship, barriers to entering the LIS field/higher ed, the homogeneity of LIS, among other things. While the openness of these conversations are confirmations that I chose the right school for me, I also know the working world can be vastly different.
In my experience in academia, both as a student and an employee, I’ve encountered privilege blindness that made me take on advocacy roles, whether it was asserting union rights in the face of faculty demands or defending a patron’s right to privacy to my bosses. I’ve had varying amounts of success and failure, and at the time, it was easier to brush off the failures because as a library technician I had less authority to change anything. Now, I’m moving to a different role, one with more responsibility, but also one with a bigger voice, and I want to find a balance between being myself and being my best librarian self.