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DLF WG on Labor in Digital Libraries, Archives and Museums: Valuing Labor Subgroup

Meeting minutes: November 4, 2019

Internal and external advocacy

Facilitator/Note-taker: Amy Wickner

Complete 2019 schedule


What do you advocate for?

  • Equal treatment of contingent & permanent workers
  • Permanent workers for permanent work
  • Contractual workers but especially the ones I supervise
  • Contingent workers, equity for POC in libraries & archives
  • Contingent workers, fewer distinctions between workers who are actually the same

What do you want to advocate for but don't?

  • Relates to equity for POC in libraries & archives - advocating for that but setting boundaries based on perception & risk, not focusing on salary equity. If I in my body advocate for this, is it seen as self-interest? Whereas looking at the data by classification, these are actually the people left behind in salary terms. Responsibilities unevenly applied, e.g. new budgets for having a new person report to them. Contributes to the mentality of “you should be grateful for the opportunity,” driven by people who are supported but don’t see how they contribute, as well as by a scarcity mentality.
  • Advocating for the worth of what I do as a processing archivist as my institution is experiencing budget constraints, especially in core tasks. It's frustrating!
  • Feeling like we’re constantly having to justify things like processing. When we get new positions they’re given to outreach & curatorial (other departments). Retention issues with POC, inequity in starting salaries.
  • When you feel like there’s no point advocating for something, change is so far away and why waste your energy on this thing now when there are more attainable goals you could advocate for instead? A way to preserve yourself and your energy but I try to reflect, is it worth going for some of these things that don’t seem attainable even if more difficult. Trying to work on not dismissing certain things as never gonna change.
  • The value of my own work.

Who's your target audience?

  • A lot of the time it’s your own colleagues, e.g. when advocating for what I do to people I hope already know that.
  • Managers or administration, people with the power to make these decisions.
  • Talking with colleagues about contingent work - how many of you are temporary workers? Everyone should be raising their hands. Getting people to recognize that it impacts you & that you should care about this, that’s an audience you have to reach.
  • For POC in libraries, not everyone is looking at it through that lens.
  • Differences between what’s said and what’s enacted.
  • Managerial audience
  • Have some white colleagues who show up for DEI work - that’s my target audience, trying to transfer some of that work & care
  • Quietly realizing it’s not my responsibility to advocate for my work, it’s a shared responsibility
  • HR - a lot of times, middle management’s response is “well HR says no”
  • Depending on what exactly you’re advocating for, figuring out who exactly does have the power to make change. Can be complicated - do you have to go all the way up to state legislature? Figuring out a pathway to change while making sure you’re talking to your colleagues & spreading the word.
  • People’s different relationships to HR came up in the 2nd Collective Responsibliity Forum - are they on your side?
    • Depends on the quality of your HR. For whatever reason, even at the highest levels of admin HR is always the fallback. How much of that is true? If they’re that powerful, should be privy to advocacy work going on.
  • Students, especially library school students to let them know what the field is like but also encourage them to imagine differently, bring it back to labor
    • Calling out unpaid internships!

How do you determine whether the person you're talking to is part of that audience?

  • Process of getting to know someone, observing, tease out the assumptions that they know & accept as the norm without questioning. Where are they in terms of their understanding of how complex this issue might be or understanding it as a structural issue? Gets back to why you don’t advocate -- so much education is getting people to understand things structurally. Is it my responsibility? Do I have the bandwidth? Case by case basis how much to invest.
  • Takes a lot of time & spidey sense. There’s a really politicky nature to it.
  • From Jane McAlevey’s CR keynote: Audience you need to target are the people who don’t agree with you. Need to be careful but am really inspired by the idea of bringing people to the other side, really changing someone’s mind.
  • Don’t want to waste energy on people on the outside of the bullseye. Reading skills - can you bring this person over to the next part of the bullseye. See:
  • Not going to convince everyone, can’t win everyone over
  • When someone reaches out to you
  • Moment of recognition - opportunity to step back & ask, “You had a reaction there, what does that mean to you?”
  • Exposure, forcing information on colleagues, talking about things even if they might not care
  • Keep repeating the same thing to them every time I see them. Even if they don’t seem so interested in advocating for contractual workers, if I bring it up every time we discuss our shared work and don’t back down from that point. I don’t have proof it’s effective in the long term but eventually they get it more and more. Are they going to take the steps to become an advocate themselves?
  • Good technique and probably all that you can do in that situation
  • Maybe if they get tired of hearing the same thing over and over, keep it on everyone’s minds
  • Colleague on a contract ending soon, puts end date of the contract in email signature.
  • Sometimes I get very reference librarian on people, if someone reaches out I send them 20 links to efforts under way, articles
  • Persistent advocating is what actually highlights what you value and what you don’t value. Constant reminders & advocacy also show that an institution doesn’t actually care about something that there are a lot of claims around. Actual lived values drive advocacy, what you push for wanting to be valued, seeing gaps. How rhetoric challenges advocacy is a whole other thing too. We often use the rhetoric of diversity, talking about it in a broad lens; the word diversity is all over institutions BUT we’re not naming structures and we’re not comfortable naming structures and naming white supremacy. Putting out statements and tools without actually addressing community needs challenges those values altogether - not actually doing it, just saying it. DEI as a marketing approach, what image can we project. It does the opposite of what they’re saying they want to do. Challenge of advocating in that space when you want to speak more directly to the issue but it puts you at risk because of challenging institutional rhetoric.
    • “Everything was fine until you brought race into it” - Sara Ahmed on inclusion, being a killjoy
    • People are confused every time they're asked to talk about equity & equality, how it’s structural. If we can get people to start practicing looking at things structurally. Meritocracy is a sticky narrative.
    • As seen in dues-paying culture - which is also about how misery loves company
    • Vocational awe - bringing up salaries leads to counterclaims like “I volunteer to do this I love this so much”

What do you do if they are??

  • SET UP A LUNCH. We need to talk more. It’s super validating! These are my people, do the slow work of getting to know them. Challenge is prioritizing & making the space for it
  • Also advocate around capacity & making the space. How to deepen that connection, making space & prioritizing it.
  • Start looping people in on meetings, can sometimes be overwhelming so try to be cognizant of that & not scare them away
  • Hard to meet people whose enthusiasm for the subject matches mine
    • How to balance enthusiasm and persistence with not being completely unbearable? Or being disappointed?
  • Fine line to understand what people have capacity to do, what actions they’ll actually take. What can I ask them to do? Go talk to someone, bring this up in a meeting they have with administrators, etc. What are the next steps after you know they are receptive?
  • Mixing asks with relationship building looks different when talking to someone you’ve already known for a while where talking about labor is the new element v. a new person altogether
  • Managing my own expectations, not necessarily to lower them but recognizing that reform is a slow process, building connections is sometimes enough for now because builds stronger foundation. Repetition & reflecting on progress. Question to always ask ourselves: How far have we come? Progress is slow & can feel insignificant
  • Formalized summary of the progress we’ve made, to remind people
  • Re-energizing, gives a boost to see people & be able to talk about these issues & know that we’re actively working on something, but also recognize that we have a lot going on

What do you do if they aren't?

  • Persistence
  • Not wasting energy unless it’s someone really influential in the thing you’re advocating for - what’s motivating them? How can I look into their ideas or set of values to make this case? Otherwise work on building out that bullseye & finding those people instead. The person who has a long way to go - understanding their motivation and taking an educational route.

When and how to recognize victory?

  • Anytime you can amplify the conversation and take things to a new audience - a conference, talking in a class, random faculty members, bringing someone into the conversation
  • I was first exposed to LAM labor at a conference, still in awe of the person i saw speak about it.
  • The fact that this topic is becoming more normalized at conferences at all indicates some victory e.g. RBMS conference theme on power. Amplifying but also moving it along and normalizing so people can’t say, “Oh I just didn’t know.” You know now, and you’re responsible - what are you doing? Conversation moves further along because it’s a known.
  • Furthering the idea that these are issues that affect everyone, addressing attitude that “Oh you guys are just troublemakers blowing this out of proportion” → structural issues
  • Reflection of how an institution operates; systemic if you really engage with the idea
  • Hearing our ideas reflected back to us because they reached someone through another set of relationships, and connected
  • Want to see more administrators talking about it in their spaces! What if they’re sharing and reading privately, becoming advocates for it? Poor management keeps coming up - so many bad managers! I don’t think you should be a manager if you don’t understand equity in structural terms. Changing the standard for what someone should have in terms of their competencies as a manager or leader, making sure these issues are reflected.
  • Types of personalities we see in management roles - they got to be where they are by not troublemaking, operating within a system that values/rewards a certain personality.
  • List of all the things I would like to see for high-level admin applicants. Some are & some aren’t reflected in leadership literature. All connected because it’s how you approach these issues; the more people can see these issues the less it becomes about meritocracy and “This is just how it is.” Surfaces what’s really happening.

Additional questions

  • Do you have a success story about advocacy?
  • How about a fail story?
  • What makes an effective advocate?
  • How do you read “internal” and “external” advocacy?


  • Last meeting of 2019: Mon 12/2, 1pm ET / 10am PT - Sustainability
  • Let us know if you feel moved to work on any of the possible new initiatives