The now of June 2020

Hello, friends! Before I dig into the news of the past few months, I will start with some housekeeping. Going forward, I will post my content to cygnoir.net and syndicate it elsewhere. Some follow-up notes:

  • Facebook and Instagram prevent people from easily syndicating their own content. You won’t see cygnoir.net posts there anymore.
  • You will still see cygnoir.net posts on Micro.blog, Tumblr, and Twitter.
  • If you follow cygnoir.net by email, you may want to unsubscribe, because you’ll be getting a lot more email from this site! (WordPress.com doesn’t allow me to limit email notifications to only long-form posts like this one.)
  • A personal news reader is the easiest way to follow many sites, including cygnoir.net, on your own terms. I recommend NewsBlur.

If you want to know more about why I’m making the switch, read the IndieWeb overview of POSSE, which stands for Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.

And now onto the update …

About three months after the COVID-19 pandemic closure of the library building and the transition to remote work, the senior managers and I returned to the building to prepare for part-time onsite work again. And now, with the help of staggered schedules, physical distancing, face coverings, and sanitizing protocols, most of our team is working onsite for roughly half of their week, and working from home the rest of the time. We rolled out our “Library Takeout” service last week, enabling our patrons to make appointments to get their holds in a curbside pickup model. To write it out like that makes it seem so easy, but it has required months of many people brainstorming, planning, and testing to get to this stage. And we have so much more work to do.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a structure and process nerd. I enjoy setting up rules, templates, and procedures because I find it challenging to keep myself motivated when I don’t know what is expected of me. I like knowing the rules because I like knowing when it is important to follow them … and when it is important not to.

The pandemic, then, has precipitated some upheaval in my brainmeats. The rules are made, and then the rules change, sometimes within a week or even a few days. This level of change adds a whole other layer of complexity to communication: in the midst of communicating with my team about a rule change, the rules change again, rendering the initial communication invalid.

And then, on May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, and a whole bunch of white people woke up all at once. (Why now? I highly recommend the “Why Now, White People?” episode of Code Switch.) And even though I was at a different place on my personal journey of understanding systemic racism, I had a reckoning too. For years, I have avoided speaking about anything “too political” online, avoiding subjects that might cause confrontation with friends, family members, or even strangers. I used my white privilege as a shield to protect me from discomfort. I excused myself from the fight. I opted out because I could.

Can you relate? Can you recall a time when a friend made a racist comment and you did not speak up because you were afraid of hurting their feelings? Or because you were too tired, or felt like you didn’t know what to say, or because you were afraid that you’d make a mistake? I can. And while I am embarrassed to admit that to you, all the embarrassment and guilt that we white people feel now, that all well-intentioned white people have ever felt, doesn’t matter at all. Action matters. And we start with educating ourselves and then getting to work, and doing the work every day for the rest of our lives.

I started my own education by listening to Black activists, which is how I found this shared document of anti-racism resources for white people, which lists books, articles, videos, podcasts, films/television series, and organizations. A few of the books were already on my holds list at the library, so I started with the first one available to check out: So You Want to Talk about Race (public library). Ijeoma Oluo’s book is an excellent primer on systemic racism, well-researched and written in a straightforward way. It is a great place to start.

Loyalty Bookstore, a Black-owned independent bookseller in the DC area, has created an excellent list of anti-racist reading recommendations. I dearly hope that your local public library is sharing lists of anti-racist reading recommendations as well, especially e-books that can be accessed while library buildings are still closed. (Use the LibraryExtension browser add-on if you want to see library holdings on Amazon and Goodreads.) And if your local public library isn’t, well … I have something to say about that.

In fact, I have a lot to say about the pandemic, public libraries, and equity, enough for a whole other post I’ve already started to draft. Damn, it feels good to be writing again.

That’s it from my corner of the world today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Dismantle white supremacy.

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash.

Published by Halsted M. Bernard

An ever-molting black swan. Reader, writer, library director, over-enunciator. Listening + Unlearning. Opinions are my own. She/her. #BlackLivesMatter