I’ve been alerted that the December 2013/January 2014 edition of Against The Grain will include a rebuttal of my keynote address at the November 2013 Charleston Conference, and a kind soul who will remain anonymous provided me with a copy of that rebuttal. When it is published online, if you have ATG access, it will be here. The article also provides a link to a video of the speech I gave, which is here. (Note: These links are not currently working, as of 10:20 on 2/6. They are not the official links, so they were bound to be unreliable. There’s nothing I can do about it. If you want to see the official stuff, petition the conference to launch the proceedings soon.)
Against the Grain is the publication most closely linked to the Charleston Conference, so this is an eminently logical place for the article to appear. And I’m not surprised that there are detractors. I was blunt, I was confrontational, and I was aggressive. I made some people angry, and offended others. That happens when you’re blunt and confrontational. I expected pushback. I’m happy to see the debate expand and continue. So please understand that this post does not come from a place of “how dare you disagree with me.”
It does come from a place of “Really? That’s the line you’re going to take?”
There is a big and important conversation going on right now about the ALA Code of Conduct (you can start here, or here, if you don’t know what I’m talking about), and many of the most heated arguments around it have boiled down to one dichotomous understanding of librarians’ experiences: People who have not experienced or witnessed the reality of harassment think the policy will be problematic to their freedom of expression. People who have experienced or witnessed the reality of harassment think the policy is a necessary step toward making their professional world safer and more welcoming. The first group seems deeply challenged to understand the reality of the second group.
This rebuttal presents the same lack of understanding in no uncertain terms.
The problem starts here: “Though Ms. Rogers claims to speak for the library profession, the experiences she described are unlike anything we have witnessed.”
And continues here: “During her presentation, Ms. Rogers read paraphrased comments made to her or other librarians from different vendors. While some of the comments were shocking, we felt the meaning was lost without the full context; they were soundbites from a longer missing narrative, which could have included the vendor’s perspective.”
And ends here: “Yes, you are wrong. Disagreements with publishers over financial transactions or business models are in no way analogous to physical or mental abuse.”
So. When I read that, I see this: The authors state that they haven’t experienced the kind of harassment and negative interactions I’ve described, and they won’t accept my reporting of that harassment as valid without hearing from the aggressors, and in the end I’m just wrong for calling those experiences abusive.
We’re clearly experiencing different realities, here. Very similar worlds, experienced in very dissimilar ways.
The difference between the aggression and confrontation of my talk, and the aggression and confrontation I see in this article, is that my goal was not ever to tell librarians to sit down and shut up because they’re wrong. I deeply hope that isn’t the message anyone took away from my words. I very much do see that message in this piece; it’s a reprimand against speaking bluntly, against truth-telling, and against identifying abusive behavior. It contains a very clear message: I’m doing this wrong, and I should shut up.
I could refute each point, argument by argument. I have opinions on this stuff. (Clearly.) But I just don’t think it’s worth it. To keep things short, sweet, and on topic, I’ll say this: I’m not ashamed of what I said. Nothing I said was untrue, or embellished. As a result, I’m not overly concerned by reactions to the content. I will let my words speak for themselves, and encourage you, libraryfolks, to take a look or a listen. I am concerned by reactions about tone, and about speech. So if you disagree with me on content, I hope you will do so publicly, and advance our discourse. I just hope that you’ll do it with a little less victim-blaming than I read here, and a little more awareness that we are all experiencing different realities, side by side, in this profession of ours. I hope you can see that just because you don’t recognize my reality as being parallel to yours doesn’t make me wrong.
And I won’t be shutting up.