Friday, May 31, 2024

LiterASIAN Festival: 30 Years in the Making

2024 LiterASIAN Festival group photo

LiterASIAN Festival just wrapped up.  More than fifteen years ago, LiterASIAN was a dream when a few of us at the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop (ACWW) threw the idea around the table over dinner.   We were aware that the odds were against us and difficult to pull off, as none of us had ever organized a festival. We were used to running Ricepaper Magazine, and as the magazine was winding down its print run, we wondered whether a literary festival could exist in the competitive Canadian literary festival circuit. It’s incredibly hard work to recruit volunteers, invite authors, and write grants to fund a festival.   As a librarian, I had put on some events, but nothing on such a grand scale. So we began with a small two-day festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown with limited experience but a lot of aspirations.  I recall it as a dank, rainy November evening, not exactly the atmosphere you’d want to be for a festival’s beginnings, but it all worked out in the end.   That was more than a decade ago.  Things turned out for the best.

LiterASIAN is now well-known across literary circles as a celebration of the contributions of Asian Canadian and racialized writers.  But why did we do it?  LiterASIAN stems from a need to create a dedicated platform for Asian Canadian authors, whose works often explore themes of identity, migration, and cultural heritage. By providing this platform, LiterASIAN not only showcases the vast tapestry of Asian Canadian literature but also fosters a sense of community among writers, readers, and literary enthusiasts.  Writers often exist in silos and isolation.  The festival's inclusive and celebratory nature encourages established and emerging writers to participate, thereby nurturing new talent and ensuring the continuity of Asian Canadian literary traditions.

We’ve had writers such as SKY Lee, Evelyn Lau, Madeleine Thien, Fred Wah, Joy Kogawa, Simon Choa Johnston, Jack Wang, Jamie Liew, Wayne Ng, Larissa Lai, Rita Wong, C.E. Gatchalian, Philip Huynh, Jovanni Sy, Janie Chang, Jen Sookfong Lee, Terry Watada, Catherine Hernandez, Paul Yee, Kevin Chong, Doretta Lau, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Denise Chong, Terry Woo, and many, many more.

My predecessor and friend, Jim Wong-Chu, the Festival Director who started it all

The festival typically features an array of activities designed to engage and inspire. Book launches are a staple, allowing authors to introduce their latest works to an eager audience. These events are often accompanied by readings, where authors share excerpts from their books, providing a glimpse into their narratives and stylistic approaches. Panel discussions delve into various topics relevant to both the literary world and the Asian Canadian experience, such as representation, the publishing industry's challenges, and literature's role in social justice.

Workshops are another key component of LiterASIAN, catering to writers at different stages of their careers. These sessions, led by experienced authors and industry professionals, cover a wide range of topics from writing techniques to navigating the business aspects of publishing. They provide invaluable insights and practical advice, empowering participants to hone their craft and pursue their literary ambitions more confidently.

Beyond the scheduled events, LiterASIAN offers a unique networking and community-building opportunity. Writers and readers can connect, share experiences, and build relationships beyond the festival. This sense of camaraderie and mutual support is a hallmark of LiterASIAN, reflecting its mission to cultivate a supportive environment for audiences to talk about Asian Canadian literature.

The festival also serves an educational purpose, raising awareness about the contributions and experiences of Asian Canadians through literature. By bringing these stories to the forefront, LiterASIAN challenges stereotypes and broadens the understanding of Asian Canadian identities. It celebrates the multiplicity of voices within the community, highlighting stories that might otherwise remain unheard.

The success of LiterASIAN has really been 30 years in the making: years of building to what it is today since it was founded 30 years ago.  In my many years involved in making LiterASIAN, I’ve realized it’s more than just a literary festival; it is a celebration of culture, identity, and storytelling. Through its diverse programming and community-focused approach, it plays a crucial role in promoting Asian Canadian literature and fostering a vibrant, inclusive literary community.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Dreaded Golden Handcuffs of Academia

“Not All Staying is the Same: Unpacking Retention and Turnover in Academic Libraries” by Samantha Guss, Sojourna Cunningham and Jennifer Stout is a fascinating piece that explores some of what the golden handcuff by delving into the intricate dynamics of why academic librarians choose to stay in their positions despite being dissatisfied or unhappy.

The authors extend beyond the conventional exploration of reasons for job satisfaction and fulfillment, dissecting the complexities of what drives individuals to remain in roles where their needs are not met or where they experience toxicity or discontent.

Part of the conundrum is that the academic librarian job market is challenging to navigate, characterized by job scarcity and fierce competition for positions. Additionally, geographical constraints and familial responsibilities often limit the mobility of librarians, making it difficult to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Career advancement within the academic library sphere may necessitate relocating or changing organizations, posing further challenges, especially for dual-career couples.

The concept of "job lock" highlights how employees often feel constrained to remain in their current roles due to various factors, including non-portable benefits, limited job availability, and emotional connections to their workplace and colleagues. Vocational awe and passion for the profession also contribute to librarians' reluctance to leave, despite facing exploitation or dissatisfaction.

Often, the triggers that prompt librarians to consider leaving their jobs come down to toxic work environments, bullying, and low morale. Toxic leadership and organizational culture are identified as significant factors driving turnover in academic libraries. While many studies focus on reasons for leaving, this research investigates the transition from voluntary to involuntary staying, where librarians remain in their roles despite experiencing discontent or toxicity.

Through qualitative interviews with academic librarians, the authors uncover the journey from voluntary to involuntary staying, shedding light on the coping mechanisms employed by individuals to navigate challenging work environments. Functional coping strategies, such as seeking validation and setting boundaries, are contrasted with dysfunctional strategies, including disengagement and resentment. The nuanced interplay between individual and organizational perspectives on coping mechanisms is explored, emphasizing the complex nature of retention and turnover in academic libraries.

This piece provides valuable insights into the factors influencing academic librarians' decisions to stay in their positions, despite facing challenges or dissatisfaction. This piece certainly resonates with me. An academic librarian colleague once raised his wrists showing his imaginary shackles and said he was wearing the golden handcuffs, explaining the discord of the job but too comfortable with the stability to quit their tenured position. As I grapple with how I am doing in my own career, I don’t see the shackles as heavy anymore. I enjoy the work tremendously, and I’ve learned to grow with the position and the institution. Things change all the time, and if we don’t change as well, we stay stagnant and hence the “job lock” becomes more unbearable.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

In Search for an Opaque Past

As I search for my family’s past, I've run into many hurdles.  Genealogy is difficult work, particularly for racialized and historically marginalized people. There is an array of special identity documents – called C.I. certificates – that were issued by the Canadian Government exclusively to its Chinese residents. Files were kept of foreign-born Chinese in Vancouver, Victoria and Ottawa. These pieces of paper that were intended to control, contain, monitor and even intimidate this one community continue to be mysteriously hard to access.

Ironically, the very documents that were used to control was somehow forgotten, closed to the descendents who looked for them. About a decade or more ago, I started to research my great-grandfather and his brothers at Vancouver Public Library which has microfiche of C.I.9 records.

A Chinese Immigration Certificate no. 9 (C.I.9) was a Canadian reentry permit for Chinese immigrants, issued between 1910 and 1953. Every C.I.9 had to be returned when the traveler arrived back in Canada. Héritage Canadiana has released digitized records of nearly 5700 C.I.9 certificates from the Port of Vancouver (1928-1930).

These records show Chinese immigrants' travels and provide biographical details like names, occupations, physical descriptions, and departure/return dates. The release sheds light on migration patterns amidst immigration laws and political changes. The documents also offer insights into the photographers and references involved in the application process, reflecting the social dynamics of the time.

But searching for my great-grandfather’s C.I.9 was no easy task. The scholar Lily Cho has argued that while C.I.9 certificates served as passports for noncitizens in Canada, they also highlighted the ambiguity of granting a citizenship right to noncitizens. Despite their detailed records, the system often failed to accurately identify migrants. The certificates, though meticulously archived, revealed the challenges of accessing historical information due to issues like name Anglicization and dialect differences. If it weren’t for knowing the nuances of his village, I would likely never have found his record as his anglicized surname is “Choo” which is different from his gravestone recorded as “Chow.”

The system's reliance on human agents and photographic technology led to vulnerabilities and errors. Agre's concept of "grammars of action" elucidates how systems like the C.I.9 relied on standardized procedures for identification. While the C.I.9s captured vast amounts of information, the distinction between memory and storage underscores their limitations in processing and effectively utilizing this data. Overall, the C.I.9 system exemplifies the complexities and failures of mass information capture in immigration control.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Remembering Self-Care and Vocational Awe in the Post-Pandemic World

This is a wonderful presentation by the scholar Fobazi Ettar as part of the NASIG 2021 Conference. I cherish Ettar's work and am truly inspired by their resilience and perseverance despite their personal challenges.  Fobazi Ettar is well-known for their work on vocational awe and library culture, particularly the impact of idealized narratives on librarianship.  Ettar's ideas have influenced and shaped the way I think about our profession (and broader topics about society, too).   Thus, Ettar and Chris Vidas' “The Future of Libraries:” Vocational Awe in a “Post-COVID” World" is an important follow-up to their seminal piece on vocational awe.

This piece is a timely addition to the scholarship, at a time when the world is just coming to terms coming out of the global pandemic. Ettarh outlines two ground rules: the acknowledgment of vocational awe, a romanticized perception of librarianship that can limit progress, and the encouragement to embrace discomfort for personal and collective growth.

Ettar delves into the perception of libraries and librarians as heroes and champions of democracy, highlighting historical figures like Margaret Edwards, Pura Belpré, Barbara Gittings, the Connecticut Four, and contemporary figures like Sarah Kowalski. Ettarh argues that the love for the job and passion, while positive, can be weaponized to exploit library workers.  The concept of "vocational awe" is explored further, portraying librarianship as a vocation rather than an occupation, leading to an uncritical reverence for libraries.

Ettarh challenges this idealized view, pointing out historical instances of library segregation and discriminatory policies. Ettarh discusses how vocational awe is weaponized in the workplace, with an emphasis on the Taylorism Model, where passion is exploited at the expense of workers' well-being. She cites examples of abuse, such as a lack of work-life separation and job creep, exacerbated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ettar concludes with a call for collective action to set boundaries, work collectively, and resist the exploitation of passion. Ettarh urges us to prioritize self-care, advocating that caring for oneself is an act of political warfare. She emphasizes the need for libraries to evolve beyond a Silicon Valley-driven future, focusing on the well-being of library workers and their communities.

In the scholarship about EDI, there is still an emerging role of self-care for the racialized individual who often bears the brunt of the invisible labour, expected (even required) to do extra duties or the oft-heroic phrase of “working twice as hard as others.” Ettar and Vidas warn us of this with wisdom which seems so simple yet doesn’t seem to be disregarded by our work culture.
Setting aside time for your life, your loved ones, and your hobbies is vitally important. I always like to say there is no such thing as a library emergency. . . That email can wait until Monday morning or the next day.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Absurdities of the Juicero and Libraries

Juicero, circa 2013
Though Julia Glassman is no longer a librarian, her brilliant article, The Innovation Fetish and Slow Librarianship continues to influence the way I view the absurdity of academic libraries during my tenure in this profession.   The article deserves much more attention than I think it gets.   It uses the analogy of a now-defunct and short-lived fad by drawing parallels between the failed Juicero Inc., a Silicon Valley startup producing an expensive and impractical juicing machine, and the pressures faced by academic librarians to constantly innovate in their roles. 

The Juicero, initially marketed as an innovative internet-connected device, was later revealed to be unnecessary as users could achieve the same result by squeezing the juice bags with their hands. The author sees the Juicero as a symptom of late capitalism, emphasizing the pressure for constant innovation in a market saturated with gadgets.

The author relates this to the academic librarian's environment, where career advancement relies on showcasing innovation.  I've certainly experienced this myself, having been caught up in the euphoria of Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the semantic web just a decade ago -- a sign of the obsession with innovation in academic librarianship, driven by a corporatized academia that prioritizes measurable achievements and publications.  The pressure to constantly innovate, often for its own sake, can lead to impractical projects that consume time and resources without addressing genuine needs.

Glassman recounts a scenario where MLIS students suggested changing a popular reading collection to be less "object-centric" without providing a clear vision for the alternative.  Thus, the rush for constant innovation can result in ideas that lack practicality and fail to meet the actual needs of patrons.   

The author reflects on personal experiences of succumbing to the pressure to innovate, even when existing methods were effective.  The obsession with innovation is deeply ingrained in the academic librarian profession, fueled by the need for immediate and tangible outcomes to justify investments.   I've witnessed this myself, playing a hand in accepting directives while secretly scratching my head at the logic of decisions.

I recall one instance of securing an iPad against the pillar in the middle of the library with no purpose other than it looked "innovative" to do so.   It was stolen the next day and quickly ended the innovative and expensive experiment.   Interestingly, the computer workstations adjacent to the iPad seemed to do just fine the decade before and the decade after the stolen iPad initiative. 

As a solution, the article proposes looking to the Slow Movement for guidance, advocating for a Slow Librarianship approach that prioritizes reflection and meaningful practices over a constant pursuit of impressive achievements. This alternative approach aims to provide deeper, more lasting, and more human services to patrons by rejecting the constant need for innovation and allowing for more thoughtful and responsive practices.  It's something that I'm still trying to integrate into my own work and approach to my life.   It's always a work in progress.   Thankfully, it's not considered innovative.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Trauma-Informed Librarianship for Survivors

As part of the Visible Minority Librarians of Canada Network (ViMLoC), I’ve participated in its mentorship program and have met many talented and eager early-career librarians over the years. I had recently caught up with a mentee who was going through a dark period in their life. We had lost touch over the years but the last time we had connected, they had found a dream job and were so ecstatic to begin their career at an academic library institution. I assumed they had been doing well and looking forward to meeting up for coffee. Until we met in person. I was sad to see this person share with me the experiences of microaggressions at the workplace and a toxic and dysfunctional relationship with superiors. As a racialized person, my mentee had faced racism since childhood and witnessed their parents facing discrimination and prejudice as new immigrants. They never thought that they would face this even into adulthood and at work.

Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

This colleague looked like a shadow of the cheerful, upbeat, once-optimistic librarian I had once known.A casualty of workplace bullying and harassment, the daily stress of fighting with their organization, followed by the gaslighting they endured, and the confrontations with their boss had finally worn down my mentee. They even brought their own cushion to the restaurant where we were eating and had to stand up every few minutes to adjust their seat to lessen the pain. Unfortunately, this has become more common now that I’ve entered mid-career in my profession and librarians of colour often seek me out for advice and oftentimes, a shoulder to cry on.

I have been researching EDI and anti-racism in libraries for more than a decade now. I’ve felt that I had hit a bit of a roadblock recently, particularly after I completed my sabbatical and put the final touches for publication. But it all feels rather hollow, especially recently. Instead of celebrating, I am dissatisfied. I feel like I have done very little to move forward in the profession. What have I exactly accomplished with this research anyways? Those of us who push for change look at removing systemic barriers and biases through EDI initiatives, but what about those individuals who have been harmed already? What can we do for them in the meantime?

I have listened to many heart-wrenching stories from survivors of toxic workplaces. Bullying. Gas lighting. The list goes on. My interviews became counselling sessions. These very personal and challenging stories were often accompanied by one medical absence or another. There were so many signs of burnout. I felt helpless to do anything but listen and capture a pattern that I was noticing among interviewees. I now realize that these experiences are trauma.

The research literature indicates that there is a large correlation between chronic stress and health challenges. The trauma expert Dr. Elizabeth Stanley has suggested that chronic stress and trauma should be viewed as part of a continuum; stress over time has the same biopsychosocial effects on individuals as acute trauma. It’s very hard for those who haven’t experienced trauma to truly understand it. An event that is stressful for one person may be traumatizing to another.

When people don’t recover from trauma, the suppressed pain may manifest itself through physical and mental illnesses, and chronic pain. There’s an emerging science of mind-body medicine that suggests that emotional pain often manifests itself physically through the body. Studies show that chronic pain and emotional pain emanate from the same part of the brain. There are some in the medical community, such as Gabor Mate (When the Body Says No) and Bessel van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score) who are part of a movement that explores the mind-body connection. People whose nervous systems are caused by ongoing stress become stuck in a flight-or-fight mode. But this neuroplastic pain is not imaginary: it’s real.

It goes without saying that seeking medical and counselling support is vital in the healing journey. But beyond that, what can we do to help others? What can we do if we are in these untenable situations ourselves? Karina Hagelin, who identifies as a chronically ill and disabled queer femme librarian believes each one of us can help by taking care of ourselves and others with self-compassion. Karina argues that self-care isn’t being selfish. Instead, it’s a cultural shift in how we approach our work to move towards healing — not just for our patrons, but for each other, and for ourselves. We are all survivors. I highly recommend everyone watch the webinar Trauma-Informed Librarianship: Building Communities of Care which shares ten concrete self-care strategies.

Healing is the best revenge” is the name of Karina’s podcast. It’s such a moving and powerful phrase. One that’s so optimistic and hopeful, which is exactly what we need to turn to in times of despair. Libraries do an excellent job in devoting their mission to serving their communities, but often that community does not include their own staff. I recently shared this podcast with my mentee who I think about every day. I hope they know that their healing journey won’t be a lonely one because I will be here by their side.

This post was previously published on Notes Between Us.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Five Labours of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Work by Racialized Academic Librarians

I've been fortunate to collaborate with Silvia Vong (University of Toronto iSchool) and Elaina Norlin (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries) on a project about the retention and recruitment of academic librarians in the United States and Canada.  

One of our two articles was published in the International Journal of Information, Diversity, and Inclusion. We were able to draw a great deal from the interviews and we felt it was important to acknowledge the theme of invisible labour or the different forms of labour that may emerge in EDI and anti-racism work for racialized librarians in academia. Our hope is that this work be valued even more and resources be put towards supporting those that are engaged in the work so that it is more than just a few lines on a CV. 

EDI and anti-racism are important work that deserves support, acknowledgement, and resources. The second article (under review at another OA journal) will focus on institutional aspects such as salary, promotion, etc. Below is the link to the first piece:

The Five Labours of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Work by Racialized Academic Librarians (Silvia Vong, Allan Cho, Elaina Norlin)

Friday, September 22, 2023

Care and Compassion: Why We Need to Learn about Trauma-informed Librarianship

I'm really trying to learn as much as I can about self-care and self-compassion which is integral to healing.   I've been focusing a lot of attention on challenging topics, particularly during my sabbatical, on discrimination, exclusion, gaslighting, bullying, the list goes on,  and much of the effects I witness (and personally experienced myself) is chronic stress of which the effects are only beginning to be understood in the medical world.  The trauma expert Dr. Elizabeth Stanley has suggested that chronic stress and trauma should be viewed as part of a continuum; stress over time has the same biopsychosocial effects on individuals as acute trauma.  As such, many of my colleagues in this profession who have faced the onslaught of chronic stress have either left the profession due to burnout or have suffered mental or chronic health issues.  

I'm seeing an emerging emphasis on Trauma-informed librarianship (TIL) in the library world nowadays, but it's still a rare topic at conference circuits.   I really enjoyed Karina Hagelin's session which I believe can help us open up conversations about taking care of ourselves and others for a better profession.  She is so raw and honest -- so deliberate in her messaging about TIL as a vital practice about creating cultural shifts in how we approach our work to move towards healing -- not just for our patrons, but for each other, and for ourselves.  This webinar introduces what is trauma and how it impacts both individuals and communities; the principles and goals of trauma-informed librarianship; how we can apply this lens to library services in actionable ways to better support survivors in our libraries, whether they are patrons or colleagues; and how we can take care of ourselves too, through 10 concrete self-care strategies.

Karina is such a courageous and engaging speaker, and being a chronically ill and disabled queer femme librarian, they have lived experiences and expertise to help us create better cultures in our libraries that center healing through radical empathy, collective care, and social justice work.  Karina is an Outreach and Instruction Librarian at Cornell University who has a very cool website where you can find more information about her work: 
TIL is a reminder for us to take care of ourselves and to be compassionate to one another.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Living Well, Living Mindfully in a Post-Pandemic World

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” – Victor Hugo
Since the pandemic, I had been living life as if everything was normal even though the world around me seemed to be falling apart. While externally I was fine, internally I was struggling. Early on, I inwardly beamed at a slower pace of life during 2020. But being locked away at home and socially isolated (Zoom actually made things worse) obviously chipped away at my mental wellness. I also hadn’t fully acknowledged life had changed the past few years – my first newborn, the death of a parent, and changing of job duties – just to name a few.

Depression and anxiety are often subtle and brew in the background for years before it ignites. For me, it began with simple insomnia. Then came body aches and pains. Then disrupted sleep. Dread, fear, sadness – all wore away at my psyche. Numerous physical examinations, blood tests and doctor’s visits equated to nothing. Counselling and medication helped for short periods of time.

My body was telling me to slow down my life and figure out what was going on. It was psychosomatic – my body was telling me something, and it probably saved my life. I want to share what helped me get back on my feet. 
  • Daily exercise – In my darkest moments, even simple walks were strenuous. But the exercise was necessary. Getting up and out of the house and breathing air from nature helped immensely. The saying “motion is lotion” is true; the human body requires it to stay grounded. 
  • Mindfulness – I used an app, Calm, for its guided meditation sessions but there are numerous others available. YouTube and podcasts are immensely useful, too. Deep breathing calmed my nervous system and mindfulness lifted me out of the noise and chatter that was actually the source of my angst. 
  •  Joy – To rediscover my hobbies in life – reading, writing, community – including new ones like yoga all enriched my life. It’s hard to do when in the doldrums of life, and might feel counterintuitive, but joy resurfacing became the light that led me out of my tunnel. 
  •  Community – I didn’t quite realize how isolated I was until it hit me hard emotionally. I felt I was ready to jump into the ocean if that meant I could reconnect. After a couple of years of isolation helped me appreciate that colleagues and friends are important reminders that life is more than work. I cherish time for relationships now, old and new.
As a librarian, I often turn to research for support, but surprisingly, the LIS literature is mostly barren on this topic, and much of it is about supporting services for patrons. LIS Interrupted: Intersections of Mental Illness and Library Work is one of the few books devoted to this topic by library workers. I hope there will be more soon. The lived experiences of the authors of each chapter bravely share how each faced their challenges. Mental wellness comes from feeling balanced, connected to others and ready to meet life’s challenges – things that a global pandemic helped me understand.


This was published in Notes Between Us (NBU), a blog about conversations and topics of interest to writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Academic Freedom and Academic Failure

Naoko Shibusawa is a 20th-century U.S. cultural historian who studies U.S. imperialism and political culture with an interest in the ideas and ideologies that undergird the U.S. empire and foreign policy. I was surprised to see Asian American Studies scholar Naoko Shibusawa suspended from her faculty role. Certainly, with all the strange occurrences, Shibusawa's article, Notes on Solidarity From the Field is a must-read as it has sparked controversy within the academy. This is concerning considering the infringement of academic freedom. 

Just like many, I scratch my head wondering what atrocity from this piece led to the harsh impunity against Shibusawa.   Brown University came down hard on Shibusawa, but is this justified?   As one observer tells it:
 Certainly, while the essay (filled with anecdotes) is a reflection piece on the years of her personal frustration with the hurdles and anti-Asian racism in order to build Asian American studies, it doesn't take much imagination to believe that this was the last straw for a university administration that had enough of Shibusawa and was set on penalizing her and this seemingly innocuous article was just the smoking gun it needed. 

Shibusawa's ambiguity in identifying specific events and persons at Brown University makes it difficult if not impossible to disclose much about Brown University's internal politics and players to justify such punishment.    In fact, a number of her examples of bullying, pettiness, and microaggressions are pretty much a day at the office in the dirty business that is academia.  

As such, numerous organizations, such as the Journal of Asian American Studies, have issued public statements in support of Shibusawa.  The Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective has even proposed that Shibusawa's "ethos of solidarity and the tendency for institutional racism and sexism is actually entrenched under the guise of proceduralism of Brown University.   Some observers suggest that current and former students feel that Brown University's punishment is more a response to Shibusawa's record of campus advocacy, including her support of Palestinian rights, defence of staff of colour, and criticism of Charles Koch's donations to the university.  

Now, to be clear, Shibusawa's piece is a multifaceted and complex piece that requires debate and discussion, particularly around the issue of multiracial solidarity and the issues that arise with Asian American Studies and its relationship to other disciplines.   Rather, my concern as in unison with numerous others in the academy is the heavy-handed and unilateral sanctions that Brown University's administration has taken against Shibusawa.   The irony is sharp as Shibusawa illustrates in Notes on Solidarity From the Field the many transgressions that are gendered and ageist and takes forms that are not physically violent.   It sends a shiver down the spine of all academics who produce scholarship.  

Shibusawa leaves a few words of wisdom, foreshadowing perhaps a future in that she imagined she could again be punished for standing tall to remind us "to keep generating energy—to keep our eyes on the greater struggle, ongoing and ever more acute, that requires all the energy we can give."

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Call for Book Chapters: Global Perspectives on Anti-Racism and Anti-Colonial Library Management Practices

Call for Book Chapters

Global Perspectives on Anti-Racism and Anti-Colonial Library Management Practices


  • Allan Cho, University of British Columbia (UBC) Library
  • Silvia Vong, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Libraries
Important Dates
  • Proposals due: July 28, 2023
  • Review period: August 2023
  • Notifications of Acceptance: August 25, 2023
  • The first draft of the chapters is due: on December 29, 2023
  • Review period/feedback: March 29, 2024
  • The second draft of the chapters is due: on July 1, 2024
  • Review period/minor revisions: August 1, 2024
  • Final Manuscript submission: September 1, 2024
  • Target publication date: six months after submission (by editors) of the final manuscript

This book is signed with Facet Publishing and is based on the perspectives and experiences of different practicing librarians, researchers, and educators worldwide, who engage with anti-racist and anti-colonial practices in library and information science (LIS). The book draws on Dei’s meaning of anti-racism and anti-colonialism. Anti-racism moves away from the “preoccupation with individual prejudices and discriminatory actions to the examination of the ways in which racist ideas and individual actions are entrenched and unconsciously supported in institutional structures” (Dei, 1995, p. 13). Anti-colonialism is resistance and counters to dominant Western and Eurocentric thought and practice. George Dei (2006) writes, “Anti-colonial thought is about a ‘decolonizing of the mind’ working with resistant knowledge and claiming the power of local subjects’ intellectual agency” (p. 11). Both of these terms refer to some form of critical action. It is important to note that Sara Ahmed (2012) identifies in On Being Included that institutions and management are largely performative in addressing racism and whiteness in higher education. The editors recognize that management may have historical roots and connections in problematic ideologies and practices. However, rather than focus on talking about the problems, this book focuses on critiquing and offering redress for institutional policies, procedures, and practices that reinforce racist or colonial ideologies that impact underrepresented and/or equity-deserving groups. For that reason, the editors are seeking chapter proposals that move away from common performative practice (e.g., statement writing, document reporting, re-branding) and more towards practical action and changes in library settings.

Global perspectives mean that an effort to ensure a range of perspectives from different countries are included to examine issues of racism and colonialism and its impact on the library as a workplace. The intention is to ensure that different experiences are represented to avoid essentializing or assuming what anti-racism and/or anti-colonial practices look like in different contexts. Through a critical lens that may include postcolonial theory, Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Feminism, etc., Methods that the editors have experience reviewing are qualitative studies that include interviews, surveys, autoethnography, and case studies. In addition, some works may be a literature review, or conceptual. If submitting a proposal and chapter that uses autoethnography, please include details about research ethics, data, data collection, and writing approach.
  • Ahmed, S. (2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke University Press.
  • Sefa Dei, G. J., & Kempf, A. (2006). Anti-Colonialism and Education: The Politics of Resistance. Sense Publishers.
  • Dei, G. J. S. (1995). Integrative Anti-Racism: Intersection of Race, Class, and Gender. Race, Gender & Class, 2(3), 11–30.
  • Present perspectives and experiences of different practicing librarians, researchers, and educators across the world, who engage with anti-racist and/or anti-colonial leaders and/or management practices in LIS
  • Examine the dynamically shifting role between anti-racism and anti-colonialism and library institutions in the context of managing people, information, and collections
  • Bringing awareness and exploring actions managers can take to redress racist or colonial structures and practices.
Target Audience
  • Library practitioners, activists, managers, leaders, etc. interested in engaging in anti-racist and anti-colonial practices
  • The content should be aimed at librarians ready to learn and act to support anti-racism and anti-colonial efforts.
Potential Topics
  • Addressing Colonial Practices in Governance or Organizational Structures in Libraries
  • Decolonizing Leadership and Management
  • Truth and Redress of Colonial Histories/Connections in Institutions
  • Management through a Critical Race Theory or Postcolonial Theory lens
  • Decentering Whiteness in Libraries
  • Cultural Taxation in the Profession
  • Anti-racism in the Library Workplace
  • Laws, and Policies
We are also open to suggestions on topics about anti-racism or anti-colonial practices. Proposals should include references to academic sources.

Please send the following to by July 28, 2023:
  • Name(s)
  • Job Title(s)
  • Institution(s)
  • Section of interest and a 500-word description of the proposed book chapter
  • Please indicate the topic, method, and main point(s) clearly
  • Research involving human participants, including autoethnographies should indicate whether a research ethics or institutional research board approval.
  • References list (APA style)
  • A 250-word bio of the author or authors
Facet Publishing is a leading publisher of books for the information, knowledge and heritage sectors. They publish for a wide range of readers including students, practitioners, educators and researchers, bringing cutting-edge research, practical tools and guidance and thought leadership to the global community.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Bamboo Ceiling Reframed: The Impact of Social Practices in Management on Asian Library Managers

It was such a pleasure to moderate a session featuring my friend and role model librarian, Silvia Vong.   Silvia and I are conducting a research project and it has been an eye-opening working with such a talented individual.   As the Associate Chief Librarian for Scholarly, Research and Creative Activities at Toronto Metropolitan University in Toronto, Silvia has worked in universities for over a decade.  She's completing her Ph.D. research which focuses on the impact of neoliberal conventions and managerialism on equity and anti-racism work in Canadian universities. Silvia draws on the works of Critical Race Theory scholars, Postcolonial Theory, and Bourdieu to examine issues in librarianship.   Her talk is based on a chapter that is published in Libraries as Dysfunctional Organizations and Workplaces.  

In 2005, Jane Hyun, a management consultant, wrote a book titled Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians. Though the text was intended to “introduce” Asians to dominant management practices and workplace culture, the text was problematic in that it essentialized Asians, reiterated deficit narratives, and narratives of the “other.” In an effort to add another perspective to the issue of the lack of representation, Silvia's research was designed with a structuralist approach. Rather than blame or point to a group, the study focused on examining social and organizational barriers through a Bourdieusian and Critical Race Theory lens to identify how dominant structures exclude, reward assimilation, and build into a system, of invisible or taken-for-granted rules.   The talk's presentation slides on Bamboo Ceiling Reframed are here.  

Monday, April 24, 2023

Creating an Edge by Turning Adversity into Advantage

During my sabbatical, I’ve been conducting research on EDI initiatives, in addition to completing my certificate in the EDI Certificate program at UBC. It’s been rewarding, and I’m grateful for the opportunity, but it has been draining and what some call an emotional burden - to listen to, process, and reflect on the inequities of the workplace and the traumatic experiences of library workers who faced discrimination, prejudice, and racism.  I've listened to some truly heartwrenching stories.  

Harvard faculty Laura Huang researches interpersonal relationships and implicit bias in entrepreneurship and in the workplace.  The wonderful aspect of this book is that it’s not limited to any particular subject domain or just the business stories of successful people.  Rather, it’s extraordinary stories of ordinary people who came from disadvantaged backgrounds infused with evidence-based research.  Huang calls this approach EDGE – enrich, delight, and guide – to make your effort go further. These concepts make up the core structure of succeeding within an imperfect system and success ultimately requires knowing who you are so that you can turn that knowledge into an advantage.  Here is Huang's approach to creating one's edge.

Enrich - The ability to provide value to and enrich those around you. The difference between those who truly enrich and bring value to others and those who don’t actually bring value. Those who have an edge demonstrate and communicate the value they bring, rather than leave it up to others to determine.
  • Hard work should be enough; oftentimes, it’s not.
  • Know your weaknesses will help you identify your circle of competence, or “basic goods.” You’ll know not only where you’re valuable, but where you’re invaluable.
  • To use your basic goods in distinct ways, go where others don’t.
  • Embrace constraints as they provide the most opportunities.
  • Trust your intuition and your experiences – your “gut”
Delight - It’s the element of surprise, the unexpected. Delight isn’t about charming, entertaining, or slick. Rather, delight is about violating perceptions, but in a benign way, unsettling and challenging beliefs about your context, grabbing the attention of gatekeepers, and making way for you to show how you enrich
  • Before people let you in, they need to be delighted.
  • Don’t over plan. Instead, aim for flexibility and opportunities to delight.
  • Stay authentic and embrace how delight occurs in situ.
Guide - Empowering ourselves to guide our own contexts. When you know how others see you, it gives you the capacity to guide and redirect that perception, so that you can influence how people grasp and appreciate the value you command.
  • "Being yourself” means guiding others to the best versions of your multiple identities.
  • Know how others see you, so you can redirect them to how they should see you.
  • Guide others to what is within you by recognizing what is around you.
  • Guide how others see your trajectory. It’s not where you’ve been; it’s where you’re going.
Effort - Effort and hard work reinforce the edge that you create for yourself. Gaining an edge requires hard work, plus. You need hard work, but when so many factors are driven by outside forces, you also need to know how to allocate effort.
  • Turn adversity into your edge.
Laura Huang proposes that rather than spinning our wheels and feeling sorry for ourselves for these injustices, we need to accept the reality of our disadvantages and do something about it.   It's an inspiring monograph for those who have faced discrimination and seem to hit a wall all the time.  As a person of colour who grew up in an immigrant household and was the first to have gone to university in my family, I've faced racism and microaggressions as many of my generation and background have.  This book offers some solace.      
“Your past is not something that you should lament; it should be another asset in how you gain your unique advantage. Let your past make you better, no bitter.”

Friday, April 07, 2023

Rest is Resistance as Liberation

I learned about this book from the EDI Scholar-in-Residence, Nneka Allen, who introduced the concept of rest to the audience.   What a lifechanging moment.   I couldn't put down Tricia Hersey's book once I picked it up.  Rest is not a luxury, but resistance against grind culture.  Rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy. But Tricia Hersey argues that resting is not intended for us to come back stronger and more productive for a capitalist system. 

As someone who has grown up and is born in this system and culture, the idea of rest is a novel concept to me.   Rest is a deep movement of deprogramming our minds to discard this false belief of striving for constant perfectionism. Because capitalism has captured most of us, we are under the spell of the hustle-and-grind culture that compels society to the “unreachable finish line of wealth.” Rest is not encouraged or modeled in such a culture.  Some of the key highlights I want to share here:

“Students are being trained to be workers who can follow orders, memorize facts, and be on time no mater what. Imagination and critical thinking skills are replaced with cookie-cutter learning and standardized testing"

“We have been socialized, manipulated, and indoctrinated by everything in culture to believe the lies of grind culture. In order for a capitalist system to thrive, our false beliefs in productivity and labor must remain"

“We center rest as a means for healing and liberation. We believe sleep deprivation is a racial and social justice issue"

“Rest is resistance because it is a counternarrative to the script of capitalism and white supremacy for all people"

“Unlike white feminism, womanism holds space for race, class, and gender and understands the family and community of Black woman are collaborators in the struggle for liberation” 

“We can . . . begin to honor our bodies and trust our ability to learn new ways of being. We don’t have to be burned out, sleep-deprived, painfully exhausted, or disconnected from our selves and each other"

“I name academia as one of the main sites of grind culture. The headquarters of pushing through exhaustion, competition, expectations, and a lack of balance. people live in the library never once leaving, bringing sleeping bags to lay under tables and in between bookshelves. . ."

“The stress, anxiety, overloaded curriculum, and pressure we normalize in public schools and higher education are toxic and dangerous for everyone involved, but particularly toxic for young children and young adults who are still developing a sense of self . . . we seek external validation from a violent system void of love"

“. . . resting is a connection and a path back to our true nature. We are stripped down to who we really were before the terror of capitalism and white supremacy"

“The system has been lying and guiding us all blindly to urgent and unsustainable fantasies. We have replaced our inherent self-esteem with toxic productivity"

“You don’t have to always be creating, doing, and contributing to the world. Your birth grants you rest and leisure as well"

Naps are about a “deep journey toward decolonizing and returning to our natural state before the terror and the lies were given to us"

“We are going up against such violent systems in our attempt to disrupt and push back: white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, patriarchy, classism, anti-Blackness, homophobia, etc"

“Go to your beds. Go to your couches. Find a hammock. Go into the portal of naps. Go there often. You don’t have to wait on permission from the dominant culture"

Tricia Hersey suggests a 30-day sabbath, a quarantine and liberation from our grind culture, and focusing instead on rest. It means not only detoxing from technology and social media but announcing and making it clear as possible to everyone in your spheres that you will not be available during this time. Without a model from our culture for what it looks like to stop and pause, a sabbath is an opportunity for “intense imagination work and collaboration with Spirit” even if it’s for ten minutes, a weekend, or a month.” Whatever it is, this rest should be unique to us and only us.  

Monday, April 03, 2023

Future Horizons: Canadian Digital Humanities

It's been a few years of hard work and many fruitful research discussions with my research partner, Sarah Zhang, and the fruits of our labour are out with our chapter in Future Horizons: Canadian Digital Humanities.   When we first started out together on this project, we worked on with the historical dataset of the Chinese headtax registers (the records of migrants as they stepped off the ship and onto Canadian soil).  In 2019, we were asked to present at Paul Barrett's graduate studies seminar where we talked about the migrants' head tax, GIS, and digital humanities.  From there, we worked on presenting it at conferences.   In 2021, we were asked to submit a chapter to a book that Sarah Roger and Paul Barrett were thinking about putting together.  And in April 2023, it was finally published.  
Across more than twenty chapters, Future Horizons explores the past, present, and future of digital humanities research, teaching, and experimentation in Canada. Bringing together work by established and emerging scholars, this collection presents contemporary initiatives in digital humanities alongside a reassessment of the field’s legacy to date and conversations about its future potential. It also offers a historical view of the important, yet largely unknown, digital projects in Canada. 
Future Horizons offers deep dives into projects that enlist a diverse range of approaches—from digital games to makerspaces, sound archives to born-digital poetry, visual arts to digital textual analysis—and that work with both historical and contemporary Canadian materials. The essays demonstrate how these diverse approaches challenge disciplinary knowledge by enabling humanities researchers to ask new questions.

The collection challenges the idea that there is either a single definition of digital humanities or a collective national identity. By looking to digital engagements with race, Indigeneity, gender, and sexuality—not to mention history, poetry, and nationhood—this volume expands what it means to work at the intersection of digital humanities and humanities in Canada today.

1. Digital Canadas? Transforming the Nation — Sarah Roger and Paul Barrett

Part 1. Situating and Disrupting Digital Scholarship
2. Where Is the Nation in Digital Humanities, Revisited — Roopika Risam
3. Rerouting Digital (Humanities) Scholarship in Canada — Andrea Zeffiro
4. Closed, Open, Stopped: Indigenous Sovereignty and the Possibility of Decolonial DH — David Gaertner
5. “This Game Needs to be Made”: Playable Theories ⇌ Virtual Worlds — Jon Saklfoske
6. Reimagining Representational Codes in Data Visualization: What Contemporary Digital Humanities Might Learn from Visual Arts-Based Disciplines — Julia Polyck-O’Neill
7. Making, Conversation: An Experiment in Public Digital Humanities — Kim Martin and Rashmeet Kaur

Part 2. Digital Poetics
8. Canadian Poetry and the Computational Concordance: Sandra Djwa and the Early History of Canadian Humanities Computing — Sarah Roger, Paul Barrett, and Kiera Obbard
9. Canadian Poetry and the Computer — Sandra Djwa
10. “saga uv th relees uv human spirit from compuewterr funckshuns”: Space Conquest, IBM, and the Anti-digital Anxiety of Early Canadian Digital Poetics (1960–1968) — Gregory Betts
11. From the Digits to the Digital: Bodies in the Machines of Canadian Concrete Poetics — Eric Schmaltz
12. Nations of Touch: The Politics of Electronic Literature as Digital Humanities — Dani Spinosa
13. STOP WORDS — Klara du Plessis

Part 3. Digital Canadian Archives
14. Wages Due Both Then and Now — Pascale Dangoisse, Constance Crompton, and Michelle Schwartz
15. Analog Thrills, Digital Spills: On the Fred Wah Digital Archive version 2.0 — Deanna Fong and Ryan Fitzpatrick
16. Humanizing the Archive: The potential of Hip-Hop archives in the digital humanities — Mark Campbell
17. Sounding Digital Humanities — Katherine McLeod
18. Unsettling Colonial Mapping: Sonic-Spatial Representations of amiskwaciwâskahikan — Kendra Cowley
19. Beyond “Mere Digitization”: Introducing the Canadian Modernist Magazines Project — Graham H. Jensen
20. “A Legacy of Race and Data: Mining the History of Exclusion” — Allan Cho and Sarah Zhang