Some reflections

Note: I wrote this post last weekend, but have not posted it until today. This was written primarily to get some thoughts out on paper, and not a detailed overview of recent events, nor it was intended to be as such.

Also, the last time I checked the settings, comments are moderated on the blog. They will probably not show up to the public until the evening, when I’m back home from work. I can’t seem to train the cats to do comment moderation for me. Good-for-nothing, freeloading cats…


Here I am, sitting at my computer, processing what happened in the last couple of days. The following is part “going through what happened”, and part me thinking out loud.

How did I get here?

A few weeks ago, Bess Sadler posted on the code4lib listserv with a request that code4lib adopt an anti-harassment policy similar to those that were being adopted by other technology conferences. The initial post prompted many +1s and the anti-harassment policy began to take shape in github.

Then the conversation continued, and after a survey and more discussion, the suggestion for a code4libwomen showed up… and then more discussion. Technically, since code4lib is not a formal organization, anyone could do something in the name of the group, whether there is group consensus or not. However, since we are librarians, and librarians like going through approval processes, sometimes people ask. And when you ask for opinions on the Internet, you’ll get them. On occasion, you might even get one of mine, which is the case in the code4libwomen discussion.

My opinion? A code4libwomen group wouldn’t be effective.

Why? Twofold:

  1. While a separate group might be conducive to more women actively participating in that group, if there are no mechanisms to bring that participation to the larger group, then, effectively, the smaller group has segregated itself from the rest of the organization.

Point 1 is more of a procedural issue with the code4libwomen idea that could be addressed with a lot of organizational policies, prompts, and mechanisms that would have to be built into the group.[1]  Point 2, however, happens to be the bigger reason why I found myself not married to the idea:

  1. It doesn’t go far enough.

So, let’s say a code4libwomen group does form, and it functions well. Great, but that group only covers a subsection of the population of women in library technology. What about LITA? ASIST? State library associations? And what about those who don’t feel that they don’t belong in either LITA or code4lib? That’s a big group of people who wouldn’t benefit from such a group if that group was tied to an organization that they are not a part of. If we get all the other organizations creating their own groups, then we end up with a hodge-podge of subgroups with varying effectiveness and few chances of collaboration between other organizations. Again, this also leaves out folks who don’t identify with any organization.

And, after Lisa Rabey and I ended up in an IRC channel for further discussion on related ideas, #libtechwomen was born.

What do I think #libtechwomen should be? Here’s what I have so far:

  • A place for women to get training, advice, and encouragement in a neutral environment that is not tied to a single organization, so we can include all types from the library technology field: coders, network admins, sysadmins, tech managers, and those who want to learn about any of the above.
  • A group that want to advocate for women in library technology. That group is made up of anyone that wants to help – everyone on the gender spectrum – and can partner with various organizations when opportunities arise.

The biggest part for me about my hopes for #libtechwomen is this – that the people who benefit from the group go out and contribute to the greater library technology community. I plan to kidnap people from this group to various code4lib events, because code4lib for me has been a place where I could grow in my skills as well as meet folks who are dedicated to what they do. I know that there will be others in #libtechwomen that will lend a hand to those who want someone to help them navigate an organization such as LITA, code4lib, EDUCAUSE, state library organizations, and so on. The biggest potential benefit from this group is overall growth in participation in library technology by women and transgendered women. If we find ourselves with a majority folks in #libtechwomen that never leave the confines of the group, then the group finds itself in the situation that I hoped to avoid in the first place – yet another silo in the sea of siloes in the library community.

Perhaps I’m being too optimistic about this. I haven’t been on the receiving end of any blatant harassment in the library technology community, but I have heard stories of others that have encountered it. Some folks might say that I’m not going far enough with my thoughts on #libtechwomen, and I’m not sure if I’ll be comfortable with some of the directions that people will want to take #libtechwomen. That’s something that I have to deal with, like in any other area of my work life.

Also, #libtechwomen does not directly deal with other groups that are in a similar situation that women and transgendered women. I realize that even though I can be an ally, I need to let others take the lead for those folks who decide to tackle those issues for their respective groups. Then again, there’s starting to be discussion about the name of the group, and if the name – along with the focus – should change to something more inclusive to other underrepresented groups in technology. If that discussion comes to fruition and the name does change, I’d support the change.

So, here I am, sitting at my computer, processing the events of the last few days. It might be a while before I’m able to process everything.

 


[1] Formal organization and code4lib has had a mixed past. For example, post that code4lib should become a formal organization (501(c)). Make some popcorn and grab a soda. Get comfortable in your chair and watch the conversation unfold.