This post is inspired by a number of discussions in the library profession over the past few years. Fobazi Ettarh’s article Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves in In Library with the Lead Pipe, the Symposium on Invisible Work in the Digital Humanities at Florida State University, and Stacie Williams’ keynote “All Labor is Local” from the 2016 Digital Library Forum to name a few.
At OpenCon 2016, there was an unconference session in which many of us (whether librarians, researchers, students or other advocates) could commiserate about the specific kinds of burnout we experience. We started to get into how each of us coped, particularly with having to be the motivated, optimistic advocate who will educate, inspire and be prepared for resistance or difficult conversations. In a North American regional session at OpenCon 2017, we mapped out pain points and highlights for personas using design thinking. Those who were not librarians were intrigued by the common thread of multiple librarian personas (designated library advocates, other librarians who do open advocacy in addition to their regular responsibilities) who were doing a lot of work with little highlights to report. A third example is the increase of Memorandums of Understandings used in open or digital projects to transform heavy workloads with multiple stakeholders from traditional, subservient “service” to a collaborative, accountable “partnership”. It is disappointing how easy it is for one example to remind me of yet another.
It is commonplace to see a great article like Imagining the “open” university: Sharing scholarship to improve research and education leave out the role of libraries or for open science researchers to keynote conferences, but not librarians. It is common for us to have a seat at the table, but be left out afterwards. Open advocacy has been the core of many of our careers in librarianship. Beyond a perhaps egotistical observation about the lack of labor recognition from our collaborators, is the toxic notion that acting as silent martyrs for the open movement is all just part of the job. Who will advocate for us? Are we to advocate for ourselves?
To be constructive, and not just air grievances, I’d like to shamelessly plug the Open Action Kit and #openpros community on Twitter. I am a member of the Open Action Kit Team [full disclosure]. When the group was brought together by SPARC, we quickly got into a conversation about how lack of awareness of the work that goes into open advocacy can be an obstacle to translating its value into traditional measures or objectives. We hope the toolkit can be of use to advocates.