Where have you been?

Um hi. It’s been a while. Did this fall off my radar or become a point of frustration and procrastination? Maybe both. I’ve been doing some writing in other places, but mostly a lot of frustrated journaling and even more not writing at all.

It’s been an unusual few years since my last post here in *ahem* 2020.

Just imagine me throwing my arms around wildly and saying ‘life huh!’. We’ve run the gamut of all of life in our household since then, COVID-19 (duh), lockdowns, working from home, renovations, major MAJOR life changes for the young people in my life, major changes for me as well. Is that vague enough? Good.

Anyhow, let me tell you about some cool and interesting things I’ve read and listened to and watched in the last little while, there’s enough brain matter for that at least.

The Boys. This is the best TV show I’ve ever seen. Don’t think I sat still for an entire episode, it simultaneously scares the crap out of me and makes me shriek with laughter AND THEN cringe with disgust.

Everything Everywhere All At Once. If I never watch another movie, that will be ok because I’ve seen this chaotic, beautiful masterpiece.

Music That Doesn’t Sound The Same – hands down the one of the best playlists my ears and brain have ever listened to. Discovered on TikTok, listened to weekly. Big thanks Somewhere Soul. (Bonus playlist, his French Hip Hop playlist is EXCELLENT getting shit done music).

So that’s about it for now. See you in a couple of years??

Finding alt-HSC

Asking Twitter for advice often doesn’t seem like the best idea, however, over the last week, I’ve received an outpouring of advice, support and information about alternatives to the Higher School Certificate aka year 12.

Our son hasn’t enjoyed the last few years of school, he’s chafed against the structure, lost his love of favourite subjects and is feeling, as many of us did at the end of 13 years of school, directionless. Not to mention COVID-19 and that overwhelming sense of will life ever return to normal, will there be an economy, what about climate change?

Every year, there are news articles about whether there’s any true value in ATARs any more and are year 12 exams worth the stress. Many well known faces pipe up right about now and say that they are doing really well despite doing badly in their year 12 exams. Every year. Yet nothing changes.

Young people are told to ‘focus your energy on these exams, but remember there’s more to life than this, but focus your energies and this one pathway will get you where you want’. I remember these conversations with the careers counsellor at my school and that was 27 years ago!

Before I start to rant, I’ll share the entire Twitter thread of advice from folk who have all types of careers and lives since finishing or not finishing year 12.

From PhDs to carpenters to mature age students, to TAFE graduates, to people who worked their way up from the first job . . . THIS is what our children need to know about. ALL the pathways. Add these conversations to careers subjects at high school!

As for what’s happening here. We’ve used all these golden nuggets of advice and support to keep talking about what’s next, what can wait and how to be well now.

And we are talking about a family side project, a website with all the information found in these tweets plus more that we’ve discovered all in one place. An alt-HSC guide for kids who need it. And for adults to who want to share their story.

More soon.

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.

Headspace on 1800 650 890.

Stop and ask why

In 2018 I pushed myself to learn more about critical librarianship by reading more and listening. At ALIA Sydney’s Saturday School of Critical Librarianship a few key voices in the room constantly reminded us that as library people, we see a problem, and more often than not, immediately jump to finding a solution. You know what I’m talking about. It’s like an automatic library reflex, solutions are comfortable.

As a profession, we need to STOP looking for solutions (e.g. programs, events, displays) when we talk about decolonisation, racism, homophobia, the fact that library people still make the grand claim that “libraries are neutral” . . . but instead look at WHY.

BUT there are issues within the library profession that need more than immediate solutions.

Power structures, racism, recognising Indigenous knowledge, classification . . . this is the uncomfortable part of librarianship, because we have to admit that the profession has made and is still making mistakes. That there are library people who don’t want Drag Queen Storytime and LGBTQI+ collections, that we don’t want to admit that collections are heavily weighted towards white privilege and white history. That libraries are NOT safe spaces for all and that includes library staff. That being a community hub means being welcoming  to everyone that comes in, and that many members of the community don’t visit libraries because they don’t feel welcome, included and seen.

In a world that is fundamentally unequal, neutrality upholds inequality and represents indifference to the marginalization of members of our community. If the majority of what is published represents a white, male, Christian, heteronormative worldview, then we are not supporting the interests of other members of our communities by primarily buying those works.

Meredith Farkas

Conversations I’ve had and articles I’ve read about this topic show me that we have a long way to go. I have a long way to go in understanding critical librarianship.

Some library folk don’t like to hear these statements, it makes them uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. Of course it does. No-one likes to hear that they aren’t the all knowing, kind, benevolent sharers of knowledge the the memes say we are.

Where do we begin? I’ll say it again. By stopping before reaching for a solution, a program, a class, an experience. Stop and think about what stops or discourages people from using libraries in the first place. About power, racism and colonisation. Stop and think what diversity in the library workforce actually means (I agree with Archival Decolonist – diversity means disruption). Think about the language we use and the books and resources we add to collections. Think critically.

We need to stop and have the difficult conversations otherwise, we will never change, learn or be “a place for everyone”. The critical librarianship (and radical librarianship) movements are growing, but we cannot rely on one group of library people to change it all. We all need to listen. Really listen and then find solutions.

We can’t do it all. I really liked a point Kirsty Thorpe made about gaining power through focus—as library workers, choosing an area to focus on and directing energies towards making that area better, focusing on a couple of select things we can do, rather than spreading ourselves too thinly on things we can’t.

Alissa McCulloch aka Lissertations

Read more. Be ok with discomfort and criticism. Listen without adding your two cents.

P.S. This shared doc created for the #SydCritLib event is absolutely BURSTING with articles, blog posts and books about critical librarianship. If you don’t know where to start, start with this.

Never Neutral. (2018, June 04). Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2017/01/03/never-neutral-critlib-technology/

Alissa. (2018, November 11). Five things I learned from #SydCritLib, the Saturday School of Critical Librarianship. Retrieved from https://lissertations.net/post/1035

2019 in books – or the year of did not finish

2019 was my ‘worst’ year of reading for a long time. I abandoned more books than I finished. My bedside table has unread books on it from the start of 2019 and my various iPad book apps are loaded with books returned after a few pages or just left to automatically return without being finished.

I’ve spent a few days trying to pinpoint why this happened and haven’t reached any conclusions. My preferences haven’t really changed – fantasy, YA, fairytales, historical fiction, non-fiction…I am focusing more on female, LGBTQIA+ and non-binary stories and character.

I do know that my tolerance for stories about women being assaulted, treated badly, used as a crappy excuse for a plot device or any awful behaviour towards women (that goes for film and TV too) is zero. One of my last attempted reads of 2019 was a beautifully written book, however the sense of foreboding and impending doom of the main female character was too much and I had to stop.

Do I put it down a challenging year with not much head space left for reading for pleasure? Maybe.

What did I finish and love this year? Here are my best reads of 2019.

The Poison Song (Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy) by Jen Williams. I’ve raved about this book quite a bit on Twitter and to anyone who will listen. Jen has written the perfect ending to a fantasy story I absolutely loved. There were many tears shed over this book, and the story if full of strong, feminist characters that take no shit. Glorious, funny, brilliant. 5 million stars.

The Binding by Bridget Collins. This novel that has stayed with me since finishing. I went back and re-read it straight away and have just downloaded the e-book. This story is beautiful, haunting and unexpected. Also 5 million stars.

That’s it! A slow year for me (and a very out of date GoodReads list…).

Got any book recommendations for me? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter!

Note: I started Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green on 1 January and finished it on 2 January and loved it. Fingers crossed 2020 will be year of more finished books!

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