Fobazi M. Ettarh
Fobazi M. Ettarh is a Student Success Librarian at California State Dominguez Hills. A school librarian by training, she specializes in information literacy instruction, K-12 educational pedagogy, and co-curricular outreach. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, equity, diversity, and inclusion within librarianship and the intersections of organizational structures, power, and labor. Recently, she coined and defined the concept of vocational awe, as seen in the article Vocational Awe: The Lies We Tell Ourselves. Fobazi was recognized as a 2017 ALA Emerging Leader.
Becoming a Proud “Bad Librarian”: Dismantling Vocational Awe in Librarianship
Vocational awe describes the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in notions that libraries as institutions are inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique. It is a term that openly exposes the exploitative nature of common rhetoric around librarianship and libraries, and allows for the opening up of what it means to be a “good” librarian. According to Deborah Hicks, the professional identity of a librarian “transcends other non-professional identities, such as one’s gender or race identity…” (2016). Taken to its extreme, this means that the ideal librarian is one whose other identities are subsumed by the “noble calling” of library work to the exclusion, and even detriment, of anything else. Librarianship, as a field, also has an identity – one tied to its purported values. A common rhetoric is that libraries, and librarianship, are the last bastions of democracy. Vocational awe permeates the narratives surrounding the ideal identities of librarians and librarianship. Because vocational awe also intersects with the problematic rhetoric of “do what you love” (Tokumitsu 2015), which enables the exploitation of librarians as workers by eliminating the distinction between personal and professional identities, librarianship cannot be critiqued without the critic being labeled a “bad librarian.” Indeed, vocational awe is threaded so tightly throughout the professional narrative of librarianship that it is weaponized against those who might highlight the ways librarianship has, does, (and inevitably will), flounder and fail in fulfilling its professed values. When there is immense resistance to merely acknowledging flaws in our professional values and practice, how can we work towards meaningful change? I argue: only through dismantling vocational awe and recasting the narrative of what it means to be a librarian.
Rajiv Jhangiani is a Special Advisor to the Provost on Open Education and a Psychology Professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, BC, where he conducts research in open education and the scholarship of teaching and learning. A recipient of the Robert E. Knox Master Teacher Award from the University of British Columbia and the Dean of Arts Teaching Excellence award at KPU, Dr. Jhangiani also serves as an Associate Editor of Psychology Learning and Teaching and an Ambassador for the Center for Open Science. Formerly an Open Education Advisor at BCcampus and a Faculty Workshop Facilitator with the Open Textbook Network, Dr. Jhangiani’s books include A Compendium of Scales for Use in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2015) and Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (2017). You can find him online at @thatpsychprof or thatpsychprof.com.
Beyond free: A social justice vision for open education
The open education movement wants to be a force for equity. The argument is straightforward and powerful: Widen access to educational resources and marginalized students who disproportionately suffer at the hands of the exploitative business models of commercial textbook publishers will disproportionately benefit, in both economic and educational terms. However, as the open education movement has matured, its vision has expanded beyond an emphasis on free open educational resources to the freedoms that flow from open educational practices. The contemporary open education movement thus represents an access-oriented commitment to learner-driven education, a force for the democratization of knowledge that challenges neoliberal forces that pit increasingly precarious faculty against increasingly precarious students. However, open is not a panacea and an uncritical approach risks perpetrating harm with the best of intentions. As natural leaders of campus OER initiatives, academic librarians should recognize that adopting digital technologies (even those branded as “inclusive”) solve some access issues while masking and exacerbating others, that accessibility is not a retrofit to access, that open is not the opposite of private, and that not everything could (or even should) be open. This presentation outlines a social justice vision for open education that is both broader and more critical, one that contemplates its true potential while being mindful of its pitfalls.