I am back at my desk in Brooklyn after a weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, staring at my screen and wondering how to get back to the ordinary tasks of my worklife. So I thought I’d write up a few brief reflections on what was, for me, a really wonderful event. I’m going to do it in a numbered list, since I’m jet lagged and behind on three writing deadlines.
- Organizing with good people makes all the difference in the world. Baharak Yousefi and Tara Robertson are two such good people. Competent, willing to do the clerical work, with expansive political visions that rooted every decision in discussions of representation, accessibility, and power. We didn’t do a perfect job, but we were explicit about what we were doing. That’s rare. I also enjoyed the surprise of just agreeing with people most of the time on everything from fruit kebobs at breakfast to the keynote address to codes of conduct. It’s so relaxing. Is this what it’s like when the dominant ideology is your own? I see why people are so into that!
- Bodies matter. I know this should be a given at a colloquium about gender and sexuality, but for me it really isn’t. Baharak suggested Vanessa Richards as our keynote. “She’ll lead us in song!” I was skeptical. I don’t like singing. I am a brain in a jar who can type 100 words a minute but has to be reminded to breathe. But because I trust Baharak, I trusted her choice, and she was right on. Vanessa led us in call-and-response singing to start the day and it was magic. Everywhere I looked around the room, people were crying, laughing, dancing, clapping. Our voices sounded amazing. I have an embodied bond with everyone who was there on Saturday. I can’t wait to sing with them again. Magic. Next time you get to choose the keynote, choose Vanessa Richards!
- Single stream works great. The first time around, I really wanted to maximize the number of people who were able to share their work and we ended up with three tracks, you could only see a fraction of what people were talking about. Tara argued for single stream, and she was totally right. We all saw the same talks, shared the same Q&As, took the same breaks to get the same cups of coffee. We shared a common experience. I really saw the value of that among the folks who came out to Malone’s afterwards to share nachos and beer. Usually I go to the social event and have nothing to say beyond, “Are you having a good time?” But this time, it was like we’d all read the same texts. Just so much more ground connecting us. Beers were more fun, and whatever collaborations and connections come out of the day will be more fun too.
- On a totally personal note, the joy I felt as the day went on, as we came back from lunch and pretty much everybody came back because we were all having such a good time, the pleasure I took from knowing that the work I’d been doing behind my desk for more than a year had led to a gaggle of students talking excitedly about advocating for the kind of library school experience they want to have, to people who didn’t know each other in the morning buying each other beers at night, well, it was more joy and pleasure than I have felt in awhile. My dad died in a crosswalk in December, hit by a guy driving a Ford F150. It has just been the saddest thing, and I have felt like I’ve had my head in a pillow, Vaseline on my glasses, encased in six inches of Plexiglass, I haven’t landed on quite the right metaphor yet, but everything that’s happened since then, especially the good things, has been held at some reserve, arms length, I haven’t taken the kind of joy in things that I am used to taking in things. One thing I learned from my dad was how to have a really good time, I’m great at enjoying myself, and since he’s been gone, I haven’t really been able to do that. I was able to do that in moments on Saturday, to feel like my work had made a good thing happen in the world, not only for other people, but for me too. I am so grateful to the 100+ folks that gathered on the waterfront in Vancouver on Saturday for what turned out to be a pretty cathartic day for me. I did so much crying! Can’t wait to do it again.
So! Doing it again! We should, shouldn’t we? The colloquium is linked to this book series that I edit for Library Juice Press/Litwin Books, and it sort of travels around where we can find people who are willing to host us. Are you the people that want to put this together with me? I hope so! Send me an email at email@example.com and let’s talk.