The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the library profession. Over the last year, librarians and library and information school (LIS) educators and students have been forced into new ways of working, learning, and being. And the uncertainties of the pandemic have been compounded by a racial and social justice awakening, which has shined a long overdue light on existing societal inequities, and which requires meaningful change.
In libraries, for example, it was often the Black, Brown, and less affluent staff members who were required to report to work during the pandemic, sometimes lacking the proper personal protective equipment or other suitable safety protocols. Not only did these staff members disproportionately face the prospect of getting sick or losing their jobs, they often dealt with hostile patrons, and indifferent administrators and public officials.
In library schools, LIS students and faculty found themselves teaching and learning in new ways, often with inconsistent technology and resources, and frequently under the assumption that everyone had the necessary equipment and infrastructure to work and learn from home. A year later, few of these issues have been met appropriately or adequately addressed by the profession.
And there are countless stories and anecdotes over the last year in which librarians and LIS professionals were encouraged to practice "self-care" in an effort to cope with challenging circumstances: do yoga, take a bubble bath, take a nap, talk to friends. While those individual practices may help ease one's personal stress, such advice does nothing to address the systemic barriers and inequities in the workplace that are causing such stress in the first place, and unfairly shifts the burden to individuals who are suffering.
To this end, season two of The Skillset Podcast is dedicated to the topic of "collective care." As opposed to self-care, collective care focuses on the need to care for each other in addition to the one's self. Throughout this season, guests will tell us how collective care shows up in the work that they do in their own libraries and organizations.
Hosted by R. David Lankes and Nicole A. Cooke,The Skillset Podcast features weekly conversations with librarians and other key players in the library and information world seeking to illuminate the complex issues facing libraries and other institutions in these unprecedented times. The podcast is a joint effort from the University of South Carolina School of Information Science, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair, the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, in partnership with Publishers Weekly.
The podcast is free to listen to and download. New episodes will post on Mondays and will be featured in Publishers Weekly's Preview for Librarians e-newsletter on Fridays.
The full first season of The Skillset Podcast, which centered on the work of libraries in the wake of the pandemic and the nationwide protests for social and racial justice, is archived and freely available for download.
The Skillset Podcast Season Two: Current Episode
Dr. Noah Lenstra is an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he brings a community engagement approach to the study and teaching of libraries. Notably, Noah founded the Let’s Move in Libraries Initiative, which focuses on supporting healthy living in public libraries. The project was inspired by Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which focused on increasing Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) among Americans. Let’s Move in Libraries continues Obama's legacy by working to increase physical activity through libraries in the U.S., Canada, and other places in the world.
Season Two: Previous Episodes
Nicole A. Cooke talks with Forrest Evans, reference librarian at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, a branch of the Fulton County Library System in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to African American history, culture, and literature. An experienced librarian and a published poet, Evans has been building a thriving community on social media with her “Favorite Librarian” accounts, where she highlights the beauty of Black literature.
In this short explainer, co-host R. David Lankes talks about what listeners can expect from Season Two of The Skillset Podcast, which will focus on collective care, community health and staff well-being as librarians continue to wrestle with the immediate threat from Covid-19, the work that needs to be done toward racial and social justice, and the longer term changes necessitated by these historic events.
In this second special episode of The Skillset Podcast, R. David Lankes and Mike Eisenberg continue their conversation on how libraries can lead in creating our post-pandemic new normal. In this followup, Mike and Dave discuss vaccines and how libraries can support the rollout, along with other interesting bits from the week’s library news.
Season Two of The Skillset Podcast gets started with wide-ranging discussion between R. David Lankes and Mike Eisenberg, Professor and Dean Emeritus and the founding dean of the Information School at the University of Washington. The discussion is the first installment of a special periodic discussion within Season Two of the Skillset Podcast, dubbed Libraries Lead in the New Normal. These episodes will offer additional analysis and discussion of how libraries can take the lead as we begin to consider life after the pandemic.