Abolitionist De-Escalation and the Library is a poster in the 2020 PNLA Virtual Poster Session. We encourage you to engage in discussion by leaving a comment on the page. The author of the poster will respond to comments the week of August 4-7, 2020.

Presenter: Katy Anastasi

Track: Academic Library

Abstract:
As calls for abolishing the police gain momentum in the United States, academic libraries and library workers are confronted with our own relationship(s) to white supremacy, racist policing, and the prison-industrial complex (PIC).

Without awareness of police violence, deescalation tactics, and alternatives to policing, library workers may feel that dishing off an issue in the library to armed security or police is the safest or easiest option (or, even, a policy). Increasing the presence of officers with lethal weapons and track records of racist, sexist, and ableist violence, however, can further endanger the lives of many library patrons and staff — and especially our Black and disabled community members.

The grassroots abolitionist organization Critical Resistance reminds us that PIC abolitionists strive to “create lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.” Abolitionists call for investing in community-based systems of care, support, safety, and accountability. As most libraries remain physically closed due to COVID-19 while local police and federal officers brutalize Black Lives Matter protesters across the country, I argue that libraries have not only the opportunity, but also the responsibility, to take steps towards eliminating our complicity in the PIC.

Drawing from my experience as a new-to-the-field, part-time reference librarian, my presentation explores PIC abolition and deescalation as they relate to libraries. Grounded in an abolitionist framework, I propose possible steps and resources for library workers interested in joining the movement to abolish policing as we know it and, together, build a safer and more just world.

Poster:

Supporting Materials:

About the Presenter: Katy Anastasi (kathryn.anastasi@gmail.com) is an academic librarian and advocate of open educational resources (OER). She most recently worked at Portland State University as a part-time Reference Librarian and OER Publishing Assistant. In 2019, she graduated from the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS) at Queens College, CUNY. During her time as a CUNY student, she also worked as an Adjunct Librarian and OER Fellow at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). Katy is a weaving novice, a seasoned basketball player, and a fiction-lover. She will join Clark College as a Reference & Instruction Librarian in September 2020.

 

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Rick
2 months ago

Katy — what a great presentation. Your topic is timely and interesting. These are important discussions to have. I am thankful you will be in the Oregon and Pacific Northwest library community to help start these conversations. Please consider sharing your document and presentation on the PNLA listserv – https://groups.io/g/PNLA

katy
Reply to  Rick
2 months ago

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Rick! I am thankful to be here and to be learning from abolitionists, organizers, and library workers here in the PNW and around the world :). I believe PNLA will be spotlighting each presentation on social media, but I will definitely share the document in the near future. (It is publicly editable right now, too, so feel free to add!)

Rick
Reply to  katy
2 months ago

I did share your poster with our diversity committee — I know deescalation training is always something our student workers would like to have — I think the lens you suggest viewing this through is very much worth considering.

katy
Reply to  Rick
2 months ago

That’s awesome- thank you so much for sharing!

Kellian donna Clink
2 months ago

I sent this to the Dept. Chair. I think it is especially tricky right now. We have one security officer on campus 8 hours a day but most of the security are other college kids. There’s a guy who writes books about the homeless in public libraries who is having a session next week on deescalation in the public library http://www.homelesslibrary.com/. His mantra is that empathy is almost always the answer, no matter the question. His book is SO valuable!

katy
Reply to  Kellian donna Clink
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing this with your Dept Chair, and also for sharing your perspective! Do you mean that college students are working as security in their own college library? Or at a public / non-academic library? I’d be curious to learn more about that and how they might be responding to recent events.

I think I have come across homelesslibrary.com before and seen a couple of Ryan’s YouTube videos. I’ll need to learn more!

Kellian donna Clink
Reply to  katy
2 months ago

Yes, we have one local police and our campus is her beat. But some of the security officers on campus are student workers and some are fulltime people, but I don’t know what kind of training they have. That’s a good thing for me to have more info about. I think the head of reference and the head of circulation are attending the Ryan’s presentation next week, along with me, but this makes me think it would be valuable for us to know what kind of training security gets on campus. It would be a good inservice for all of us.

katy
Reply to  Kellian donna Clink
2 months ago

Asking questions about security sounds like a good start! I’d recommend checking out this webinar on Abolishing Policing, Not Just the Police — in the last ten minutes, around the 1:30:00 mark, Maya Schenwar responds to a question about what teachers, librarians, and others in “helping professions” can start asking ourselves/each other to begin doing this work / undoing carceral logic in our workplaces.

niki
2 months ago

Thank you for this important poster. I especially appreciate the framing of slide 20 (which I am rephrasing here) that as librarians (and library workers) we can do research and practice together to confront oppressive policies and practices. This is such an important takeaway!

katy
Reply to  niki
2 months ago

Thanks for your comment, niki! I would love to get together with a group of library workers/anyone really and practice de-escalation skills / confronting oppressive policies and practices in the workplace and beyond. This YouTube video, Alternatives to Calling Police During Mental Health Crises (part 3 of 5), has some examples of practicing- the ‘game’ starts around the 27:50 minute mark.

Caitlin
2 months ago

Thank you for bringing this conversation here, and for the link out to the list of resources you’ve created. I’ll definitely be returning to them as I increase this focus to my practice in the coming months.

katy
Reply to  Caitlin
2 months ago

Thank you, Caitlin! Feel free to reach out if you ever want to discuss/brainstorm 🙂

David Gill
2 months ago

I really like your presentation. I’m sharing it with my library and association.Your presentation connects to the call to action against anti-Black racism in academic libraries by British Columbia Academic Library Association https://bclaconnect.ca/bcals/files/2016/01/BCALS-Statement-and-Call-to-Action.pdf I also like your focus on accessiblity (recommending users to use heading 3 for city/region in the google doc)

katy
Reply to  David Gill
2 months ago

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, David, and for sharing the statement from British Columbia Academic Library Association. I appreciate that call to action- feel free to add it to the google doc resource guide, if you wish 🙂

Re: accessibility, I am definitely still learning, but trying to practice digital accessibility as much as I can!

Emily
2 months ago

Looking at Slide 20, I’m curious if anyone could share some examples of white supremacist and other oppressive policies and biases in libraries.

Ellie Dworak
Reply to  Emily
2 months ago

I am not the poster presenter, but one example might be that we outsource conflict resolution to the police.

Felicite
Reply to  Emily
2 months ago

This isn’t an academic article but it has good examples: https://bookriot.com/dismantling-white-supremacy-in-public-libraries/

Emily
Reply to  Felicite
2 months ago

Thank you! This is perfect!

katy
Reply to  Felicite
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing this, Felicite!

katy
Reply to  Emily
2 months ago

Oh, there’s also this whole resource guide from University of Wisconsin-Madison, Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship: A Reading List. I’m sure there’s a lot more out there!

Erica
2 months ago

Thanks for your presentation, Katy. It’s giving me a lot of food for thought – as someone who works in a more rural setting, it’s tempting to ignore the problems of having a police presence in the library, but that overall atmosphere of privilege probably makes it even more important to work on making our library spaces safer for everyone.

katy
Reply to  Erica
2 months ago

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Erica! Your perspective from a more rural setting is so important to this conversation, as my perspective is almost fully informed by my experience working in academic libraries in urban environments — in NYC and Portland, OR. (The term “metronormativity” comes to mind here..) I’m curious to learn more and see how we can brainstorm / collaborate / support each other across our differences. I believe there are rural librarians organizing within abolitionist frameworks around the US, too. I’ll have to stay tuned!