Creating an Inclusive Workplace for Disabled Library Workers
Authors: Jessica Schomberg and Wendy Highby
Published: June 2020
Accommodating disabled people in the library workplace is just the start. Truly creative changes that make the workplace more genuinely democratic and healthful for disabled individuals have the potential to increase the well-being of all workers. Increasingly corporatized institutions, the widening wealth gap, and reactionary neoliberal policies of austerity present daunting challenges. In solidarity, we can find the collective strength to survive, to resist, and to change the system. Library workers’ experiences of disability are navigable, but also complex and fraught with paradox. This book exposes the unique qualities of the library workplace, including the caretaking nature of the profession and its shadow side. We ask whether it is possible to negotiate a safe path between the exercise of personal power and deference to the hierarchical structure. Imaginative choreography is needed to sidestep the neoliberal pressure to classify, normalize, commodify, manage, or control the experience of disability.
Critical disability theory is the base from which this book explores innovative, inclusionary praxis that challenges traditional, exclusionary views of disability. The book shows the practical applications of theoretical concepts for both academic and lay readers. It does not stop with critique; the critical analysis is a springboard to guide readers in exploring the effectiveness of libraries’ organizational and institutional practices, and to question the fairness of state and federal government policies (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act). The result is an empowering, consciousness-raising journey through “the system,” with the authors and interviewees as guides modeling assertive self-advocacy.
Jessica Schomberg has worn a variety of library hats at Minnesota State University, Mankato, including cataloging, assessment, user experience, and liaison work. Jessica has written on disability-related topics for Library Trends, In the Library with the Lead Pipe and Letters to a Young Librarian, as well as writing from the perspective of a librarian with disabilities in the Library Juice edited anthology The Politics and Theory of Critical Librarianship.
Wendy Highby is the Social Sciences Librarian at the University of Northern Colorado in Weld County, ground zero of Colorado’s fracking boom. She wrote about her anti-fracking activism in “Beyond the Recycling Bin,” a chapter in the LJP book Progressive Community Action. Other topics of her wide-ranging scholarship include open access advocacy, facilitation of faculty publication funds, the anti-intellectual satire of Stephen Colbert, and the use of narrative and creative expression to teach copyright law. A former paralegal, she became a librarian in mid-life. She grew up in southeastern Arizona’s Gila River Valley amidst crop-dusted cotton fields. Diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in 2004, she is an environmentalist, poet and practitioner of qi gong.