Unwanted Interactions

Patron-perpetrated Sexual Harassment in Libraries

Authors: Danielle Allard, Tami Oliphant, and Angela Lieu

Price: $35

Expected: Summer 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63400-117-5

The #MeToo movement has recently brought to popular consciousness the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace. Indeed, workplace sexual harassment is an ongoing issue—particularly for women working in feminized and service- or care-oriented occupations such as libraries. Particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment are underage workers, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ2S community who experience intersecting forms of racialized and gendered oppression. In library work, sexual harassment of frontline library workers is often perpetrated by the very patrons they endeavour to support. In addition, library workers may receive little to no training about how to deal with patron-perpetrated sexual harassment, or how to protect and care for themselves and each other while providing public services. Despite growing calls to address this important issue and systemic problem in libraries and library and information studies (LIS), almost no research has been done on this topic. This book will articulate the experiences of patron-perpetrated sexual harassment by a wide range of people working in libraries, collected from workshops, interviews, and surveys, and using these experiences as the scaffolding upon which to develop a three pillared intervention strategy that includes consciousness-raising and advocacy, policy development and education and training. Our work takes an intersectional feminist anti-violence approach designed to make visible and interrogate the feminized and racialized nature of librarianship and the attendant implications of this for those working in libraries.

The intended audience of the book is all people who work in libraries (including professional librarians, frontline staff, and management) as well as LIS educators, who play a significant role in preparing future librarians for the workforce. Our intention is to highlight the importance and relevance of this topic for multiple stakeholders, including other service sector workers, LIS educators, students, library patrons, library trustees, and librarians, in an effort to dismantle and destigmatize what we argue is a harmful yet “everyday” form of gender-based violence.

Danielle Allard is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Her research falls at the intersection of culture and community, information (its usages, representations, and institutions), and the role that information and information institutions might play in feminist, decolonizing, and anti-violence efforts. In collaboration with Amy Lebovitch and Dr. Shawna Ferris her present SSHRC funded research (2018-2022) on the Sex Work Activist Histories Project (SWAHP) engages in an exploration of sex work activism in Canada and the production of related histories and representations. In collaboration with Dr. Tami Oliphant and Angela Lieu, she is engaged in a research project that draws from intersectional feminist anti-violence frameworks to examine patron-perpetrated sexual harassment in libraries.

Tami Oliphant is an Associate Professor at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. She is particularly interested in LIS education, the cognitive and social aspects of human information interaction and understanding people’s epistemological status, social locations, and the broader social forces, institutions, and platforms that shape people’s interactions with information. Her previous work has examined information practices and mental health and she currently is engaged with two projects: the information practices of women with heart disease with Dr. Tanya Berry and Dr. Colleen Norris, and with Dr. Danielle Allard and Angela Lieu, patron-perpetrated sexual harassment in libraries.

Angela Lieu is a graduate of the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) at the University of Alberta, and currently works as a librarian at a public library. She is also a graduate student in Gender and Social Justice Studies at the University of Alberta. Her academic and professional interests centre on the intersections of library and information work with gender, race, and power, and the role of libraries in advancing equity, inclusion, and social justice.