Conversation with Grabbing Tea editors, Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz and Sara Howard with Megan Bardis

This is the next installment of our Author Interview Series with Library Students where prospective information professionals meet with authors to discuss the research process and engage in a deep dive on important topics of the field from concept to publication. 

Conversation with Grabbing Tea editors, Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz and Sara Howard with Megan Bardis

This interview was conducted by Megan Bardis, a dual degree student in Museum Studies at New York University and Library and Information Science at Long Island University.

Grabbing Tea: Queer Conversations on Identity and Libraries (Volume One) and Grabbing Tea: Queer Conversations on Archives and Practice (Volume Two) focus on queerness in library and archival theory and practice. Inspired by their conversation after the 2018 ACRL Conference in New York City, Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz and Sara A. Howard collected a series of conversations held by various LGBTQ+ members of the library, archival and adjacent communities in an effort to emphasize queer experience and practice within the profession. 

Smith-Cruz perfectly summarizes the basis of the volumes, stating, “There’s 42 or so conversations in these two collections, but there could have easily been 42 other conversations; there is no comprehensive queer experience for libraries, or for archives, or for our practices, or for communities, and I think that that’s a beautiful thing.” After the concept for the publication was sparked in 2018, Smith-Cruz and Howard put out a call for conversations in June of 2020. Transpiring during a time of increased uncertainty and exacerbated isolation, this call attracted hundreds of contributors who wanted to engage in conversation and community. Howard remarks that this interest “was almost like this whole project replicated how we came together,” signifying the deep interest in scholarship on the subject and the value of conversation.

In addition to their similar professions and passions, both Smith-Cruz and Howard published their first chapters out of library school with Litwin Books. Howard, who came into academic librarianship after pursuing a PhD., urges readers to “capture those ephemeral moments post-conference presentations when our brains and bodies aren’t so activated, write it on the napkin in the bar…or at the coffee shop or wherever you might be. Give yourself a note on your phone because I think it’s in those organic moments that thoughtful insight comes through.” Smith-Cruz has always been an organizer and became interested in libraries during her undergraduate career: “Audre Lorde has taught me about walking with all of our intersectional identities in our work. I am a lesbian, librarian, archivist, writer, activist, Garifuna, Jamaican, American, mother, and learner all of the time, and I have to always feel that way wherever I am. That’s how I want to be embodied and when I see people struggle with that, I want to urge them, ‘you can be all of yourself, all the time!” Smith-Cruz feels honored to be writing for Litwin, as they publish a variety of material relating to libraries. Both authors suggest those interested in writing to visit the Litwin Books website and, as Howard recommends, “check out some things that have come before…and be in community with those authors.” Smith-Cruz urges early career librarians and students to “just do it, keep sharing your work, and presenting it and writing it and submitting it and getting lots and lots of feedback and then eventually submitting it for publication.”

Smith-Cruz and Howard’s collections of conversations emphasize the queer experience in libraries and archives and demonstrate that with conversations is community, and vice versa.