Greetings from your new editor-in-chief, Lacey Torge
I’m Lacey. As you may have seen, I am the new editor-in-chief for Library Juice Press and Litwin Books.
I know that the purpose of an initial message of this sort is typically to introduce oneself, perhaps emphasizing career highlights or achievements. And I get why we do this. But I’m going to hold off on that and I’ll explain why.
Deploying my credentials or achievements as if they are a proxy for my authority to do this work doesn’t feel right. It isn’t that I believe that I’m above being held to the same standards that most of us in knowledge-production are held. On the contrary, it’s that I believe these sorts of standards–colonial, exclusionary, narrow–are more harmful than helpful. Likewise, making myself more legible to those who ascribe and reinforce those standards, who cling to apparatuses of power, isn’t my priority.
Instead, for this first message, I write from a place of tenderness for everyone working across libraries, archives, and museums at this time. Many of us are struggling to figure out how to hold space for each other that is fundamentally gentle. I hold a deep belief that ours is a generous intellectual community, sincerely dedicated to undoing racist, colonial, exclusionary power structures, built on ethical practice and curiosity, and dedicated to creating a space for critical collaboration and conversation. With that, however, I know working within an economy of trust is how many of us have to roll. So if you want to know more about me, I’m happy to answer any questions you have about my professional background offline or in a later post, but I want to make clear, you don’t have to share my interests to think and study together or to hang out with me. So, for the moment, I hope you don’t mind if I keep this informal.
To be perfectly honest, stepping into the middle of the many conversations already underway is awkward. At this heightened moment, we are watching our frameworks for understanding both the tasks of library, archive, and museum workers and our methods for being in relation to one another being transformed in real time. Many of the most marginalized among us are figuring out more effective ways to build power at an exponential rate. As a field, people are engaging in more ethical, deeper, and more intersubjective ways than ever. Things feel open. And they are still opening.
I understand that for some people, these transformations telegraph as signs of institutional disorder or administrative instability. I’d like to address this. No doubt, watching the existing models of who and what work has always comprised being upended can be dizzying. Furthermore, all of this is unfolding in a larger historical moment where the entire world is exhausted, yearning for normalcy and balance, and longing for home. However, silencing discordant voices out of a desire for the comfort of fictional harmony should leave you uncomfortable, not nostalgic. Recognizing how so much transformative energy has been consumed and wasted by the machinery of policy-making or governance (i.e. shout out to all the hollow higher ed diversity policies out there) should feel bad, not like home. From a normative perspective, it isn’t hard to understand how anti-racist, anti-colonial work feels chaotic and overwhelming, especially while bearing witness to change without the usual, sanctioned protections of settler colonial ideology and privilege.
My point is, it is precisely the intensity and force of this remarkable period that has revealed in no uncertain terms that there is no going home. Things were never balanced. There is no equitable access. We are all one step away from precarity. There is no neutrality. There is no privacy. If half of the boat is sinking, there will never be stability. There is no freedom. There is no comfort. Increasingly, more of us are realizing that attempts to “return to normal” require the same false consciousness that subjugated us in the first place. We’ve figured out that any practice that is not entrenched in compassion is not practicing our work, but some other hybrid-thing, doing some other work for some other purpose, something that actively benefits from other’s disenfranchisement.
So here we are. In the open. Tasked to give shape to a place that doesn’t yet exist, but one which we can imagine. In the distance, we can see the outline of place where black lives not only matter, but also where the black radical tradition guides our intentions, where we don’t accept arbitrary divisions between a person’s value and their position, where we are protected when speaking truth to power, where we refuse the false choice between professionalism and self-care. It’s exciting, but refusing the “call to order” leaves us in this messy, disruptive non-place, holding space for a future we are working with deep empathy to bring to life.
We are tasked with honing our praxis and critical methodologies with honest reflection, rigorous study, shared knowledge, and deep compassion. We work in the service of productive dissonance, refusal, repair, and resistance, full stop. And if we really want to move out of the old place into somewhere actually new, this is simply where we have to be right now. At some moments we will step forward and speak up and at other times, we need to step back and listen.
For my part, I want to state that in my new capacity on behalf of Library Juice Press and Litwin Books, we unequivocally commit to care for your incredible collective energy, to support your transformative political engagement, and to bolster your urgent grassroots creativity in whatever ways we can. I fundamentally believe that in order to sustain and expand the potential of this moment, we must embrace our experiences, failings, and learning curves to find compassion in new parts of ourselves. In order to truly leverage this moment into impactful, lasting transformation, we are going to need as many people as possible. Every worker in our field needs to know things can change. All of our maroon communities need room to assert their perspectives—our adjunct night librarians, community college ethnic studies liaisons, mentorless diversity residents, unfunded graduate students, collections specialists with ADHD, closed-down union workers, visa-expired student collection technicians, furloughed queer registrars, ignored digital respository maintainers, historically black college catalogers, trans community educators, indigenous acquisitions managers … everyone. I also hope we can facilitate deeper collaborations from authors and thinkers who work not only in the undercommons, but also in the interdisciplines, coordinating broader concepts of solidarity and insight. As a publisher, I’m interested in all of your reflections on contingency, complexity, reflexivity, imagination, difference, history, and the future. I fundamentally believe collecting our interconnected expertise while harnessing the momentum of this opening is the best way to build and build up our community.
If you want to work together on a project, send me a note. If you don’t and we have common goals of liberation and restorative justice, that’s cool too; I hope you know I celebrate your work and understand why you might want to do your own thing. There are enough good ideas to share and enough hard work to do for everyone to feel agency to contribute or not in whatever way feels best. My hope is that our ongoing books and projects will be invitations for further conversations on how we can work together to overcome the many arbitrary power structures designed to divide us. I can’t wait to get started.