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Ryan P. Randall

Instruction & Outreach Librarian at the College of Western Idaho ∴ Literary, media & cultural studies ∴ Web Editor at In the Library with the Lead Pipe ∴ Sous les pavés, la plage ∴ We are, as always, stubborn, stoked, and petrified - GY!BE

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This post is for Week One of #rhizo15.

Here’s something I constantly rediscover, sometimes painfully: although I’m a capable writer, I’m predisposed toward research. This orientation seems both a boon and a hindrance as an aspiring academic librarian.

Research calls to me in large part because of its rhizomatic nature—I jump into searching & reading, then giddily test out new possibilities along the way. It feels a lot like being in an exuberant dancefloor, with connections of myriad types & durations constantly occurring and altering. At the other extreme, too often when I am “writing,” I want things to already be perfected and stable. I prioritize the product rather than embracing the process.

If I were to make a goal—some sort of objective for myself from participating in #rhizo15—I’d have it be something about getting used to writing in ways that are more like this rhizomatic unfurling and becoming rather than the more linear, hierarchical, arborial notion that academic disciplines expect us to produce all too often.1

Phrasing this another way, in terms of actions rather than affect, I’m going to try to post things perhaps a little before I feel they are “ready,” to share stages in a process rather than try to produce stable documents intended for longer durations. At least here, at the beginning of #rhizo15, I’m going to try to post midway-pieces, thoughts that dwell long enough for linguistic articulation, but not necessarily long enough to have any presumptions beyond being points in an as-yet-unstable trajectory. Rather than a draft, this is just a sketch, one ball of a pinball game, or one turn in a skateboarding videogame; with so little at stake, I’ll likely remain more open to discovering & learning. Speaking of games, the possibilities of alternate, explorative models are part of what excites me about digital humanities tools and how they might allow for demonstrating humanities thought processes more readily than essays do.

Interestingly, I had a delightful and productive research interview while these thoughts circled in the back of my mind. I’m not quite going to argue that thinking in terms of rhizomatic learning helped me settle that much more comfortably into a “guide on the side” mode of reference, but it certainly didn’t seem to hurt. In addition to making more space for the patron to explore at his own pace, I also mentioned my own connection to his paper’s jumping-off point (the 1963 & 1964 Civil Rights actions in St. Augustine, Florida, particularly those targeting the Monson Motor Lodge). This brings rhizomatic learning a bit into the #critlib wheelhouse, for critical librarianship needs to consider these fleeting pedagogical moments.

While I’ve heard that the claim that “neutral” in library discourse properly refers to issues of access and collection rather than questions of librarian demeanor or information, the notion of “neutrality” more commonly seems taken to mean that librarians should be dispassionate about topics, should aspire to a mask of “objectivity” rather than showing enthusiasm, or that libraries should be considered as containing knowledge that lies magically outside or devoid of politics. In today’s case, my breaking of this “neutral” demeanor just involved sharing familiarity with the events and the spaces—nothing that would cloud the student’s space of making meaning—and it seems like this only reinforced his willingness to be patient while exploring the depths of the JSTOR and ProjectMUSE databases.

  1. Writing this in subjunctive mood was not intended to be clever, but I’m leaving it to show much distance I felt from wanting to decide on an overarching outcome while typing this sentence.


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