beyond the green: collective of middlebury voices

a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications

Hindsight is 20/20, or How Evaluating Online Databases for Subscriptions Can Be Like Researching Presenters for Campus Speaking Invitations

Katrina Spencer is the thinker and writer of this piece.

Arabella Holzapfel is the feeler and instigator of this piece.

Hi, I’m Katrina Spencer (go/katrina/), the Literatures & Cultures Librarian at the Davis Family Library. I’m the person populating the wooden, easel-shaped display with rainbow-themed items, one of the people responding to e-mails at refdesk@middlebury.edu, and one of the people who will teach you how to request library purchases: go/requests/.

And my name is Arabella Holzapfel, the Electronic Resources Manager for the Middlebury College Libraries. I’m the person that makes sure we have access to all the EBSCO-based databases you use, the famous JSTOR, and all the other online resources you need late Sunday night for your Monday morning deadlines. I am magic. I am a goddess. Hear me roar.

We have been thinking over the Charles Murray-related events and we, like the community, are troubled. Deeply. Katrina came up with an idea to write a piece that would help highlight some of the concerns we have surrounding this controversy, phrasing it in terms we are intimately familiar with. Hence, How Evaluating Online Databases for Subscriptions Can Be Like Researching Presenters for Campus Speaking  Invitations was born. While we realize this work does not serve as a perfect analogy with one-to-one parity on how we “vet” speakers before inviting them to campus, the comparison will nonetheless raise some significant points of consideration. Join us on a rhetorical journey.

When the library staff prepares to make a decision about what databases and journals will be made available to our community, which includes quite the array of high-performing scholars, there is a series of questions we ask ourselves, not limited to the list below. Sample a subset:

  • Who wants the new subscription? Why? Does it serve the needs of people beyond this specific demographic? Should it?
  • What is the monetary cost and how does it fit into our budget? Can we afford it in dollars?
  • What are the educational and academic costs/benefits of the new subscription and how does it fit or not fit into our academic relationships with students, faculty, staff, and community members? Does it serve our values? Can our conscience afford it? Does the new subscription do any harm? Do the new subscription’s holdings provide new information/complicate old information/refute old information? How? Should they?
  • Does the new subscription siphon resources we have for other subscriptions that have proven to be worthy and reliable?
  • Do the new subscription’s holdings add something new, unique, worthwhile, and credible to the campus’ discourses?
  • Who else can I consult on this potential purchase? If a subscription is particularly expensive – if the predictable long-term cost to the community is high – how can we make a collaborative decision that involves as many “stakeholders” as possible?

Now let’s apply this to future invited speakers:

  • Who wants to invite the speaker? Why? Does the speaker serve the needs of people beyond this specific demographic?Should s/he?
  • What is the monetary cost and how does it fit into our budget? Can we afford the invitation in dollars?
  • What are the educational, academic and social costs/benefits of inviting the speaker and how does the invitation fit into our social relationships with students, faculty, staff, and community members? Does it serve our values? Can our conscience afford it? Does the invited speaker do any harm? Does the speaker’s presence build new/complicate old/destroy potential relationships? How? Should s/he?
  • Does the invited speaker siphon resources we have for other invited speakers that have proven to be worthy and reliable?
  • Does the invited speaker add something new, unique, worthwhile, and credible to its the campus’ discourses?
  • Who else can I consult on inviting this potential guest? Am I myself aware of what the predictable, long-term costs, of all kinds, are to the community, and if not, who else should I consult?

In all transparency, the recent events in our community make us question whether we, as a community, considered the questions just above with the rigor we ought to. And maybe we should from now on. Systematically. Regularly. You know, sort of like a practice. A policy.

Food for thought,

Katrina and Arabella

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2017 by in Uncategorized.
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