RBMS 2016 Blog


Transgressing the Norm

Special collections librarians are a diverse group, with strong interests in a wide range of issues facing our profession and patrons. We want, as individuals and as professionals, to engage and interact with the widest range of challenges and communities as possible. RBMS is a forum for us to explore and examine not just a proscribed set of themes but also how to broaden our thinking and our reach through collaboration, outreach and diversity.  This year, we’ve got six different short papers panels providing a forum for presenters to bring their experiences, ideas or research to the broader RBMS community.

There’s short paper sessions covering core library practices such as cataloging, collection building, outreach, and training future librarians, but all with an eye to the conference theme of new ideas, collaboration and diversity. Additionally there are panels especially focused on diversity and community.

I spoke with the presenters of the panel entitled: Transgressing the norm: community archives, activism and human rights to delve a little deeper into the motivations behind their papers for this session.  Papers in this session include examinations of community archives including Visual AIDS, A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland and the human rights archives of El Rescate.  By highlighting these archives and engaging attendees with issues of race and class, as well as human rights, in the U.S. and abroad we as librarians will be better able to critically think about traditional and archival practices.  Additionally, the presenters hope that by discussing these issues in this forum we will be more equipped to provide a theoretical and practical framework for interrogating traditional collecting methodologies in libraries and archives. Archives are powerful and historic tools for producing and sustaining counter-narratives, and this conference provides a new forum for thinking and talking about archives and communities in critical ways.

–Amelia Grounds, Letterform Archive