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Wednesday, April 19 • 10:30am - 12:00pm
Art Library Workers United: On Unionizing Art Librarians

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There has been a wave of unionization in art and design-affiliated institutions nationally over the past few years, aided in part by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)'s campaign, Cultural Workers United. Library work has been theorized heavily both in library literature and popular culture around Fobazi Ettarh's concept of "vocational awe," the notion that certain types of work are considered "inherently good and therefore beyond critique." Ettarh argues that this pervasive attitude is one that enables workplaces that abuse librarians' labor. Anne Helen Petersen has extended this argument to talk about "essential workers" during a pandemic. She writes, "You know what we do with people we've deemed "essential"? We rarely compensate them more. We don't protect them. We don't actually venerate them, because veneration entails respect, and respect means paying people a living wage and not asking more of them than we're willing to give ourselves." In the long wake of a global pandemic, this panel seeks to look at the ways in which art library workers have sought to address their precarious working conditions and join a formerly dormant but now resurgent labor movement. This panel brings together art information professionals who have been involved in successful unionization efforts at each of their institutions, including two AICAD schools, a large state university, and a museum. Presenters will discuss the process of unionizing their workplaces, bargaining their first contracts, and the sometimes unexpected benefits of union organizing, like building community within your institution. They will touch on how this work has benefited from and intersects with their work in the library and/or as artists and researchers. Attendees can expect to leave with a brief introduction to relevant labor law in the private and public sectors, practical information about organizing a labor union, the unique challenges of organizing among information professionals and cultural heritage institutions, as well as food for thought about the current state of art librarianship as work.

avatar for Ashley Peterson

Ashley Peterson

Research & Instruction Librarian, Media & Data Literacy, UCLA

avatar for Meredith Kahn

Meredith Kahn

Librarian for Gender & Sexuality Studies, University of Michigan
Women's, gender, and sexuality studies; scholarly communication
avatar for Mackenzie Salisbury

Mackenzie Salisbury

Information Literacy Librarian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Wednesday April 19, 2023 10:30am - 12:00pm CDT
Adelita Av. Juárez 70, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06010 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico