Thursday 4 October 2018

New beginnings...

So, last month I waited for the last day of the month to write my GLAM Blog Club post, but since this month's theme is "beginning", I am attempting to get this out in the beginning of the month.

A little over two weeks ago, I started a process which resulted in me receiving this item of apparel in the mail.

Every enrolment comes with a free hoodie!
Yes, I applied to go back to university, and as of next month, I will be commencing a Graduate Certificate of Education (Educational Research), which consists of a couple of units of coursework and a minor research thesis. If that goes well, then I'll be on track to move on to a PhD.

So, the obvious question is... why?

Every other time I've gone to university, it's been about doing coursework to get a piece of paper that will improve my career prospects. But this time, it's different.

There have been a number of moments in the past year that have prompted me in this direction:

  • Running into my old LIS course coordinator from university, chatting about libraries for a while until I hear the inevitable question: "So... when are you going to finally do a PhD?"
  • Reading about opportunities for a PhD scholarship, researching the ways that collections represent multicultural Australia in National and State Libraries, and thinking, "That is exactly the kind of topic that I'd want to be researching, if I were doing a PhD!" and realising that whilst I'm completely unready to take on a PhD right now, I'd like to make sure that in the future, if such an opportunity were to arise, I'd be in a good position to apply.
  • Going to IFLA, and seeing presentations by librarians on topics such as the lived experiences of immigrant staff in German libraries, and thinking, "Wow, I wish were having these kinds of discussions in Australia."
  • Coming back to Australia, and then seeing discussions on Twitter from librarians attending the Joint Conference for Librarians of Color in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and thinking, "That sounds amazing! Why aren't we having events like this here in Australia?"

And of course, I know the reason why. I've known it all my life living in Australia, and yet I'm still often reluctant to call it out for what it is. The few times that I have, I've at best made people feel noticeably uncomfortable, and at worst been verbally abused.

So, I want to build my confidence to be able to investigate and critique the ways that cultural biases and whiteness exist in our cultural institutions, in a way that is accessible and intelligent - and I feel that pursuing academic research and publication is an effective way of doing this. I want to find ways to foster these kinds of discussions in Australia, and build a professional community that supports Australian librarians of colour in being able to share their lived experiences in a safe environment.

Yes, I'm a bit scared. I've always felt more like a creative than an academic, which seems like a ridiculous dichotomy, given that they involve very similar skills. Most of what I write comes from a place of emotion, motivated by hope, fear, inspiration and curiosity. I worry that I don't have what it takes to research and write academically. It's been quite a few years since I've had to write an essay, let alone take on even a minor thesis.

But seeing these research opportunities arise, and academic communities growing overseas, I want to be a part of that world, and so, this is a new beginning to take me on that path.

Wish me luck!