Summer Sustenance

Readings and music to get you through the summer.

It’s coming…summer, summer, summertime! Time to turn on your favorite tunes, slip on your flip flops, and slide into relaxation mode. (Well, not for me. I’m taking summer classes. But I’m not bitter. I’m about to graduate!!) Here are some readings and music to keep your mind percolating between hammock-dozing sessions.

Revolting Librarians (Booklegger Press: San Francisco, CA; 1972): This oldie-but-very-goodie book of essays, illustrations, and poems is the progressive librarian’s manifesto. As I stated in a paper I wrote about it for my library history class: “If you want to be inspired by irreverent librarians challenging every aspect of the way library business is done and refusing to be silenced, then this is your book. If you are already surrounded by librarians like that, you may only need to read it once. If you are not but want to be, read it twice, keep it by your bedside, and pull it out at the end of those down days when you need to be reminded of what is possible and why you became a librarian in the first place.” (P.S. Revolting Librarians Redux came out in 2003.)

This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers/Hachette Book Group: New York, NY; 2017): Imagine a photo album of friends’ pictures with a warm, uplifting message on every page reminding you of why this person is so important in your life. This is what Kyle Cassidy managed to pull off in his book about librarians. In the introduction, he explains how This is What a Librarian Looks Like grew out of a photo project he did for Slate magazine that quickly went viral: “People around the country started sharing memories of libraries…It went on for a week, at the end of which I realized that this project was bigger than a slideshow on a popular Web magazine” (p.6). The library workers featured in this book inspire me with their love for their jobs and their strong sense of purpose.

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press: New York, NY; 2018): The title says it all. Noble’s critique of search algorithms in general and Google in particular is a strong challenge to anyone who argues that internet search results are neutral. Speaking from the perspective of a former marketing professional and a current information scholar, Noble breaks down why our search results are so skewed and urges people to demand better, even going so far as to propose a publicly funded search engine. This book has received a lot of attention and for good reason; it is an incisive, well-researched piece of scholarship that has enriched public discussions about the “wide open” internet and its impact on democracy.

SpeakOut! Journal (online at This publication is produced by the Ft. Collins, Colorado-based SpeakOut! community writing program. As they note on their website: “The primary philosophy of this program is that every person has a story to tell; each has words that are valuable and necessary.” The journal features the writings and artwork of diverse community members who use their creativity to share their life experiences and insights with others. The contributors communicate their struggles, joys, fears, and hopes with disarming honesty. Their poems and pictures are windows into their souls that may push you to look more deeply into your own.

If you grew up in an economically depressed community (as I did) or want to better understand the causes and effects of poverty, please read Christian Cooper’s article Why Poverty is Like a Disease ( Through the story of his own hardscrabble upbringing in East Tennessee, Cooper illustrates why overcoming poverty is about so much more than “working hard” and “making good choices.” He also cites scientific research suggesting that poverty-related stressors can impact a person’s ability to handle stress later in life. While explaining the myriad ways in which the deck is stacked against poor people, he writes, “The reality is that when you’re poor, if you make one mistake, you’re done. Everything becomes a sudden-death gamble.”

As for sounds, I’d recommend anything by Toshi Reagon, a genre-busting musician whose tunes will have you clapping, stomping, meditating, shouting, and dancing all at once. At her “drop the mic” concert in Chapel Hill, NC on April 13, she challenged the audience to “rise to these times.” Her consciousness-raising songs will keep you going while you’re doing it. Her latest album, Spiritland, is available for download online.

If you’ve read or heard anything recently that blew you away, please write to me about it!



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