I pass these 3 ceramic statues every week on my bike ride to teach my yoga class. They’re public art and they live in Greys Park in South Vancouver. And every week they make me smile! Someone even knit a red heart on the fence behind the statue of the boy and girl kissing (awwww!).

 

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Unlike Cristina, I never had an urge to work in a public library, but I knew there was something to offer in the profession that could justify my cultural work as a poet and critic in the long run. When I found myself back in Vancouver in 2008 (from Montréal) and working as a server, I began to think strategically about my next “move.” Graduate options flooded my mind, but financing these and predicting the teaching trajectory forced me to be overly pragmatic. The work I’ve down in the past is variegated and my involvement in cultural and political spaces is sometimes far removed from the application strain. I’ve reflected on the debilitating pursuit of a job title that somehow reflects the investment put into schooling and volunteering. I was working at a Bistro in the West End during the application process to SLAIS, and when I was accepted all my co-workers said in unison: that makes a lot of sense. I wanted to know what people were reading and why – my critical witticisms biting me in the ass when a co-worker was certain the “pretentious” review we received was curtesy of my manners.

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The notion of work has always been crippling – we spend the majority of our lives labouring, whether for pay or otherwise. The more I thought about next steps, the more I questioned the future. “No future” was sung by the Sex Pistols in the 70s, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi hails it in his book The Uprising (published by Semiotexte), and the women of About a Bicycle chanted the claim soon after we published an issue on the violence of financial capitalism.

But, the trap is, I still think about a liveable future, just like everyone else I suppose. You start thinking: what am I doing wrong? Is it how I’ve organized my CV? Is my self-deprecating sense of humour, laid out too thick in interviews? Do I actually have a skill-set that’s worth anything? Can I find a job in the information field that allows me to teach, conduct critical research, dialogue openly, and lend a different foresight to a library/archive organization? Is that a laughable demand? People are quick to brand you as a complainer when you demand for a liveable future – those people are usually employed and suffering from amnesia.

The day I turned 30 I had a Skype interview at Calgary Public Library for their Digital Literacy Assistant Librarian (phew!) position. They called me back a few days later saying I got it. I was employed again and I was in shock. Slowly, the events that unfolded in the beginning of the year have floated by, giving me some psychic room to breath again. I’ve often said the struggle finding work is forgotten the moment you find something, but this time around the affect hovers over me. It’s a contract (a good one mind you), so there’s still that looming feeling that this isn’t permanent, thus this isn’t sustainable. In saying this, I’m experiencing something new for the first time: people are responding to the work I’m doing and I’ve never felt so invested in the process. I worry about not doing enough, but that’s more about the guilt and shame brought on by the socially ingrained Protestant work ethic. I want them to keep me, and I realize more and more that a part of this job, and the nature of working a contract, is to legitimize the position and my role of pushing it forward more than anyone else could.

I’ve always found there’s a lot for me to negotiate in terms of my working and non-working self. I compartmentalize my personage to the point it distracts from seeing clearly. Or I feel I see so clearly there can be no other way but this. I labour all the time. This post has been on my to-do-list for weeks, I’m typesetting two books, and continue to wrestle with co-collabortators over voice and intent. It’s nice to have a break from Vancouver for awhile, even though this city has been underwater it offers relief. I was always suspicious of our instructors in library school telling us how adaptable we need to be. You might have hopes of becoming an academic librarian, they would say, but it turns out you want to work in a public library. In hindsight, it was the perfect cover for the ensuing precaritization of the field. My problem was I never knew where I wanted to end up, and I can see where I was naive.

Next time I promise my posts will sound less melancholic (lie), I’ll talk about what I’m doing at CPL and how it’s meeting my cognitive demands (truth!).

Oh, and I started a yoga “practice” (truth).

The whole reason I quit my job and went to library school was because I have been in love with the public library for some time, both its physical locations and its open services. It allows everybody, no matter who you are or how little money you have, free access to information and technology.

I am currently looking for work in the public libraries, and I have found librarians to be some of the most open and generous people. I wrote to one of my teachers from library school who is a librarian and management at the Vancouver Public Library and she was generous enough to sit down with me, give me suggestions and ideas of what to do now, and tell me about the happenings in the public library system. For the first time since I graduated a year and a half ago, I remember why I want to work in public libraries and why it’s worth it to keep looking for a job in one. I’ve also had super positive responses from other librarians I’ve written to, who have never met me, offering their time and expertise and encouraging words.

I love the public library because it’s where I spent hours of my life doing my school work for university and where I spent hours hiding out when I was in high school. It’s a community meeting place and neighbourhood landmark. You can borrow books and DVD’s and music CD’s that you may not be able to afford to buy. I think public libraries are one of the very few government funded projects that actually benefit all of us, from programs for recent immigrants, programs for kids and teens, as well as endless resources available at no cost. Sure, getting hired as a librarian in one feels right now like trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood, but in the long term, it’s a career that’s worthwhile and ever changing.

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Everything seems like an unruly blur where my experience post-graduation has become permanently curtailed by career narratives. I often find myself fluttering between stability and instability – recognizing the obvious colossal downfall of craving things in place. The hunt for permanent employment has not let up, and the flux of casual labour has me temporally stunted. Among many people I know in the field (or out of the field more like) there is an insecure trend of non-opportunities that seems to be growing progressively worse. Much of my experience at SLAIS was spent cultivating research around this notion of precarity as it culminates and is amplified in commercial social networking technologies. My directed study, “Revolutionaries will not be friended: owning activism through social networking,” provided a critique of these networks as a space for radicalism employed by social agitators (a term I first heard from Antonis Vradis and Dimitris Dalakoglou of Occupied London).

I come at the onset of new information technologies in a totalizing fashion; I think a curated event on Facebook should make everyone, particularly social agitators, discomfited and hesitant. In retrospect, I think a lot of my apprehension and radical critiques came from being inundated with community rhetoric, especially in the discourse of Community Informatics where bridging the technological gap between digital ‘natives’ and ‘non-natives’ is the primary concern. Identities were treated as givens. As a Downtown Eastside Tech Hub, part of Vancouver’s Digital Strategies, is under negotiations, I’m starting to visualize a continuation of this project on precarity as it pertains to media communication and depersonalized time – here I see a clash of precarious subsets, the valorization of signs and symbols via info-labour and the struggle of the marginalized populations in the DTES. Franco Berardi writes, “An experience that derives from worker’s struggle in the last years, is that the struggle of precarious workers does not make a cycle” and I keep pressing the notion precarious labour is in itself stratified and discombobulated. As someone who has worked extensively in the DTES and also continues to pursue a career in information studies (librarianship, research, archival projects), my writing builds upon these experiences in order to establish a discourse of strategy.

My critical thinking is still taken up by the siege of global capitalism on the planet, and I’ve found focus in the attention given to precarious labour by Franco Berardi, Matteo Pasquinelli, Silvia Federici, and Christian Marazzi. The problem, I’ve noticed, is how much the critical writing I’ve read has become a foil for my own renderings of life. Things aren’t going as planned, and the more I come to terms with the larger picture the more it’s difficult to keep on going. Last night I had dinner with my best friend, and I spoke out loud about waiting for an end and the madness that resumes in narrativity. She asked, what do you mean by ends, and I had to think twice, because lately ends have meant, not the real philosophical question of suicide, but the shape of life as a disc such as how ancient cultures believed the Earth was flat. I’ve been thinking I’ll fall into something else, a new body even. I said instead (the alternative thought wasn’t clear until now), to this financial and unemployment struggle. Realism sits next to the symbolic sensation of this given situation.

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I ended up in library school quite by accident. I had been working in a good union job for the past 10 years with a pretty good wage and great benefits, but I was always complaining about my job. One day my friend, who is a librarian and had gone to SLAIS at UBC, told me I should apply to library school. She loved her job and thought I’d like it, too. I applied and I got in. It all happened pretty fast. So I quit my job and went back to school.

I’ve been thinking lately how smart everyone I went to SLAIS with was. Really smart. We were all mostly older (I think our class age average was 33) and half of us already had a master’s degree. The program wasn’t competitive, meaning we weren’t competing for a certain number of “A”’s. As a result, there were always other students around who were happy to help me any time,  especially with the computer stuff (like building a website). And group projects were a dream – everybody would actually do their work and do a really good job (unlike most undergrad experiences). I met some great people, like this gang, who I’m still friends with.

It occurred to me only recently that library school is still an arts degree, although it’s given its own discipline. Completing the degree is one thing, but having the right connections when you’re out to actually get hired is another thing. It’s like my undergrad in sociology. I have it, but nobody really cares because I don’t have any connections in places where I could put that knowledge to use.

I thought my MLIS was a practical career choice, but it turns out my Yoga Teacher Training was much more practical and has actually led me to paid work. Although, I have to admit that I was convinced leaving library school that I was not getting a job because, although we weren’t competitive in the program, we would be competing out in the real world for very rare librarian jobs. And if we got a job, then we should be ready and willing to include “justifying our job to the boss on a daily basis” as part of our job description, and even then, it would probably get cut eventually. I also have to admit that as fabulous and amazing as all the librarian’s we had in to teach our classes were, they worked hard! And they worked long. They put their all into their careers, which is awesome, it’s just not how I want to work. I finished library school the same time I finished my yoga teacher training program and I decided to go the yoga route. I still hope to find some kind of casual or part-time library work, but right now, teaching yoga is my focus.

In looking for paid work now, I keep in mind the Rudolf Rocker quote,

“I am not an anarchist because I believe anarchism is the final goal, I am an anarchist because there is no such thing as a final goal”.

No matter what work I do, I want to be engaged in the process of that work, rather than focusing on how much money it pays me or where it can lead, because if I’m not enjoying the work, then what’s the point? The process, and being in this moment, is all that matters.

 

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(march route sent by students to Montreal police)

7pm sharp! Friday June 8 @ Rhizome Café 317 E. Broadway, Vancouver,
Unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people

As a writer’s collective that was formed in 1984 in response to the closure of
accessible public education, KSW presents an evening of poetry and music hosted
by Rhizome Café, responding to the request for solidarity and support for the Legal
Committee of the CLASSE, whom the Montreal Gazette have dubbed “Quebec’s most
militant student group”.

Featuring

The Vancouver Complaints Choir, Wayde Compton, Kim Minkus, Jamie Reid, Daphne
Marlatt,, William Owen, Donato Mancini, Larissa Lai, Steve Collis, Dorothy Lusk,
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jordan Scott, Jen Currin, Cassandra van Dyck, Christine Leclerc,
Janey Lew, Kim Duff, Rita Wong, Michael Barnholden, Ted Byrne, Maxine Gadd,
Danielle LaFrance, Patrick Morrison, Chris Ewart, Ray Hsu, and more!