Last Friday, I attended the annual symposium of the Greater New York Metropolitan Area Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL/NY). This year’s theme was Money and Power, and the talks covered standards, instruction, labor, and other library issues that intersect with issues of money and power.
Pretty much all of the talks were amazing and thought-provoking, but one that really stuck with me was Angela Galvan’s discussion of the power dynamics in library-vendor relationships. While her specific context is in an academic library, her assertion that we have relocated our “core values from libraries to vendors via our software” is applicable to archives such as the RAC. Specifically, her example of academic libraries handing over user data to vendors (despite ALA’s value of privacy) in exchange for systems that do not meet user needs is similar to the relationships we have with some of our vendors. For example, our user data is kept on Aeon’s servers for an indefinite period.
While Galvan offered several ways to take reclaim agency is our relationship with vendors, I’d like to add that Aeon is one of the few systems we use that’s not open source. Using open source software allows us to have (some) control over the way our systems are designed as well as over the data we produce and collect. Further, our participation in open source projects also allows others-who can’t participate in the same way-to use software that they have control over.
Other presentations that I really liked included Emily Drabinski’s “Instruction Standards and Professional Power,” Stacie Williams’s “Money, Power, Respect: Archival Labor as a Reflection of Neoliberal Values,” and Aliqae Geraci and Jim DelRosso’s “Documenting dispute: Who is preserving the record of public sector collective bargaining?” All in all, it was a really great day that has helped me continue to think critically about the work that I do at the RAC.