The freedom of being a librarian in the west during this time was unparalleled: women were trained to be respected and valued members of the community, trusted with the task of educating and exposing their neighbors to the literary lifestyle, and they had the option of seeking new work in a huge variety of locations. These "cultural crusaders" pioneered a profession that gave other women a chance to join in academic and educational pursuits as well as create a literary community wherever they went.
New York library advocates have been working hard these past few weeks after news broke of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts, which would cut library funding from $308.5 million in 2011's fiscal year to $223.5 million for 2012 (these depressing numbers are further broken down on the city's Office of Management and Budget website).
If Bloomberg's budget is approved, New York would end up with some very unhappy bookshelves (according to Paul LeClerc, President and CEO of The New York Public Library, almost six million fewer items would be circulated), lots of layoffs (more than one in four library jobs would be eliminated), and drastically cut library hours (NYPLs would be open on average just four days a week). No wonder people have been calling the mayor Bloomzilla.
Looking into libraries for this post I decided to talk to my former colleague Tara Robertson. In 2009 Tara put together a group called the Lesbrarians to take part in the Vancouver Dyke March. Last year they had about 35 lesbian, bisexual, and queer women who worked in libraries, archives or other information organizations, as well as writers and library lovers. We met when we both worked at the Vancouver Public Library and she's done quite a bit of work on LGBTQ and feminist issues, so I knew she'd be a great resource.
She Was A Booklegger: Remembering Celeste West is a collection of essays, excerpts, and photos that attempt to capture the spirit of Celeste West, a woman whose influence on feminist librarianship, publishing, journalism, and activism was monumental. After West passed away in 2008, a few friends and admirers (Toni Samek, Moyra Lang, and K.R. Roberto) decided to embark on a project that would honor West's work and life. This book, which acts as a comprehensive and compassionate obituary, was the result.
Excerpts from many of West's books and publications are featured in She Was a Booklegger. Her writings covered a vast array of subjects and were always passionate. In addition to West's own writings, the book features academic essays about her work, obituaries from loved ones, and photographs of West throughout her life. She Was A Booklegger's editors write that "while CW is probably best represented in three dimensions instead of two, this anthology is an attempt to capture what she's left behind." This collection sure does convey the enthusiasm and compassion that Celeste West had for feminist librarianship, publishing, and activism. She Was a Booklegger pays tribute to a phenomenal woman whose life story should be shelved in every library, along with the alternative press that she promoted and created.
While the decision to paralyze Barbara Gordon was certainly a misogynistic one, the way that her character develops after the shooting speaks to the transformative power of information and technology...and librarians! Last week we looked at Barbara Gordon's character prior to The Killing Joke. She was a librarian by day and Batgirl by night. Her role as a librarian disguised her alter ego as Batgirl; reasserting the stereotype of librarians as meek and the opposite of badass. But this all changes after The Killing Joke. Thanks to a few writers who decided to make the best of what had happened to Gordon, Gordon's character decides to embrace her identity as a skilled librarian. She becomes Oracle, a computer hacker who discovers that access to information is a pretty phenomenal superpower.
Meet Barbara Gordon, librarian at the Gotham City Public Library by day, and crime-fightin' wonder Batgirl by night. Gordon was first introduced to the Batman comics and TV show in 1966, as an attempt to bring in female readers and viewers. While previous female characters (Batwoman and Bat-girl) were introduced in an attempt to dodge accusations of homosexuality between Batman and Robin, Batgirl wasn't there for romance as much as she was for ass-kicking. And did I mention that she was a librarian?