Hi everyone! My name is Kerry Flett, and I’m currently a student in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, studying for an MA in Librarianship. When I first applied for the curation week here at We The Humanities, I was still a graduate trainee in an NHS library, and talked about moving from history to a STEM library in my ‘pitch’. Although I’m now in the process of trying to make that leap into the profession proper, I still want to work in NHS health librarianship, so many of my tweets will focus on diversity in librarianship, questions around transferable skills and the differences in method and mentality between ‘old me’ and ‘new me’.’ Old me’ was a historian, with a research background in United States history between 1950-1980 and a focus on civil rights movements that don’t often come up in the literature. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the militant left-wing Black Panther Party movement in Sixties and Seventies America, focussing on a reassessment of their social programmes, and my Masters thesis on ‘forgotten’ civil rights movements in Chicago c1950 to 1965. I had the privilege of tutoring undergraduates at Edinburgh in 2014, while working in galleries in the city, then moved into the graduate library traineeship in September 2015.
That study and teaching happened against a backdrop of historiography in which some voices tended to predominate: as in many disciplines, those who were most numerous or well-known tended to be more visible in the literature. The feeling that some activists had been ‘left behind’ made me question exactly what it was that made them so invisible, which led me on to considering questions of intersectionality. Intersectionality is basically the idea that it is impossible to talk about one element of a person’s concept of themselves in isolation: all of the things a person is (whether or not that label has been assigned to or taken up by them) have a combined effect on how they experience the world. For example, I am Scottish. But, I am also white, a cis woman, bisexual, university-educated, and many other things. All of these things together have a cumulative impact on my place in the world and how I interact with it, both positive and negative, and where those ‘bits’ of me cross over that experience is intersectional. I am lucky to live in a place where it is mostly considered acceptable to be LGBT; I have the privilege of being white and can therefore turn on any TV programme and see someone who looks like me. However, in many sectors I would still risk being paid less, made redundant if I got pregnant, or asked to make the tea because I am a woman! Unpacking privilege and intersectional discrimination is a thorny issue, and one that I won’t really focus much on when curating the account for reasons of time, but I think it’s important to define it here so that my tweets make sense!
Many of the people I’ve studied have been relegated to footnote status, if they are mentioned at all, because they were not only Black, but Black women, and not only Black women but Black, female and poor, and so on-intersections between different parts of their identity had a layered effect on their experiences, but I argued that it also had a similar effect on our historical memory of them. The question of ‘respectability’ and how it affects who is remembered was always something I wanted to go back to…maybe one day I will muster the courage!
What this meant for my shift into a STEM environment was that I brought a different perspective to the role, and to the sources we provided; working in a psychiatric hospital library made an understanding of diversity, stigma and marginalisation an important part of my work, and made me wonder how diverse our journals and books were. In a sense, I automatically applied primary source criticism to STEM sources and found things I wasn’t expecting! I began exploring the role that ‘grey literature’ (sources published outside commercial journals, such as conference proceedings) could play in helping our readers in their practice, and this is one of the things I’ll be tweeting about during my week at the helm. The concepts I’ve talked about here tend to crop up more often in the humanities than in STEM, so they provide an interesting platform for talking about the transition between the two environments. I’ve listed a few of the upcoming topics below, to give you a glimpse of what will be appearing!
- Transferable skills between history and STEM library training-what works and what doesn’t?
- Grey literature in medical librarianship, and your experiences of grey literature in your disciplines
- Diversity in STEM research and publishing, something which I’d love to find out more about
- How going from one discipline to another can be a hindrance rather than a help
- Ethics, diversity and social responsibility in librarianship
- The future of (NHS) libraries in a digital world