Nicole Pagowsky and the organizing committee comprised of Scott Buchanan, Jessica Calderwood, Jen Nichols, Anthony Sanchez, Maribeth Slebodnik, and Niamh Wallace, received the Special Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation for creating the Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium (CLAPS) held at the University of Arizona.The Symposium builds community among librarians interested in recognizing and critiquing power structures inherent in information practices, and in library professionals’ work as educators. The 2018/2019 Awards Committee conducted the following interview with Nicole and the other members of the CLAPS organizing committee.
What was the impetus for starting the Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium?
As we have been implementing our campus-wide instruction program at the University of Arizona Libraries, with Nicole as Instruction Coordinator and most on the committee in the same department, we were actively incorporating critical pedagogy into our library instruction mission/philosophy and learning outcomes adapted from the ACRL Framework. As we discussed this, and how to provide more learning opportunities for staff, these thoughts combined into an idea that we could potentially bring a conference here and have it focus specifically on critical approaches to library instruction. Over the last few years, conversations have reached a peak surrounding critical librarianship and critical pedagogy, and so interest has been high in learning about and engaging in these topics.
Many attendees speak very highly of their experiences at the Symposium. What do you think it is about the Symposium that makes people so appreciative?
We all (the committee) have had many experiences with conferences, good and bad, and so we were all excited about the opportunity to make this conference everything we would desire. We wanted it to have enough structure to alleviate stress and have focus, but also to be loose so people feel comfortable engaging and participating. One hope is the conference encourages creative and experimental ways to talk about these topics and attendees feel they have the right type of platform to test out their ideas and engage with peers. We also wanted to make sure the conference was fun! Not through kitsch, but just providing many opportunities for both socializing and quiet reflection.
What are you most proud of about the Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium?
Not to sound cocky, but it’s hard to choose just one! Mostly how successful we’ve been with promoting inclusivity. No event can be perfect, and we always want to get feedback and improve, but from what we have surveyed from attendees, this is an area of success for us. Another area would be how wonderful all the attendees who chose to come to CLAPS are; the keynotes, presenter sessions, and informal socializing has been consistently fantastic both years and our committee always looks forward to welcoming everyone to Tucson.
What is next for the Symposium?
We are so excited that library admin has approved ongoing funding for CLAPS to take place every other year, starting now with March 2020 (exact dates to be determined). As this is being written, we have our first 2020 planning meeting tomorrow so that we can start thinking about who to invite to keynote (please email Nicole if you have suggestions! firstname.lastname@example.org), figure out what dates we can go with, and start narrowing down a campus location. We have enough funding to still make the event free, and are trying to find more creative ways to expand attendee capacity. We have had to cap it at 120 people both years based on the size of the rooms we were able to secure within our budget, as well as how much food we can provide based on our budget. It would be great to expand since we keep having an overflowing waitlist, and we are going to see if it’s possible.
What do you want the library community to know about the Symposium that you haven’t addressed already?
Just that we are so honored to receive this award and are heartened that so many people appreciate the work we have put into CLAPS. In addition, CLAPS wouldn’t be what it is without the interest and participation of so many wonderful people, and so we want to thank those who have attended and support CLAPS over these past few years for our 2016 and 2018 conferences, and hopefully into the future.