— Donna Lanclos (@DonnaLanclos) June 23, 2016
I flew home from Manchester over the weekend, and this is not the first blogpost on UXLibs II to be written (and surely not the last). Before I get down my keynote in blog form I wanted to work through some thoughts that of course were inspired by the awful vote results on Friday June 24th.
When I helped open UXLibs II on July 23rd the energy in the room was high, and when I talked about larger contexts, I really had in mind (for the purposes of the room) the larger context of Higher Education, in my usual push to get people who work in libraries to stop thinking of themselves (and their Libraries) in isolation, but to see themselves as connected to broader networks of institutions and people (in similar ways to how users perceive and experience them).
I managed to forget for the moment that other argument that I and others have made about how academia exists in the larger context of society, and the world. We are not living in a bubble, the world we live in is shot through our more local educational contexts. In our very international room at UXLibs, on Friday morning, we were all reminded forcefully of the presence of the world and all of its troubles.
Brexit, should it come to pass, will be a tragedy. The vote that has already happened has hurt and frightened and angered so many people, including people I love. The vote has apparently encouraged racists to take license and assault their fellow citizens, and the vote has also apparently caught even those who campaigned for the Leave result off guard, so that there are no plans for execution, and leadership on all sides have gone home in shock and confusion.
If xenophobia + outward-facing = colonialism, then I think xenophobia + inward-facing = isolationism.
I had no standing on Friday to speak to what I wished to happen around the Referendum vote, it’s not my country as fond as I am of many of its inhabitants. I can offer hugs and sympathy and hopes that should our vote in the US in November go similarly wrong, I might call on my friends for the same. I have never had a chance to be a European, I am locked into my US passport and cannot offer my children alternative citizenships. It has seemed to me a marvelous thing, this European experiment, that connected people across borders even as it was messy and imperfect. I hope, I hope, it is not over.
I was reminded, on Friday, not just of the ever-present world in our conversations about libraries and academia, but also in the fundamental lack of importance of me as an individual. UXLibs as a phenomenon has always, to my mind, been about the importance of the community, of collective action. No one speaker, no one presentation, no one individual is important. But together, we all are. As collectives of individuals, we matter in positive and negative ways. Collective and connected action can be the antidote to isolationism, which does not serve people, libraries, or countries very well at all.
I will fight the impulse (in my country as well as elsewhere) for isolationism, because that is not what keeps us safe, that is not an interesting or constructive way to move through the world.
I want to live in hope, so I will choose to do so.