Critical Library Studies, or Critical Librarianship, is a relatively new designation for a long-practiced examination and criticism of the field. Also referred to as radical or progressive, Critical Librarianship calls on library workers to acknowledge the systems of power and privilege that underpin the profession in an effort to challenge and change those systems. Critical librarians represent the wide range of library and information workers, allowing for a critical lens to be applied to: cataloging and classification, access and technical services, instruction and outreach, and management and administration. Although built on the writings and ideas from theorists like Paulo Friere, Henry Giroux, and bell hooks, it is possible that many critical librarians were working from this mindset without ever having read the theory itself. Because of this, the practice, praxis, and theory of librarianship have evolved rather simultaneously.
While critical librarianship continues to evolve and define itself, Drabinski notes that she sees “a persistent longing for a librarianship that looks and acts in ways that disrupt the status quo, that center a commitment to social justice and social change, that elevate and amplify the voices of a diverse group of librarians, and that grapple directly with the problems of power concentrated in the hands of only a few” (51). She goes on to outline what she sees as the main tenets of critical librarianship:
While Critical Librarianship has recently made space for the critique of the overwhelming whiteness of the field, it has a long way to go before it can be considered inherently antiracist. Emerging analysis of critical library studies from scholars like Leung and López-McKnight center Critical Race Theory (CRT) and propose evolving methods “in a particular race-radical direction that confronts racism, white domination, and is focused on abolishing White Supremacy” (22).
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Hathcock, April. "Racing to the Crossroads of Scholarly Communication and Democracy: But Who are We Leaving Behind?" In the Library with the Lead Pipe. 22 Aug. 2018.
Lamdan, Sarah. "Librarianship at the Crossroads of ICE Surveillance." In the Library with the Lead Pipe. 13 Nov. 2019.
Leung, Sophia and Jorge R. Lopez-McKnight. "Dreaming Revolutionary Futures: Critical Race’s Centrality to Ending White Supremacy." Communications in Information Literacy, vol. 14 , no. 1, 2020, pp. 12-26.