Category Archives: Discrimination

‘Readers Advisory’ and Commentary

Arthur C. Clarke:

Childhood’s End

By James Johnson

If you are anything like me, you have silently acknowledged, for the sake of memory, just how bizarre each progressing year has been. Its not a foretelling of doom, but rather a result of some cycle or chain of events. Sometimes it correlates to the cycle of a new American presidency. Other times to the effects of global catastrophe, like the 2008 economic crises many nations faced; or more closer to home – the ravaging effects COVID19 has had on virtually all of humanity in the year 2020.

The intensity of our personal and communal unrest is alarming. This is rapidly becoming a dangerous time for us all. Uncertainty and our own demons hold us back from being better. From choosing to be better. In our communities towards each other, in our careers and how we serve each other, and especially in our families and how we raise our children.

Art Bell said the world was suffering from the Quickening, the rapid advancement of humanity and the generic “speed” with which life is lived by. He said the development and pace of our civilization was eroding our social contracts, effectively our technology was dehumanizing us. I cant say for certain this is the case, but it is definitely making it difficult to differentiate real information from “fake news”.

What if a man could strike out on his own and try to accomplish what he desired most, without fear of eviction, starvation, or destitution. Would he not be the subject of unlimited potential?

This madness and these bizarre times we live in, make it seem as though we’re all passengers on an out-of-control, organic-mechanic sphere, fueled by the literal physical efforts of the lower of us. Our working class work hard to stay afloat, paycheck to paycheck, while producing the grease that moves the wheels that drives their very burden. I have belonged to this rung all of my life and I know it well. Head down, take your crumbs, show up the next day. Don’t get sick. You don’t get very far this way, but its honest and accounts for some of the most honorable among us.

If only there were no need for this work, these long hours (or sometimes erratically spaced shifts), with no incentives, salaries, or benefits. “Earning” indentured regulated arbitrary wages that stagnate year in and year out. What if a man could strike out on his own and try to accomplish what he desired most, without fear of eviction, starvation, or destitution. Would he not be the subject of unlimited potential?

That question is answered in Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. When mankind has no concern for war, wage, or sin, the fruits of initiative and ingenuity are revealed to us. Among other terrifying and confounding revelations of existentialism. Reader beware.

This pandemic has shown that most Canadians aren’t prepared for prolonged breaks in employment. And many small businesses too also proved unable to survive the shutdown. Prior economic disasters compelled many governments around the world to conduct experiments on Universal Basic Income projects*, and this pandemic has spurred the movement to support more projects to increase the validity of its benefits.

Childhood’s End has the world finally come to the doorstep of peace and prosperity. The results are mind blowing and you’ll be reeled into a book full of foundational science fiction tropes paired with unique Judaeo-Christian mythology. The conclusion of the story will most likely leave you in that surreal yet recognizable state; slacked jawed with a thousand yard stare, the book quietly closed in your lap. You know that feel.

It gets an 8 out of whatever. We recommend it.

Below is the source for the UBI reference


Walk The Talk: Information Professionals and Discrimination

By James Johnson

It can be said that archivists, librarians, digital curators of modern data etc., all share core systemic values that fall in the realm of civil liberties and what that means to public hubs of information sharing and consuming. Some of these values include privacy, non-discriminatory access to information, and neutrality when it comes to engaging the public or community as access points to that information.

Through my studies I have come to learn there are a great many perspectives in the world of information professionals. And that means there will be differences that may come in to conflict with the core principles of library philosophy. These differences arise from the simple fact that we are all human beings with our own moral compasses; freethinkers in a free society. Is it possible that champions of these cherished freedoms could suffer from the same ills they seek to eliminate? Is it even possible that librarians and information professionals, who often have the loudest voices in social justice congress, discriminate against some of their patrons?

As it turns out, yes.

An economics paper on racial discrimination in public service sectors highlights some interesting findings. The authors sent emails to libraries (and other public offices) using fake names. Either black sounding names or white sounding names. They found that the more “white” a name appeared the more likely the email would garner a response to their inquiries, often times with a more polite tone than when the name appeared more “black”. These are information professionals (probably, the datasets on whether the staff are LIS trained are unclear) appearing to provide weaker quality services to blacks.

It’s clear this issue needs to be addressed and I’m not entirely certain it can be at the systemic level. What I believe can help is active observation of the self. How are we as service providers, those on the front lines of customer service, positioning ourselves when responding to others? Are we placing labels on these individuals based on how they present themselves? And if so, how can we remain neutral and provide quality, non-discriminatory service to everyone?

I think Donna Walker’s article on active listening is a good start. Instead of thinking in terms of ideas or arguments in the work place as she outlines, transition this methodology towards customer service. Use active listening to address the queries of a patron. We may not hear these concerns over our own biases, and these may very well be internal or subconscious. This can be a difficult concept to overcome, maybe even Herculean. That’s why it may be best to combat this issue on a purely customer service oriented re-positioning. Take the active listening position. Hear all queries and comments from this angle. Provide the best service you can by being a better listener. Doing this can remove invisible barriers and meet the needs of the community as neutral facilitators of information.

I think its important for everyone to have the freedom to hold their own opinions, unpopular or otherwise. We do not need thought police in our free society. But as providers of crucial services, information professionals need to be cautious and ever-present when dealing with all types of patrons. Walk the talk and actively pursue patron interactions with positivity and good listening skills. It’ll make everybody’s day better.