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I’m not sure anyone will be interested in this, and it feels a little narcissistic to write this post, but I wanted to capture what’s currently going on in my life.

As of August 1, 2018, I have gone on a one-year research leave from University of Alberta Libraries. I recognize not only the huge privilege I have of being able to take such a leave, but also the struggles of previous generations of workers to a) have “librarian” recognized as an academic position and b) to have research leaves included as part of the librarian collective agreement at University of Alberta libraries. If you’re interested in the history of academic librarianship and labour in Canada, I highly recommend In Solidarity: Academic Librarian Labour Activism and Union Participation in Canada, edited by Jennifer Dekker and Mary Kandiuk (Sacramento: Library Juice Press, 2014).

What am I doing on this research leave? I have two main projects and a few smaller ones on the go.

  • I’m working on a book for Library Juice which is going to be a Marxist critique of the mainstream liberal discourse of librarianship.I’ve been working on it since March, and the manuscript is due next March (2019). I guess publication date will depend on how much needs to be done to the manuscript after that part. Things are going well, and I’m working on it steadily.
  • I’ve been accepted into a part-time, distance learning research PhD programme in the School of Government and Society at University of Birmingham (Department of Political Science and International Relations). My research project will look at “Italian Theory” (primarily autonomist Marxism) and Knowledge Representation in Artificial Intelligence, with an application to financial technology. The details of the empirical part of the project still need to be worked out, but I’ll be spending two weeks in Birmingham at the beginning of October for induction into the programme.

In terms of smaller, but still significant, projects, I’ve submitted a poetry manuscript to the University of Alberta Press, and I’m working on an article for Library Trends on immaterial labour and academic librarianship, which will build on my reading in Italian marxism. I’m not hugely hopeful about the poetry, but we’ll see what happens. I also have a couple of presentations on the horizon. The first is for (my first ever) OLA Superconference, where I’ll be presenting a critique of the discourse of democracy in librarianship. The second - and something I’m really excited for - is a presentation as part of a conference in Winnipeg on the 100th anniversary of the 1919 strike, in May of next year.

I think part of the reason for setting out these projects in this update is to keep myself honest. Now that I’ve put them out there, they need to get done.


Sam Popowich

Discovery and Web Services Librarian, University of Alberta

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