As part of a graduate school assignment, Miranda researched what resources were available in the library for patrons who experienced domestic and/or sexual violence. Her conclusion as to, “how libraries in my state were providing services for survivors- and the answer really boils down to this- they weren’t.” Read this interview with Miranda to hear more about her work, and how to contact her to provide a training session for your library.
Tell me a little bit about how and when you started this resource? When I was in graduate school for my MLIS, I was tasked with creating a resource for librarians that discussed an aspect of multiculturalism/diversity. I had prior experience working with domestic and sexual violence survivors and I thought it would be helpful to put together a resource for my assignment that discussed survivors and library use. Once I began doing my research though, I realized it was a little talked about subject, and there wasn’t much research on how to assist patrons who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence. I had some elective credits left so I used them as an opportunity to conduct my own research on how libraries in my state were providing services for survivors- and the answer really boils down to this- they weren’t. So I began Librarians for Survivors to help create awareness around library services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I think it is important that librarians understand the unique information needs they might have, and how their experience with violence may impact their interaction with the library.
I notice you provide training sessions online. Have you seen an uptick in requests for these with the COVID shut downs?
Unfortunately, a lot of libraries have cancelled their training due to COVID. I’ve offered a few online training sessions that have been really casual get-togethers with anyone interested in talking about the subject. I’m hoping that as the library community has its more basic needs met that we can begin focusing on providing services to survivors, because they are being heavily impacted by COVID and will have some specific needs as communities reopen that libraries are able to assist with.
How has COVID affected people in abusive relationships? COVID has given abusers new information to manipulate in order to propagate fear. Think of how much information you have consumed about COVID, and now imagine you have no access to any of it. Abusers can lie to victims about how COVID is spread, how serious it is, when things open or shut down, when borders are open for travel; when it is safe to return to work, and so much more. COVID has also increased stressful triggers by putting many people out of work- and I want to be really clear here, being laid off does not cause someone to be abusive- but for those who already were abusive, having a stressful trigger like being laid off can cause an increase in violence and manipulation.
What will victims need after COVID? Coming out of stay-at-home or shelter-at-home orders, many victims will be seeking assistance. They may not have had safe access to a phone to call a crisis center or the police. They may want to report past crimes. They may want to find out more about COVID from reputable news sources. They might not leave their home for a very long time because their abuser has told them COVID is spreading like wildfire in their town. They may want the latest James Patterson book, or the newest season of Criminal Minds. They may need to know which bus routes are up and running. I could go on and on but my point is, most of the things victims will need coming out of COVID will seem like typical questions you get at the library, but for victims they may have huge implications. The patron who is upset that the printing station isn’t up and running yet may need to print a resume for a job that will allow them to save money to flee violence. The parent who is upset that they can’t get Wall-E on DVD because it is being quarantined may be frustrated because they know that is one of the few movies that will distract their kids while violence is going on in the home. We know a lot about what our patrons need because they ask us, but we don’t always know the why. It’s important to remember to enter these interactions with compassion and care.
Are they stereotypes about people in abusive relationships that you would like to correct? I think the most important thing to remember is that we analyze the world through our own implicit biases, and it’s less about societal stereotypes and more about what implicit bias we hold as individuals. There is a zine for sale at www.LibrariansForSurvivors.com that walks through identifying implicit biases as they relate to domestic and sexual violence and helps readers identify ways to challenge these implicit biases. Readers of this article can get the zine for free by using code “RAINBOW”.
What is the URL for your website, and how can people who are interested contact you? I can be reached through the contact form at www.LibrariansForSurvivors.com, or on twitter @blssfllybookish.