Is your library connected to mass transit?

This question just came to me as I was drafting the advocacy chapter for my book.

Can we change the world? Is your library available to people who don’t drive?

I think this time when we are all thinking about the climate, I think it’s time to reintegrate people who don’t drive into our communities.  Let’s stop privileging the car.

Because I work for CUNY my library is easy to get to by mass transit.  My local public library is a 1/2 mile from my house, so I walk. I know there is a bus run by the Senior Center, but what about the other people who don’t drive?

I’m up for starting this conversation.

We are all different!

As part of my research I have had the privilege to interact with several library workers with cerebral palsy.  It has reminded me of a very important part of self identifying as a person with CP.  I am a walker. Yes, it’s a little different, and I benefit from support, but it gets the job done. When people see me in action, they are really impressed,  They imply that I am better because I worked harder. Essentially distancing  themselves from a person with CP who is in a wheelchair.

The wheelchair is not a failure. One of my respondents described becoming much more efficient at work, because of the decision to use a chair.

We are all different, and all have different paths through life.



A really important civil rights treaty

My research has led me to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I am dismayed to discover that the United States has not ratified it. It was considered by the United States Senate in 2012, but didn’t pass with the 2/3 majority needed for treaty ratification. I’m not sure where to begin to change this reality, but I’m open to suggestions.

What I find really charming is the text that they have developed to explain CRPD to a child (or anyone else who doesn’t want to wade through treaty language).  Its_About_Ability_final_


I’m going to acknowledge that I have had a tough couple of days. A cold that was making my life difficult last week went bad and I ended up on antibiotics. Miserable.  The good news is that I am on the mend. Yeah!

So my boss told me to take the week. I told my Doctor this and he absolutely agreed. I agreed because I don’t want to go back to where I was on Saturday night for a very long time. I know how exhausting it can be for me to get into work, so I am going to to do the right thing.

A conversation with the young person at the Doctor’s office reminded me of something important. I am on salary. I have more sick leave than I hope I will ever need.

New York City has acknowledged that sick leave is a basic employment right.

I recognize privilege.



I feel I am well represented by the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York. I am so grateful to be part of an activist union.  Being hampered by my disability and the fatigue that comes with it, I feel like there is not a lot I can do to help them.  However, today I was proud to wear #REDforED:

Me wearing a red shirt

Why I need my rollator

I have a mass transit commute.  I take NJ Transit to Newark (most days), and transfer to the PATH. My office is about 5 blocks from the World Trade Center path station.

This morning when I arrived at Newark, the PATH system was shut down. The number of people that move through that system means a shut down is massive crowds within 10-15 minutes.  As I thought about that experience, I realized that I was not afraid of getting knocked over. My “wheels” gave me something to hang onto. (BTW, no worries, these things get sorted out in less than an hour.)

This gets added to the list:

I am accident prone.

I have lumbar arthritis, complicated by my CP. Getting the stuff off my back is critical. It means that I can carry more stuff that would be possible if it were on my back.

It gives me a place to sit as needed.

It keeps me safe in crowds.

So, it’s confirmed. I really do NEED my wheels.


Part of the journey of “adaptive librarianship” is continuing to renew my commitment to self-acceptance.  Can I rejoice in my abilities and let go of my limitations?  Just putting words around it is part of the journey.
I spoke at the CUNY Diversity and Inclusion conference last Friday. I wanted to underline that no one should be judged by outward appearances. So I began with a list of things that I do really well…
Information Structures
Teaching / Mentoring / Love
Management of Details
These are the gifts I bring to the table. Many map back to my librarianship. I am so grateful to have found something that I can do well.
 Particularly writing is more and more important to me recently. Once the current article that I am working on has been accepted, the next project in my disabilities studies research will be a book. Having produced two articles in quick succession, I am ready for the longer format.

What’s working!

The ability to do academic writing is well rewarded here at CUNY.  In an effort to help my colleagues, this is a list of what is currently working for me. This is how I became a writer.

  • Find something you are really passionate about. It really helps if you are excited to keep diving into whatever it is.  This has been one of the engines driving me. When I started doing disabilities studies work, it really took off like a rocket.
  • What can you give up? I wrote an article without reassignment leave. I wrote on the train. I wrote nights and weekends. I stopped doing my volunteer work.
  • Work on it every day, even if it’s for 15 minutes. Read an article on the subway or something.  The reason for this is that it is really hard to put it down and pick it up again a week later. (This is what I didn’t understand with Junior Reassignment Leave.)  You have to keep the fire lit. This is the main point. Become obsessed with it.
  • Morning Pages
    • This is a point learned from Julia Cameron. She calls them Morning Pages, and insists on long hand.  I have morphed a little bit, I use my ipad and a Bluetooth keyboard. The point is a daily free write.  Give yourself permission to scribble.
  • Get yourself a collaborator. Somebody to keep you on task and to read your writing.  Somebody to call when your courage fails you. That’s one of the greatest gifts that my interest in disabilities studies has brought me.  My collaborator is Scott Sheidlower from York College.
  • Look for other opportunities to write. Write newsletter articles for your community organization. I really do believe that other kinds of writing that don’t go on my CV has increased my ability to show up for scholarship.
  • Carry a notebook around with you. Mine is my ipad. I have also seen a composition notebook used to great effect by a poet.
  •  Read constantly. It really doesn’t matter what.

The two major points that have changed my life are finding a passion, and being willing to work on it every day.

Apps and stuff:  ToDoist, Evernote, Google Drive


The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Dissertations, Theses and Books

The Artist’s Way


My new survey is ready

Please feel free to distribute this call for participation to any who you think will be interested.


Our research into the impact of library workers with disabilities is expanding.  Some of you will remember our previous survey. “Claiming Our Space” will be published by Library Trends (67:3, Winter 2019).  While working through the first pass, several questions came up that we wanted to address. So the survey has been revised and expanded.  


We are welcoming all library workers.

We are addressing the impact of the ADA.

We are addressing intersectionality. Drawing a strong portrait should include the extent that our respondents help us to see their multiple identities (race, sexual identity etc.).  

We want to know more about navigating the library world with an invisible disability.


Will you help us continue to understand?

(Data will be aggregated. All direct quotes will be anonymous. )


Link to the Survey


Robin Brown, MLS, MA

Associate  Professor

Information Literacy Librarian

Borough of Manhattan Community College

199 Chambers Street, Rm. S410L

New York, NY 10007


212-220-1445 (office)

732-266-7360 (cell)



Scott Sheidlower is a  Professor and head of circulation and the archivist in the library at York College of the City University of New York [CUNY] in Jamaica, Queens, New York City.  He has an M.A. in Art History from NYU; an M.A. in Arts Administration, also from NYU; and an M.L.S. from Queens College/CUNY. He is co-author of Humor and Information Literacy: Practical Techniques for Library Instruction  (Libraries Unlimited, 2011). His e-mail is ssheidlower@york.cuny.edu.


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