Urgent Call for Participation

Call for participation:  looking for library workers or library school students with disabilities.

We are writing a book that addresses the needs of library workers with disabilities and multiple identities. It will be published by Library Juice Press later this year.


Because the community of  library workers with disabilities is such a central part of our research, you are invited to contribute to our book.

Topics are more or less open (these are suggestions only):

  • What you would like your manager to know?
  • Advocacy: mass transit, empathy, creative accommodations
  • What is a day in your life like, please emphasis your work life.

Contributions are due by March 15, 2020. (If you need a different date, please let me know.)

Contributions are being accepted up to a maximum of 500 words.

We are not guaranteeing we can accept everything, your submission may be edited.

Tell us whether you want it to be signed or anonymous.

If you are going to sign it, include where you work.

Regardless: we need to know how to reach you, please give us a phone # and an e-mail.

By submission you are giving us permission to publish, and you will not receive compensation. Your name will not be on the book. Your name will be listed in the preface, unless you choose to remain anonymous.  The authors of the book are Professors Brown and Sheidlower.

Robin Brown, MLS, MA

Associate Professor

Head of Public Services

Borough of Manhattan Community College Library




I am different.


It’s been a journey to discover that I am not like a majority of you. The impact of cerebral palsy on my body is subtle. Since I don’t know any other way of being, I have been observing the people that I live with, travel with, and work with, and discovering that I am different.

I don’t sew or knit or crochet

I tried that when I was younger. It never went well. I think it’s because my hands are not as functional as someone who has that skill.  I’m okay with that because I can still write, and for me that is much more productive. I need to write. I used to say “Other people knit, I go to graduate school.” When I did that for a while, my career took a great leap forward.

Standing on the train

Living in the New York City Metropolitan area I do a mass transit commute. Through careful observation, I discovered that it was not difficult for most other people to stand on a moving train. It doesn’t hurt them. Standing on a moving train is painful and wears me out. I need to sit down when they start moving the train. (The only exception to that is really short trips.) That’s one of uses of my rollator.


Like most people, fatigue has increased in my life as I have aged. It is especially complicated for me as I am I am a high energy extrovert, and I have a passion for what I do. On an average work day I around 10,000 steps, without even trying.


Walking is harder than it looks

I hesitated to include this here, because in some ways I have always known this. I tend to be very aware that other people find my gait unusual. If I count success as staying upright and getting from one place to another, I manage that, most of the time.

I am different. Actually as I look at this premise, so is everybody who is reading this, regardless of whether they self-identify. Some differences require a supportive environment. What the difference is, will show what kind of support is needed. I need the infrastructure to work. Elevators are really important. Ramps are good. With a supportive environment I am able to produce at a pretty high level.

Am I disabled? To be disabled is to have functional differences with certain skills that society requires.  Very few people will care about whether or not I knit or crochet. (I don’t usually think about that one, but I was with friends recently that began with swapping stories about knitting projects.). However, the walking/standing problem is an issue.

I have chosen to self-identify because it enriches my life.  When the environment suddenly becomes less supportive I do need help. I think this is why I have chosen for my life the middle-road between the medical model and the social model of disability.  There are things about me that are a variation from the commonly accepted norms. That is not really imposed by society. I am making a journey each day to more deeply accept these things. The pain comes when somebody prejudges my other abilities, for example, because I don’t walk in the same way they do.

I do  a conference presentation that is based on talking about strengths.  Everyone, regardless of how they self-identify, can do the following exercise:

  • Name three things that you are really good it.
  • Name three things that are challenging, but you still do.
  • Name three things that are difficult enough that you try to avoid them.


When this is done in a group, turn the lens outward and ask people to do a think-pair-share. It’s also a good lens when dealing with anyone who has functional variations.  It is meant to encourage everyone to see strengths, before weaknesses.

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.
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