Author Archives: Robin Brown

It is good to go to work

My journey to my Library is mind boggling.  Most of the first mile is on foot. 2 train systems. Then about a half mile to campus. Getting up from my office desk to go to the bathroom, and do public service. When the evening comes grab my rollator and stuff and rewind my ball of string. By comparison, working from home is the proverbial 30 second commute. During the pandemic and 18 months of working from home full time, I was careful to get up at the end of the day and go for a walk. I felt it was necessary. If I don’t walk, I will forget how. That basically worked. I have eased into the commute with no major problems.
However, life is more than leg muscles. Last winter I developed muscle spasms in my lower back. Particularly at the end of the day standing in the kitchen making supper was excruciating. I sought help. I won’t bore you withe the details of the journey. What is fascinating, in terms of living with CP is the final conclusion. The word is that 18 months of sitting got to me. Muscles in my lower back got weaker. This is why it doesn’t hurt to go to work. Going into my office is my therapy
This was the right answer, by the way. It would have been a truly terrifying problem if it hurt to return to work. I am not planning on retiring soon, but it did occur to me when I got the word, I am going to have to figure out how to go to the YMCA when I retire.

Is this a disability issue?

Greetings from the mid-summer. Given that travel is now possible, many of my friends and colleagues are traveling to the Caribbean or Europe, or wherever. This has reminded me that my spouse and I are not travelers. We went on a lovely one day outing to The New York Historical Society Museum. It was lovely, and we built some shared memories and shared some experiences. Then we stopped at one of our favorite local restaurants and went home and collapsed into our own bed. We love museums, so we may do it again before the summer ends. New York City is full of small and moderate sized museums. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art was judged to big and to difficult to get to.)
We both travel for business as needed. I actually consider the ALA Conference to be my vacation. Sometimes he comes with me. (My food is better when he is there to look after me.) We have talked about me jointing him at some point, but we haven’t done it yet.
However, the summer vacation, be it the tropics or a cruise or a road trip, just doesn’t occur to us. Travel is HARD. It is physically and mentally exhausting. I won’t go into details about my beloved. In our house normal is a setting on the washing machine.
So, is this a disability issue? Or are we just curmudgeons?

Anti-racist pedagogy

I want to really recommend this Ted talk on the consciousness gap in education:

When I saw it I was reminded of my deep commitment to anti-racism.  I believe that this is the great work of this season. Resources are  popping up at a great rate.  I think now is the time to stand together and change our world.  That’s why I will continue to highlight resources when I find them.  That’s why I will continue to write and speak on this topic when I can.

Our book is out!!

I am delighted and very grateful to announce that our book “Seeking to understand: a journey into disabilities studies and libraries” is now available for sale. I continue to be grateful for the remarkable journey that it’s been, exploring the issues of disabilities and intersectional identities. This is a book not only for the disabled, but for anyone who cares about developing empathy toward the functionally diverse.

A new book from Adam Grant.

Grant, Adam (2021). Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You don’t Know. Viking.
When I picked this up I thought it was going to be about fake news. It’s not about figuring out whether information is reliable. It’s about interpersonal relationships. It’s about letting go of certainty and collecting people who will challenge us. The value of conflict, as long as it’s task conflict. Stereotypes are arbitrary (138). How to get people to change (the right kind of listening). Things are much more complicated than can be conveyed with a binary choice. The radical value of active learning.
It’s a very thought provoking book. Things are much more complicated than they seem. Do I really know . . .?

Now public higher education is really important.

This article was recently highlighted by the New York Times, so it’s possible that some of you have seen it already.

It’s interesting reading. They consider how our economy is going to change as we emerge from the pandemic.  The premise is that we are not likely to go back to the way things were.


  • restaurants
  • travel
  • accommodations
  • Non-residential structures
  • Brick and Mortar retail
  • Travel


  • Grocery stores
  • Demand for IT and virtual services
  • Scientific and Medical Research

Please don’t take my word for it.  I’m sure I have missed something. This made it very clear that we need to really insist that public higher education be supported.

Now is an important moment

I have already said that I think we should all be contacting our representatives regarding HR 40, the bill for studying the creation of structure to provide reparations for the descendants of enslaved people.
     One of the amazing things that happen this last week is that I received the author copies of our book. Seeking to Understand: A Journey into Disability Studies and Libraries will be published on March 15.
I am preparing to present on March 18th. So I started to reread parts of it. What I want to focus on right now is the tremendous opportunity to get the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified.

Guiding Principles of the Convention

There are eight guiding principles that underlie the Convention and each one of its specific articles:
  1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
  2. Non-discrimination
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  5. Equality of opportunity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Equality between men and women
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities
Please, this is an opportunity to join in something that has already be ratified by 182 countries. Now is the time. Please ask your Senator to sponsor putting this treaty forward for ratification.

Musical Chairs

      One of the lens through which I look at life, as a person with a life time mobility disability, is musical chairs.  I believe that game  fosters competition and getting your own needs met, regardless of the needs of others. Self obsessed competition fosters the myth of the meritocracy, and ignores privilege.  The most obvious privilege that I recall from my childhood was physical talent.  Success was defined by the  ability to win games.
      Musical chairs came into my life when I started commuting by mass transit.  I soon realized that I wasn’t sitting down because I wasn’t fast enough.  I began to say “I suck at musical chairs.”  Of course crowded mass transit trains feel like half a lifetime ago.
      I believe we are still seeing self obsessed competition. When we talk about “everybody working from home” we are forgetting the essential workers who are keeping our lights on, our heat running, and delivering our groceries.  I have been on mass transit during the pandemic, I saw very few white people. I want to suggest that pandemic hoarding is also about musical chairs.  I need to make sure that MY needs are met, regardless of the needs of my neighbor.
       Then there is the vaccine.  Who has been vaccinated? I am delighted that my 91 year old mother has been vaccinated. I am delighted that first responders are being vaccinated. I have heard stories about SUVs with NJ plates parked outside vaccination hubs in NYC.  That’s about privilege on so many levels,  it’s probably not even conscious.  Again, the drive to get your needs met, regardless of the needs of others.
     I live in NJ. I have heard stories of vaccine appointments obtained after spending hours on the phone. To those who have urged me to be proactive, and check a dozen different places, I say I just don’t have the time.  I am really extraordinarily fortunate to be working full time. I have commitments outside of my work that fill up my day.  I have neither the time or the inclination to spend hours on the phone.
      So I have decided to decline to play musical chairs because that never ends well.  I have registered where I am supposed to register, and I am waiting for a response.  I will be vaccinated some time before I am expected to return to my office.

Observations on attending a virtual conference

         Attending Library conferences over the years has truly enriched my life. When I was an active mother, it was a holiday. In 2015 I brought T with me to San Francisco and we had a lovely time. In New Orleans in 2018 I learned about grits. I also discovered that sleeping car beds are not friendly to my arthritis. In 2019 I went to the ACRL conference in Cleveland, OH and met with Library Juice Press, and they accepted my book proposal.
       So I went to ALA Midwinter virtually. I had a nice time, and learned some things about attending conferences. ALA Midwinter was distorted because I forgot to leave home. I have a rich and complex life, that includes extensive commitments on the weekends. I did everything I usually do, and then layered conference on top of it. That was a mistake.
       So, I intend to attend ALA Annual virtually. I am going to do my best to “leave home.” I will arrange to also “leave work.” It’s important to focus. I want to learn how to attend virtual conferences because I am aging with a disability, and going to F2F conferences is going to get harder.

Reflections from my bubble

      Since I began to shelter in place last March, the Daily Walk has been a thing. First I overdid it and ended up with tendonitis in my right shoulder. But it continues to be a thing, gently done. In the last week or two I have started walking in circles in the basement. (I do a mile. It takes between 21 and 24 minutes.) This means that there are many days that I don’t leave the house. I am very aware of my bubble.
       I don’t tolerate corona viruses very well. A cold descends into my lungs and requires antibiotics and / or steroids to shut it down. This may be due to the CP, because we found documentation from the CDC that listed CP as a risk factor for serious disease. My spouse and I have taken this virus very seriously from the beginning. I am very grateful that my job became remote. I continue to be grateful for a very interesting and complex job for which I am well paid.
     I am also very grateful for T. Somehow not being face to face with the rest of the planet is a little easier with hugs from my beloved.
     I also really acknowledge my privileges. This virus has hit BIPOC communities very hard because often the essential workers are from those communities. I did take NJ Transit into NYC a couple of months ago and I didn’t see any “suits.” I am here and reasonably comfortable because of the people who pick, pack, and deliver my groceries. We do takeout on Friday and Saturday nights, very aware of the people who cook and pack up our food. I think we all need to be a little bit more aware of the people who don’t get to stay home.
     I will be vaccinated when appointments become available. I believe I am currently eligible, but there are no appointments due to supply issues. Time will tell.
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