2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: We Will Not Be Shushed - Guerrilla Library Advocacy

Written by Megan Simpson | February 13, 2014

Learn about guerrilla librarians at SXSW Interactive 2014

Christian Zabriskie and Lauren Comito is the team at the heart of Urban Librarians Unite, and have been fighting for libraries for years. While they are primarily focused on New York City Public Libraries, they have a wide range of organizational interests including library disaster response (as information first responders), open source collections, street librarianship, and more. To SXSW Interactive they bring their Core Conversation, “We Will Not Be Shushed - Guerrilla Library Advocacy,” the focus of this Session Spotlight.

SXSW: This is likely a topic that most readers haven’t heard of before. Can you tell us more about what guerrilla library advocacy actually is?
Zabriskie and Comito: Through disaster response, street librarianship, and front line advocacy Urban Librarians Unite work to bring libraries into the community. These knife in the teeth librarians have applied social media and tech to traditional activist tactics to get back hundreds of millions of library budget dollars in New York City. ULU is effective because it uses strategy, intent, and creative design to weave advocacy narratives that tell a story. They use virtual communities and sweat equity to make a huge difference with almost no resources and they can show you how you can do it too.

SXSW: What type of SXSW registrants should come to this session?
Zabriskie and Comito: People who want to make a big impact with scarce resources. People who work in any kind of advocacy or who want to speak up about a cause or issue. People who are willing to work should come and people who like to bite off more than they can chew, and then chew it. People who want to get solid real practical advice based on real world activist experience in how to use technology and virtual communities to leverage real world influence.

SXSW: Why should those registrants come? What unique perspective or information does your session provide?
Zabriskie and Comito: We will have a lively discussion based on real experiences full of activist war stories. People who like to see a context shift should come out and see these loud librarians, who are quite possibly cooler than you (according to flavorwire anyway). Attendees who attend the talk will see that it is very pragmatic and practical, while being informative, like a librarian should be. Participants will know enough at the end of the session to get out there and fight for what they believe in, how they can scale that fight, and how they can take a look at the ground ahead of time so they don't get creamed.

SXSW: Tell us what excites you most about this conversation.
Zabriskie and Comito: Taking the conversation outside the library world. We are very excited to reach out to people in the tech and activist communities and share our perspective both as activists and as public librarians trying to build a better community one patron at a time. The core conversation format is really exciting and will fit our presentation style really well.

SXSW: Is there an article you can recommend to registrants to help them learn more about this topic before attending your session?
Zabriskie and Comito: We wrote an article a few years ago that touches on a lot of what we will discuss in our session. It is a little old, but we love the One School, One Library, One Librarian movement out of South Africa too.

SXSW: Can you share your blog with us?
Zabriskie and Comito: Yes! We mostly write about our organization, what we are up to and what we see as issues in libraries in New York City. You can read it here.

SXSW: We’re dying to know what two librarians favorite gadget is. Will you share with us?
Zabriskie and Comito: Does the Library Box count as a gadget? If so then yeah this highly portable wireless ebook library/file-sharing device is on our list of awesome.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. For tips on interesting sessions to attend, visit the new Recommendation page. Register now to attend “We Will Not Be Shushed - Guerrilla Library Advocacy” and other incredible programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.

Christian Zabriskie and Lauren Comito photo by Vicky M. Zabriskie.