Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Report from #CALC2020 - How Witches Use Libraries

Next for my liveblogging at the Critical Approaches to Libraries Conference conference is How Witches Use Libraries: the library and information needs of contemporary Pagans and Ritual magicians from Joanna Fitzpatrick based on her dissertation research. She is a longstanding member of the community she was investigating, though she also explained that there are different perspectives on paganism and ritual magick (with these defined as a group of alternative spiritualities and religions).
There are no theological libraries, so there is a reliance on small and often personal collections, and there is no core holy text and some important texts are dfficult to access. There is no authority or central body that speaks for these spiritualities. "Information Literacy is important as you have to do it yourself" and serendipity in information discovery is valued.
Existing organisations in the UK include the Library of Avalon, Museum of Witchcraft and Magick, and the Doreen Valiente Foundation.
Fitzpatrick then outlined the findings from her research, where she did a survey of over 100 participants (sorry, I didn't take down the exact number) and interviewed 5 people. She represented her findings in terms of pairings of different perspectives (see screengrab) e.g. (Reconstruction/inspiration) interest in reconstructing ancient spiritualities, versus using them as inspiration for new ideas. I got particularly excited (as a super-encounterer) at the references to information encountering and its importance.
She went on to talk about non rational ways of knowing (such as divination, gnosis, and syncromysticism) and challenged librarians to recognise these as forms of information. Fitzpatrick encouraged us to reflect on how libraries were (not?) meeting the needs of this community, how libraries could accommodate the community's needs, and how these findings and ideas relate to the organisation of the library and teaching of information literacy more generally.
Her website includes links to readings etc

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