Book Reviews

LIS Interrupted: Intersections of Mental Illness and Library Work. Miranda Dube and Carrie Wade, eds. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2021. 346p. Paperback, $35.00 (ISBN: 978-1634001083).

Book cover for LIS Interrupted

LIS Interrupted presents a collection of analyses and personal narratives about mental illness written by library workers. The book is divided into three sections.

The first section, “The Process of Becoming,” focuses on graduate students and new professionals entering the field of librarianship. Kaelyn Leonard’s “The Space between Neurodiversity and a Degree: Misinterpretations of ADHD in Higher Education” discusses their experience with ADHD while working on their MLS, providing suggestions to other neurodivergent students looking to pursue a graduate degree. A particularly intense statement hit me like a ton of bricks: “When did it become a merit badge to make it through the sleepless nights? Why would the impact on my mental and physical health rank as utterly inconsequential, as long as I could produce the quintessential good work?” (10) Zoë Nissen discusses her experience with an eating disorder while working on a graduate degree and entering the library workforce. Karina Hagelin takes the reader through her personal experiences with assault and mental illness and presents valuable suggestions regarding how libraries can create a culture of what she calls radical vulnerability. Marisol Moreno Ortiz navigates her diagnoses with OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression while working as a new Diversity Scholar in the Diversity Program (DSP) at Oregon State University Libraries. Christy Bailey-Tomecek discusses her experience with generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder and how it has helped her develop a safe space for coworkers who are working with sensitive materials in the archive. She offers steps she took to aid students working on emotionally challenging projects and how her own coping mechanisms helped students experiencing distress. Nina Clements describes the diagnosis of depression and anxiety, navigating disclosure, and creating a more compassionate workplace environment around disclosure, something that is needed in the workplace. Chelsea Tarwater talks about her depression while working as the Youth Services Specialist at Blount County Public Library and working on her MLS while living as a gay woman in a conservative environment. The section wraps up with a strong chapter titled “On Surviving” by Allison Rand, who survived the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The author discusses living with PTSD while attending graduate school and her eventual job as a librarian.

The second section, “Critical Perspectives and Narratives,” includes chapters with more research-based content. In “Full Disclosure? Issues around Disclosing Mental Illness in an Academic Library Workplace,” Alice Bennett examines mental health disclosure in western academic libraries. Carolyn Hansen looks at problematic Library of Congress subject headings regarding mental health, a deeply needed discussion. Michelle Ashley Gohr and Andrew Barber use Marxist philosophy and disability, queer studies, and feminist theories to look at LIS staff with depression and anxiety in terms of systems of oppression and neoliberalism in libraries. While this chapter is particularly dense, it is an essential read for librarians striving to create a healthier environment for their staff. Pamela Andrews and Melissa Freiley examine the use of humor on social media to address librarian stereotypes and how they affect library workers. Sara Harrington explores the expectations of emotional labor from front-facing public library workers and how this has an impact on the mental health of said workers, the intersection of gender and mental illness in the library field, and offers a few steps libraries can adopt to create a safe working environment. Brad Lundy discusses communication disorders and problematic language in the library field and suggests solutions to addressing vague and confusing terminology, including language used in job descriptions. Stacey Astill looks at the effect that the exposure to sensationalized health news has on library staff with anxiety, focusing on UK libraries. Ian Ross Hughes addresses the stress that the interview process can have on candidates with mental illness, with useful suggestions to help the interviewees foster an inclusive interview experience. Stephanie S. Rosen uses her experience with what she calls academic depression. Marie Campbell, Clayton Hume, Max Powers, and Ann Sen share their experiences in a toxic workplace while facing their individual mental illnesses and the coterie they formed in the midst of it all.

The third section, “The Situated Experience,” concentrates on professionals with mental illnesses and how they navigate their work. Chaundria Campos, a Black woman and a veteran, discusses her experience with a typical response regarding workplace resources, “we have resources for that,” and how it is not as helpful as people think. Jamine Rizer looks at her mental health journey and how her conditions influenced how much they want to disclose as a library employee, concluding that ultimately “no one has the right to tell you that you must give up your privacy for the sake of capital-R Representation” (254). Evelyn E. Nalepinski discusses the need for librarianship to be a more inclusive realm for neurodivergent employees. John Cohen used his condition to positively guide his role in leadership. Avery Adams aptly describes the brain fog that can come with depression and anxiety and how it affects daily life and work in the library. Jodene R. Peck Pappas’ chapter addresses her experience as a cataloguer living with depression and obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), including background, professional work, and treatment. I’m not afraid to state that, as a metadata librarian with a similar diagnosis, this chapter was extremely relevant to my own thoughts and experiences. In “Librarian vs. The Machine That Goes Beep: Professional Adventures on the Autism Spectrum,” Jess Alexander frames the chapter using their fight with the titular nefarious machine and how their self-awareness helps them in their career, ultimately recognizing that they matter. The book wraps up with “A Critical Conversation about LIS Interrupted with Miranda Dube and Carrie Wade,” which presents an informal discussion regarding the creation of this book and their own experiences.

Most of the chapters included a content warning at the beginning and a bibliography. The book as a whole includes a useful index. The authors mention that there are multiple ways the book may be read. For the sake of this review, I read it cover to cover. I don’t typically reread many books, but this one is something I will keep on my personal reference shelf. The authors indicate that the audience for LIS Interrupted is “library workers, educators, and students in a variety of environments as a text, resource, guide, and place of refuge.” This book is needed in the field, and libraries should consider this for their collections.

On a personal note, it took me quite some time to finish reading LIS Interrupted, simply because I reread chapters discussing conditions I live with. I discovered that I am not alone. Neither are you.—Lizzy Walker, Wichita State University Libraries

Copyright Lizzy Walker

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