Introduction to the Special Issue

Critique as Care: Disrupting Narratives of the One-Shot Instruction Model

A collective feeling seemed to characterize responses to the “Contested One-Shot” guest editorial I wrote one year ago, which turns a critical eye to the one-shot instruction model.1 It also invited proposals for this special issue that you (virtually) hold in your hands. Collective does not necessarily mean all of the same feelings or opinions, but there was an overwhelming indication of catharsis in reading about and potentially contributing to a special issue that would dig into this oft-criticized instruction model. There were additionally a handful of defensive reactions to support the one-shot. It is clear that this topic draws out strong feelings and needs space for critique and discussion.

Casting a critical eye toward instruction librarianship’s discourse would include investigation concerning: What stories do we tell about ourselves, individually and collectively, in relation to one-shots? What stories do one-shots implicate about us externally? How are systems and structures replicated in the one-shot model? What impact does this have? What agency do we have? I think these questions are at the heart of this special issue and are what this group of authors ultimately examine: critical investigation and reflection about how librarians engage in teaching—in relation to, and also beyond, the one-shot model.

When deconstructing one-shots and the attendant rhetoric surrounding library instruction work’s often transactional nature, transparency through specificity in how we construct, describe, and evaluate our instruction models is important—especially because these transactions exist within systems that reinforce and reflect oppressive conditions more broadly. Lack of specificity—or abstraction—in the way we perpetuate narratives maintains the systems. David James Hudson has discussed this in regards to racial capitalism and its enduring dominance (2022). Abstraction can also be violence, as Samuel R. Delany has written on the evasion of detail in AIDS sexual health information, particularly impacting gay men (2021). Avoiding precision continues to render hegemonic systems as invisible. Taking on the responsibility to elaborate is how we connect and create possible change. Authors in this special issue have been adept at engaging with specificity in order to critically examine and problematize one-shots, from varied points of view. They offer depth and creative approaches to discussing these issues that affect us in our work, reflecting from and reverberating to larger issues. I will introduce individual articles toward the end of this entrance to the special issue, as well as provide more context on the publication process. What I intend to discuss in the space preceding are coalescing themes and sticky points to further tie the special issue together.

Engaging in critique can be a risk, particularly so when a format or procedure is so ingrained that it is viewed as common sense. As Sara Ahmed points out, “Complaint catches how those who challenge power become sites of negation: you become a container of negative affect, one that is leaky: speaking out as spilling over” (2019, p. 174). I do not want to conflate critique and complaint as meaning the same thing, yet there is overlap. Why critique one-shots if that is our only way into working with faculty and reaching students? It is the only option we have if we do not have the agency to question and imagine differently. What if it is the only way to prove our “value” since one-shots are easily quantifiable? To that, I say we need different ways to conceive value projects. This is not the only way; it is not our only chance. I am not claiming that one-shots are entirely problematic all of the time. However, this deep-seated, and perhaps innate at this point, instruction model does need to be problematized for us to even have the option to break free. We can do this through the lens of critique as care, meaning we critique because we care and hope for better.

There is not some pernicious force strategizing to further deprofessionalize instruction librarians’ doubly feminized work, but rather, we have systems in place that maintain the status quo. Barthes delineated how mythologies work, turning history into nature by assimilating ideological discourse through the stories we maintain (1957). Powerful structures are made invisible by becoming nature; it’s just how it is, and these myths reinforce their appearance as “timeless and universal, submerging their historical and contingent nature” (Huppatz, 2011, p. 89). We carry this way of viewing the world without being able to see how it is imposed because we repeat the narrative unaware. De-mystifying taken-for-granted practices is how their inner workings and related effects are revealed. Problematizing one-shots does not imply any particular decree; it is instead a way for us to see how to make our way to other possibilities, and how larger issues impact and are impacted by replication. A significant roadblock to engaging with this critique is power and each of our own levels of agency. Keeping agency in mind as coloring experience, I draw to the forefront common themes that envelop one-shots, those of which coalesce in this issue’s articles: time, care, and hope.


You know what usually happens: the usual is a field of expectation that derives its contours from past experience. The usual is the structural in temporal form.—Sara Ahmed, 2019, p. 164

Time can be viewed as a commodity that connotes value, and narratives constructed to uphold this form of quantification maintain mythology. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson reveal how a culture’s values will be aligned with its metaphorical structure; actions based on those values can then be justified and normalized (2003). Within the one-shot, experience and use of time quantified as a resource is a primary aspect, dictating what and how much can be covered,2 if relationality is possible, and how much agency is accessible to the library instructor. This could be present in felt intangibles described with the metaphors of not having enough time—whether to teach or to prepare; feeling rushed and losing time; or exasperation in time poverty. Considering time as a substance, or the one-shot as an entity, organizes us ontologically, and “Once we can identify our experiences as entities or substances, we can refer to them, categorize them, group them, and quantify them—and, by this means, reason about them” (Lakoff and Johnson, 2003, Section 6).

Experiences of time are co-constructed differently based on situation and standing. Western cultural values about time expressed in the metaphors above are not present in all cultures. We reinforce our perceptions and perpetuate mythologies to uphold our experience and quantification structures. Temporal diversity—other worlds outside of hegemonic linear and capitalist timescapes—does exist, and we must consider different experiences and perspectives in how we view and value time and the one-shot. Ellen Samuels and Elizabeth Freeman refer to crip time to elucidate the contrast in temporal realities of disabled academics, and how they “have always done the same work as our peers in profoundly different temporalities” (2021, p. 247). Crip time can be thought of and used as survival and world-making in opposition to the normative violence of capitalist time (p. 249).

Another temporal differentiation is between linear and kinship time. Kyle Powys Whyte explains that linear time is what westerners are most familiar with, unfolding in uniform, sequential units; whereas kinship time is felt through shifts in relationships of mutual care and requires taking responsibility for others (2021, p. 42). Though referencing the climate crisis and continued subjugation of Indigenous peoples through nation-state environmental interventions, Whyte’s points relate here. He distinguishes the harm that reliance on linear time can reinforce through reactionary measures: When it feels as if time is running out, “taken-for-granted strategies get employed to protect the taken-for-granted state of affairs from disruption” (2021, p. 45). This harm is reproduction of hegemony and continued disenfranchisement through reinforcing procedures of dominant groups and structures. We profoundly experience hegemonic timescapes and their reproduction in library instruction when one-shots are planned out, delivered, and measured through linear time, typically being reactionary and causing overwhelm. One-shots, as I stated in my editorial, “keep us in a holding pattern of reactionary yes-people unable to enact our own agency within campus power structures” (Pagowsky, 2021, p. 303).

Within higher education, Ian Kinchin characterizes reactivity as a “neoliberal booby trap [of] short-term fixes” (2022, p. 180). Existing primarily in reactivity offers no opportunity for reflection, questioning, or work toward change; the only option is to stick with how it has always been done using taken-for-granted strategies. It coincides with the one-shot being in academic time, which keeps us frantic with little space to be creative or critical. Margaret Price connects the structure of linear, academic time with intensification and sustainment of structural inequalities:

[Academic time] draws on both postmodern (for the masses) and premodern (for the elite) systems of timekeeping and practices a special regime of nontransparency with regard to how time is spent, while at the same time increasing technologies of surveillance and encouraging self-surveillance. (2021, p. 262)

We experience bureaucratization of the linear units of time we do our work in, meaning an emphasis on counting where quantity proves value of the individual worker and of the library. Perspectives on value are individually focused in how we quantify our own output. When measurement is constructed to represent the library, it typically is not collaboratively or collectively focused, but rather an aggregation of individuals’ metrics. As Mark Fisher explains, neoliberalism claims to be anti-bureaucratic through flattening of hierarchy, but by moving more responsibility onto the individual academic qua responsibilitization, bureaucracy is enforced through isolated self-surveillance (2009, p. 40). Diligence in one’s own constant, unending quantification of time and output for institutional measurement can stand in for being a good teacher, worker, librarian. Fisher’s point is apropos of how permanent and ubiquitous measurement generates perpetual anxiety (p. 39). Expectations to produce a high quantity of outputs to prove value can lead to constant worry about the future, and proliferate competition rather than relationality. This anxiety-driven future-focus brings forward a number of questions that branch out from what I introduced above, and what I would stress as considerations for future research: What stories are we telling about our instruction programs, the status of librarians, and our roles on campus by collecting information in this way? What ideology or mythos does this quantification reinforce? Why does the one-shot continue to be a unit of measure? Why are we counting these numbers in this way? Enumeration is an ideological project, and we must be clear on who, why, and how we are counting.3 If we think of one-shots as a replication of capitalist structures, it makes sense for each individual to be responsible for expanding output, and for the work to be individually counted and self-surveilled.

Perhaps J.K. Gibson-Graham’s argument that “it is the way capitalism has been ‘thought’ that has made it so difficult for people to imagine its supersession” (2006, p. 4) is prescient here in why we have been stuck in our instruction models for so long. When we say one-shots are our only option, or it is the way it has always been done, we maintain the hegemonic timescapes and measurement tactics that reinforce this story. The purpose of ideology is to disappear and remain invisible, foreclosing on imagining anything different. It ossifies in obscurity through the mythology of capitalist time, linear time, abled time, straight time.

Queer temporality is another alterity to affirm relationality and solidarity. Thinking with queer temporalities, as José Esteban Muñoz argues, can help us work toward collective futurity, moving away from individualized, isolated futures. Muñoz notes in order to achieve the former rather than the latter, we must have awareness that:

Evidencing protocols often fail to enact real hermeneutical inquiry and instead opt to reinstate that which is known in advance. Thus, practices of knowledge production that are content to merely selectively cull from the past, while striking a pose of positivist undertaking or empirical knowledge retrieval, often nullify the political imagination. (2007, p. 458)

As I stated above, all of the themes I am discussing are articulated through the fraught issue of agency. We can be aware of hegemonic temporal structures that we feel trapped in—and bringing awareness to that is one step—but do we actually have the agency (or energy!) to even imagine something different, and to make change? This question is emphasized further when we see how the pandemic has amplified existing inequalities. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan and Alison Pullen question “how the interplay of agency and structures lead to certain ‘choices’ by certain bodies/people, and what alternatives there might be to purely economic imaginaries of productivity in our lives” (2020, p. 5). Granted, we are not all mired in unending cycles of one-shots semester after semester,4 but there are those who are, and using this model as a totalizing structure has an impact on how we engage with and measure our work as a field, as well as how we are able to imagine futurity and perceive hope for something better. So it is important to think about who is existing in this model, who has the choice and agency to exist differently, and what those differentiations reinforce.

Coming back to Whyte’s discussion of “kinship time,” the idea of mutual responsibility for relationality (kinship, care) to reframe our experience in time and with each other is one way to imagine differently. Jessie Loyer connects kinship and time with library instruction, pointing out how:

[R]elationality is a complicated concept and librarians are already pushed for time. So the prompt to ‘do more’ is challenging. With what time? With what resources? wâhkôhtawin, a nêhiyaw concept of relationality that defines roles and responsibilities, may give us clearer guidelines on who librarians are accountable to and responsible for—a chance for further research. (2018, p. 155)

Loyer primarily focuses on relationality and care between library instructors and students, which as she states, tends to be unsupported institutionally. Another aspect to consider where institutional care is lacking, aside from supporting care via pedagogical relationships between librarian and student, is care and kinship within the field itself.


Moreover, a true politics of relation is attuned to the disagreements, conflicts, and tensions that animate solidarity projects oriented around shared points of struggle.—Ronjaunee Chatterjee et al., 2020

Temporality and relationality (or, time and care) are connected through being socially situated, rather than time being an abstract category (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2015, p. 694), with isolated, felt effects. A focus on care has been more recently brought to the fore in feminist studies in order to overcome these harmful outcomes in a number of fields. To think of relationality as reparative to current structures could cultivate imagining reciprocal care as utopia. Ideally, all care would be relational and reciprocal, as kinship is responsibility for care. However, a politics of care has been fraught from histories of valuing and devaluing of this labor; inequitable expectations for those who are expected to care and who gets to be cared for; conflation with positive affect that skews care toward feminized characteristics of nurturing (and related implications); and impasse when care ultimately contributes to persistent capitalist logics, rather than being used for liberatory world-making. If there is not a true culture of kinship for interdependence and respect for boundaries, relationships are precarious with unequal expectations—particularly so for those within historically marginalized groups. This requires reflection on how the cost of care, and when we are unable to care, can turn into sites of violence from existing structures.5

Considering this in academic libraries, Maura Seale and Rafia Mirza have stressed the essential condition for institutional reciprocity in care, “understanding library work as a profession, not a vocation, as labour, not as religious calling, acknowledges that this reciprocity must flow to the workers as well as the institution and that institutions are sites of historical and ongoing structural oppression and inequality” (2020, p. 9). Ethics of care can be emancipatory, and we should think about how to use care to create more liberatory and equitable worlds. At the same time, we must use critique to question what seems apparent as we live and work in sites that reinforce structural oppression and inequality, which we in turn can ourselves ultimately reinforce as we exist within these structures. Within the realm of one-shots, we must consider omnidirectional flows of care impacting unbalanced affective economies between librarian-student, librarian-faculty, librarian-librarian, and librarian-institution.

Michelle Murphy introduces the idea of “unsettling” care. Connected to Donna Haraway’s idea of “staying with the trouble” and Sianne Ngai’s concept of “ugly feelings,” critique used to unsettle can be seen as care in and of itself. Unsettling intends to disrupt non-innocent narratives and colonial legacies related to belonging, rescue, and sympathy through troubling sedimented arrangements (2015, pp. 721–722). Mindfulness about “romantic temptations” caught up in care as collective panacea clarifies what can be a disconnection between what feels good and concomitant geopolitical implications (p. 725). Particularly for professions undergirded by care-work (both librarianship and teaching, for example), and especially for predominantly white fields (librarianship in particular), unsettling even hopeful rejoinders to problematic entrenchments is necessary. Aryn Martin et al. illuminate these concerns, as “[i]t is in this sense that care makes palpable how justice for some can easily become injustice for others” (2015, p. 627).

Care is often envisioned through normative, dominant identities, as many structures and relationships tend to be. In discussing race and feminist care ethics, Parvati Raghuram stresses how efforts toward care are typically theorized through the normative white body, and because of this, “[require] that care is disassembled as well as put together as a critical practice in order to shape care ethics” (2019, p. 631). Looking to ethics of care for Black women, Mekada Graham discusses this in context of the social professions, cautioning on the inadequacy of normatively-theorized relationship-based ethics for the concerns and needs of Black women (2007, p. 204). For higher education specifically, Jennifer Nash describes the “body problem” for women faculty of color, “the ways in which our bodies must be mitigated, performed, inhabited, toned down, and played up in a variety of ways depending on institutional and student demands” (2021, p. 31). There are already so many assumptions and expectations that academic structures cause women of color to contort into, that care structures—when functioning in unequal affective economies—can further complicate. There are divergent expectations on women faculty (or librarians) of color that can affect who carries the burden of caregiving and how they are perceived in engaging with that care. Additionally, how is relational care felt when there is historically entrenched inequity and lack of inclusion in a field: Can care be truly reciprocal in such circumstances?

My intent is not to foreclose on care ethics as a way forward, but rather to examine contradictions and potentially harmful outcomes. It is not that care is a problem in and of itself, but lack of agency and power asymmetries in connection with care is where concerns arise. This can be particularly palpable in doubly-feminized care work such as the convergence of librarianship and teaching on the periphery. Kinchin pinpoints this in how teachers need sufficient agency: agency to know, as he states—and I will add: agency to have the choice—when to care and when not to care (2022, p. 174). In unequal affective economies, we must consider how we define, value, and assign or expect care.


What we are talking about here is the hardest problem: understanding the difficulty of unlearning attachments to regimes of injustice.—Lauren Berlant, 2011, p. 184

Cruel optimism is characterized as when a goal or desire winds up actually being an obstacle in one’s ends toward the good life (Berlant, 2011). There is attachment to an object or trajectory through belief that life circumstances will improve, whether it is psychic fulfillment, financial security, prestige, or other attributes of what the good life would mean for an individual. While cruel optimism traps individuals in perpetual striving for that which might not be there, hope promotes collectivity and solidarity toward relational futures.

Berlant uses the term “misrecognition” to explain how fantasy recalibrates desire to affirm projection onto the object of desire (p. 122). How does our field use the exercise of misrecognition in regards to one-shots? I want to stress that my argument, both in this introduction and my previous guest editorial, is not that one-shots are always horrendously wrong; it is more about how we conceive of them and project desires onto their structure that often do not materialize that can in fact cause harm. Berlant references Vassilis Tsianos and Dimitris Papadopoulos’ list of affective responses to this paradox. Some examples they provide of nervous-system symptoms resulting from immaterial labor include:

  • Vulnerability: the stead[y] experience of flexibility without any form of protection
  • Hyperactivity: the imperative to accommodate constant availability
  • Simultaneity: the ability to handle at the same [time] the different tempi and velocities of multiple activities
  • Recombination: the crossings between various networks, social spaces, and available resources
  • Restless: being exposed to and trying to cope with the overabundance of communication, cooperation, and interactivity
  • Unsettledness: the continuous experience of mobility across different spaces and time lines
  • Affective exhaustion: emotional exploitation, or, emotion as an important element for the control of employability and multiple dependencies (Tsianos & Papadopoulos, 2006).

One-shots are, by bug more than intentional design, a factor in librarianship’s cruel optimism.6 For those in particular who are bound up in what seems like never ending one-shot cycles, or those in precarious labor roles, or those who feel a broader lack of agency, consider if any of these descriptions feel uncanny to you.

Cruel optimism obstructs us from collectivity because we are preoccupied with our individual goals that keep us optimistic and distract us from solidarity. When cruel optimism alchemizes collective issues into those of the individual, averting us from solidarity, there is an imperative to trouble the dominant narrative and how we relate to one another. As linear time divides us through isolation and competition, kinship and care should be thought of as a collective project in solidarity for hope. Lisa Duggan posits hope and hopelessness as dialectical rather than oppositional, suggesting the more accurate negation to hope is complacency (2009, p. 5). Feelings of hopelessness do not nullify interrogating subjectivity and imagining differently. If functioning as a dialectic, there will be shifting and gradients in affect, which inspires solidarity toward a collective futurity.

Moving toward imagining differently and ostensibly taking action can be complicated. As Sarah Amsler and Keri Facer pinpoint, “adequate responses… require radical modes of thinking and acting which people formed and socialized through formal education in the global North—despite being able to identify the problem—are often ill-prepared to imagine or engage in” (2017, p. 2). They further validate “that this system systematically diminishes opportunities for creative emergence and spaces of political possibility in order to reproduce itself at the level of society” (p. 9). Thinking in linear time manufactures how we might imagine differently, where linear causality and the western need for certainty sequence social imagination. From this impasse, imagination and action can be precluded by the overwhelm of complacency and lack of agency. An instantiation of this could be categorizing hope and imagination for utopia as naivety, which stifles inertia by writing off these social projects as frivolous or futile.

We could consider the hope/hopelessness dialectic as collective, where turning away through complacency is isolated and individual. Bureaucratization’s future-focused anxiety of individualized output metrics is an antecedent to the privatization of stress (Fisher, 2009), and when we experience lack of fulfillment, overwork, burnout, or endless competition, we are divided and contending with alienation. Alienation critique purports that this phenomenon occurs when we become divorced from that which we created or believed to be a part of us. Rahel Jaeggi explains how alienation is palpable as “objectified relationships that appear to take on a life of their own over and against individual agents” (2014, p. 24). Seeing alienation reproduced in higher education, Jill Blackmore connects bureaucratic audit and accountability culture, which “can lead to disaffection and alienation from teaching, as academics ‘turn off’ as teaching becomes routinised and non-reflective, which, ironically, in turn impacts on quality” (2009, p. 864). Our field established the one-shot model to meet a need, yet we might find ourselves currently alienated from what was once deemed essential. In routinized, repetitive, non-reflective work, if we use the perspective on the traditional meaning of one-shots as singular, repetitive, ephemeral (Pagowsky, 2021, p. 300), it would not be surprising to see alienation imbricated with one-shot instruction in these circumstances.

As I discussed, ideology and related mythologies reproduce themselves to appear as natural and become invisible. We need hope and the ability to imagine utopia to go beyond identification of what is obscured. Nash articulates how affect theory invites us to consider “how structures of domination feel,” and that “simply naming structures fails to do justice to how they move against (and inside of) our bodies” (2021, p. 30). To bring these ideas together, Margaret Price engages the intersection between alienation and time, to move toward hope through slowing and breaking down timescapes of academia in order to “understand how it is mobilized to divide workers against one another,” and against ourselves. Through seeing through this dynamic, we move closer toward imagining better futures and taking collective action (2021, p. 258).


The shape of these alternative avenues of inquiry remains undetermined and contested. If many of us share a dissatisfaction with the state of the field, we also internally disagree about how it might otherwise be shaped. A primary aim of our future endeavors is to render these disagreements the stuff of collective deliberation.—The V21 Collective, 2015

Through this introduction, I have connected time, care, and hope, which although appear potentially neutral can be ideological projects, impacted by agency or lack thereof. It can be a struggle to think differently and envision what is not-yet or not-yet-conscious toward something different. Walter Mignolo, from the perspective of decoloniality, introduces the provocation for epistemic disobedience, to “de-link” from western modernity. Mignolo explains “that it is not enough to change the content of the conversation, that it is of the essence to change the terms of the conversation” (2009, p. 162). In changing the terms, we must consider different timescapes as frameworks for how we could imagine relationality and hope. One-shots are not in a binary of good versus bad, but rather in a spectrum with varied experiences resulting from differing levels of agency and marginalization.

Even for those who enjoy one-shots and have had primarily good experiences with them, I urge us to think collectively and in solidarity because not everyone has that experience or has the agency to flourish in this model. This is why imagining and taking action toward change must come collectively. For change to happen, we need to normalize these ideals as a field, rather than attempting to individually, separately push back. Both hoping for a better future or being content with the present are not excused from facing problematic regimes in our field that persist in many arenas—one being the one-shot model. Chatterjee et al. expresses this accountability profoundly for the field of Victorian studies, another primarily white, hegemonic field currently scrutinizing its mythology, saying that

Wanting a different future does not imply a utopian closing of the eyes to the injuries of global racial capitalism. On the contrary, it demands seeing and feeling them more acutely than before. Or, to be more precise, it demands a more equitable distribution of that seeing and feeling. The present, perhaps, is always a portal, and there is no doing away with the drag of our past. (2020)

They emphasize shared points of struggle in solidarity, and not turning away from the work of troubling, unsettling, or problematizing the mythology of a field. Solidarity thrives through conflict and discourse. As guest editor, my hope is that conflict and discourse are drawn out in this special issue and ignite further research and imaginings.

The authors in this issue question, examine, and reflect on one-shots through varied approaches and perspectives. Before I provide a primer on what these articles contribute, I would like to first offer context on the making of this special issue. Often, the behind-the-scenes work of editing and peer-review, and even multiple revisions by authors, are invisibilized and the amount of effort put into publication is unknown.

When C&RL published the CFP attached to my guest editorial last year, the response was immense. I was heartened to see that so many were impassioned to talk about one-shots, and I received in total just over 80 proposals. Additionally, C&RL has been open to experimentation in this issue, and it has been both a fantastic and overwhelming experience to offer authors a choice between open/developmental or traditional peer-review. The disposition of peer-review for this issue was collaboration and mentoring, to use discussion to engage with articles rather than solely critique. Peer-reviewers added exponential value to this issue, and their work must not go unnoticed. I will thank them in alphabetical order at the end of this introduction. Because some authors went through traditional review and reviewer anonymity needs to remain intact, I have asked authors who went through developmental review to not name specific reviewers in their acknowledgments. Last, you will perhaps be surprised to notice that some authors (including myself) have opted for APA style, rather than the journal’s standard Chicago style. C&RL was open to experimentation in this issue on citation style, and so I was able to offer authors the choice between APA and Chicago.

Now, finally, to introduce the authors and their contributions. Beginning the full-length articles section, Annie Pho et al. use critical reflection as methodology to investigate how the one-shot model has become so ubiquitous with lasting presence in the field. The authors engage with reflective interviews among themselves and additional participants to consider how power and positionality influence acculturation, burnout, and tensions between transactional and relational iterations of the one-shot. As we perpetuate our structures through story and mythology, it is important to use personal reflection to challenge dominant narratives. As with Pho et al., other authors engage with these different approaches and theories to examine contradictions in order to help us consider creative alternatives to imagine new futures. From a more empirical perspective, Dani Brecher Cook uses meta-analysis to examine one-shots’ efficacy. Looking toward precision and rigor in collected studies, Brecher Cook establishes reasoning for why there is lack of consensus in the field and where we should re-evaluate our focus, methodology, and interpretation of results.

The next two articles interrogate the non-performativity of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in libraries and beyond, and how that serves as analogy to one-shot models. Sofia Leung elucidates how one-shots can serve as afterthoughts and band-aid quick-fixes to larger problems, similar to how EDI portends to cure an institution through mere existence or even in name. Leung uses the approaches of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and decoloniality to problematize these inherent similarities, drawing us to “what is the point” of both of these endeavors. Karen P. Nicholson and Maura Seale additionally caution against capitalization on one-off approaches to both library instruction and EDI through the lens of neoliberalism, responsibilitization of the individual, and the violence of practicality. All of these authors look toward relationality and care through pedagogies of affect to begin to amend the results of injurious one-off implementation.

Zoe Bastone and Kristina Clement question whether one-shots truly serve us in the way they are idealized, or if they instead proliferate faux-equity and ultimately cause harm, particularly for disabled learners. Cautioning on neglectful care toward ourselves, while upholding internal and external expectations for outward care, Bastone and Clement consider a 360-view of how care functions in affective economies. Contributing to a multi-faceted analysis of harm, Yi Ding exposes tensions in how the expectation for flexibility is feminized and its profound reverberation in a feminized field. From de-valued instructional labor, Ding engages feminist and intersectional lenses to imagine toward equity.

Veronica Arellano Douglas and Joanna Gadsby take a different approach to considering the one-shot, making the argument that this instruction model can serve a positive purpose through not giving temporal enumeration the primary focus, and instead look to relationality. The authors argue that outcomes of mutual care could be possible if we are able to get unstuck. Concluding the full-length articles, Lalitha Nataraj and April Ibarra Siqueiros imagine futurity through pursuing alterity in timescapes and epistemic demeanors using autoethnography. Addressing the harm of hegemonic systems, particularly for those identifying as BIPOC, Nataraj and Ibarra Siqueiros draw us toward greater relationality, slowed temporality, and epistemic justice in our instruction models.

To offer space for engagement with creative imaginings, experimentation, and flexibility from more standardized academic writing, this special issue additionally has a section of six shorter submissions to complement the full-length articles. Nora Almeida provides levity by engaging us with a clever reenactment of the one-shot experience that many will likely relate to. Urszula Lechtenberg and Carrie Donovan posit innovative instructional model considerations that offer examples for moving beyond the one-shot’s limitations. Sajni Lacey looks beyond pedagogy toward racial imposter syndrome in the classroom, and how burnout can be a result of this experience. This contribution encourages greater consideration toward how these instruction models can catalyze inequitable impacts for those with intersectional identities. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango and Monideepa Becerra discuss how they implemented their Critical Information Literacy Leadership Institute as an alternative to the one-shot, with perspectives from both a librarian and teaching faculty. Specifically addressing special collections and archives, Colleen Hoelscher discusses how the one-shot model can solicit gatekeeping instructional practices and instead urges teaching from the perspective of a guide. Last, Michele Santamaria and Jessica Schomberg map a vaccination metaphor onto one-shots to question perception of their practicality and common-sense, troubling how we consider the narrative and mythology of this instruction model.

In this multifaceted special issue toward problematizing the one-shot, the authors and their contributions will hopefully prompt more discussion and deep critique. As Judith Butler affirms, “A structure only remains a structure through being reinstated as one” (1997, p. 139). Critique is care, and to have the possibility for imagining differently, we can use hope to disassemble hegemonic structures in solidarity and work toward more inclusive and equitable futures.

Thank you to all the peer-reviewers who added astronomical value to this special issue, sharing their expertise via time, care, and hope. Reviewers (some also authors) are listed alphabetically by last name, and those with an asterisk reviewed more than one manuscript: Nora Almeida, Roberto A. Arteaga, Candice Benjes-Small, Nimisha Bhat, Nicole Branch, Carolyn Ciesla*, nicholae cline, Erica DeFrain*, Carrie Donovan, Meghan Dowell, Gabrielle M. Dudley, Romel Espinel, Sarah Fancher, Lindsay Hansen Brown, Colleen Hoelscher, Kate Joranson, Sajni Lacey, Jorge R. López-McKnight*, Jessie Loyer, Talitha R. Matlin, Rafia Mirza, Lalitha Nataraj, Nirmala Nataraj, Margy MacMillan*, Torie Quiñonez, Jennie Quinonez-Skinner, Michele Santamaria, Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Jessica Schomberg*, Maura Seale, Maribeth Slebodnik, Eamon Tewell, Richard Thai, Matthew Weirick Johnson, Sam Winn*, and Desmond Wong.

Acknowledgments: It has been a staggering experience collaborating with so many brilliant contributors and peer-reviewers in this issue. Thank you to Wendi Arant Kaspar (outgoing C&RL Editor) and Kristen Totleben (incoming C&RL Editor) for their encouragement and support in experimentation while creating this special issue. I also thank Dr. Reid Gómez for insightful conversations around ontologies of care and characterizations of relationality. And a secret shoutout to my peer-reviewers for this article; I am keeping with the reasoning for only naming reviewers in the thank you list, but I do want them to know how much I appreciated their feedback.


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1. You might start with the guest editorial if you have not yet read it, to see what has spawned this issue and subsequent discussion. The guest editorial focuses more on library instruction and the intricacies of one-shots, whereas this article is concerned with the bigger picture. https://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl/article/view/24912

2. “If you can fill the one-shot fifty minute / With a good two hours worth of info lit”-From Margy MacMillan’s poem in MacMillan, M. (2005). Open résumé: Magic words for assessment. College & Research Libraries News, 66(7), 516-520. https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.66.7.7476

3. Reid Gómez, personal communication, 2022

4. Personally, this is not my current situation; however, I had the experience at a former institution of delivering approximately 30-50 one-shots per semester, with a 6-8 hour shift on the reference desk when I was not teaching. It takes a psychic, psychological, and physical toll.

5. Reid Gómez, personal communication, 2022

6. These concepts can dovetail with Fobazi Ettarh’s “vocational awe.”

* Nicole Pagowsky is Associate Librarian at the University of Arizona Libraries, email: nfp@arizona.edu. ©2022 Nicole Pagowsky, Attribution-NonCommercial (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) CC BY-NC.

Copyright Nicole Pagowsky

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