Toxic Tech, Library Service, and Contradicting Values

  • Author / Creator
    Oliver, Kathleen
  • The information communication technology (ICT) industry is known to be hazardous to land, through extraction, energy usage, and toxic waste, and to people, through unethical labour practices. The library commits to social responsibility and sustainability as professional values meant to guide the profession during changing times. However, the simultaneous commitment to providing equitable access to information and resources, which increasingly relies on ICT, requires constant acquisition and disposal of ICT and reliance on data servers with their own environmental and human costs. How does the librarian reconcile the contradiction created by institutional codification of the librarian identity? By thinking through assemblages, I view the library and librarian as temporary arrangements of component parts, as well as components themselves in larger systems. How can the library and librarian be rearranged to ameliorate the harms of the industry? A line connects the “slow violence” of the ICT industry, which is subtle and accretive violence, yet also structured and sanctioned for use by corporations, through the “implicated subject” that belongs to the systems of exploitation, although not directly responsible. This research extends proposals for the ethical consumption of ICT, which focus on e-waste, by turning to the librarian identity and its capability to open outward to acknowledge its contradictions and implication in harmful systems. I find the sustainable librarian to be focused inward on the profession’s ideologies, with a few examples of making connections outward. I find the library and librarian become distributed and invisible through their connections with ICT. Through their positions of social power, they normalize an unquestioning relationship with ICT and the material and human resources it requires. However, by acknowledging implication and connecting outward from the librarian identity, there is always the potential to act otherwise.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts/Master of Library and Information Studies
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.