Welcome to a weird issue of Library Trends. The work is rife with miscarriages, melancholy, longing, and nostalgia. The writers divulge the personal and explore the political. They examine white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, and colonialism—those complex, hybrid toxicities that spine through our collective circulatory system. Most of the authors rely on methods less familiar to library and information studies (LIS) research, such as autoethnography, close readings of fictional texts and images, and the application of philosophical treatises to complex social questions, rather than using quantitative analysis to gather forms of evidence. A loosening of the epistemological strings can, we hope, intervene upon a set of enmeshed practices in our field that together deploy a sometimes stifling form of LIS-knowledge apparatus. Perhaps, in producing this strange issue we can shake things up a bit, experiment, and pry things open just a little. Afterall, as Leonard Cohen tells us, it is through the cracks that the light gets in.
Taken collectively these articles question what counts as evidence in LIS, the concept of evidence itself, and even the idea of libraries themselves as simple representative collections of facts and the evidential. They turn to questions of values rather than value. As editors we felt this expansion of methodological approaches was appropriate to the study of affect in particular and that it takes up the call to action posed by Emily Drabinski and Scott Walter in their editorial for College and Research Libraries where they assert that the debates about method in LIS research complement the epistemological debates in our field as to what constitutes knowledge. As they suggest,
Methodology, after all, is methodical. It is inescapably instrumental. When we focus on the question of which method is “best” . . . we invariably privilege the steps we must take to arrive at an answer, rather [End Page 369] than on the extent to which the question is even worth asking or the degree to which a focus in our field on a particular type of question may be limiting our vision of what our work as scholar-practitioners might mean.(2016, 266)
This issue of Library Trends enjoins readers to consider new ways of knowing our work, new registers for asking critical questions about how our work operates in the world, and how the world operates on and through us.
At any rate—how else to wade through these weird waters, the sticky, murky business of affect? How else to talk about the things just out of sight, the things that propel us in-between what is clearly visible? We have no dispute with social science methods, but like any methodological approach, there are limits to their application. Our issue is filled with complicated questions about messy things, from the personally curious to the structurally untenable. Things that implicate us. Things that make us wonder if we sometimes do more harm than good as librarians. Problems that need to be examined in new ways and from new angles. Our colleagues in archives have begun carefully responding to the generative questions of the affective turn, and we thought it time that librarians did as well.
Of course, the first problem is that affect theory actively resists definition. When we released our call for papers, we were heartened by the many excellent proposals received—and chagrined as we began trying to imagine how to weave pieces together. In a terrain marked by disciplines as divergent as neuropsychology and cultural studies, how could we pull together something coherent? Melissa Gregg and Gregory Seigworth gleefully chart the myriad ways affect is used in their introduction to the Affect Studies Reader, settling on the playful “an inventory of shimmers” as the broadest possible description of this interdisciplinary area. Commonly misunderstood as “feelings,” affect is more properly considered a state of in-between-ness, the liminal place where thought, emotion, and embodiment float and intermingle with various forces and intensities propelling us in multiple directions (2010, 2). Affect is not emotion nor is it emotional labor—although emotional labor may well produce affect and is certainly produced by it.
Confused yet? Let’s try again. Emotional labor speaks to managing and...