June days are over, July is here, and with it a new GLAM Blog Club theme. At the beginning of June, Jenny Scott introduced us to the theme of Risk. Clare contributed their thoughts about queer career cocooning, and Anne Reddacliff launched the new ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group blog with a post on things you can do to live more sustainably. We also enjoyed 25 posts from Alisa Howlett in her month-long video blog series on evidence-based library and information practice. Great work Alisa! As if that wasn’t enough blog content for you, several other cardies joined Alisa in Blog June. Check out all the posts from last month on the GLAM Blogs site.
For July our theme is play, Guest blogger Gene kicks us off this month with a personal story that combines our themes from last month and this month. We’re looking forward to your own contributions over the rest of July!
Content warning: this blog post mentions sexual assault, bullying, abuse, and COVID-19.
I hate playing games. You’d think this wouldn’t be a problem in a professional context, and yet… In my work in libraries I’m constantly being thrown into getting to know you games at staff forums, role playing games during personal development training, puzzle solving games during UX design workshops, and team bonding board game afternoons. When I find myself in these situations my heart starts racing, I start sweating, I feel nauseous, and I start to feel shaky. I have a panic reaction, basically.
My reaction is, of course, the polar opposite to what’s intended, which is fun and enjoyable activities to make work more engaging and build relationships. Realising this, I sought help from a therapist. Through therapy, I came to understand that my reaction to games is connected to an incident in my late teens when I was sexually assaulted on the street on my way home from a poker night with friends. I didn’t see the perpetrator and never reported the incident, but have always wondered if it was a homophobically motivated attack by someone who knew me from school. As a man, I never felt comfortable sharing my trauma history with my managers. Although I did ask if I could sit out of some of the activities I found distressing and explained that they caused me pain (I have a number of chronic health conditions, and find that intense emotional reactions often trigger physical pain flare ups), I was told that they were important for team building and that I had to join in regardless.
GLAM sector professionals are more than 80% female (Australian Library and Information Association, 2019), and an alarming number of female-assigned and/or -identified people are the targets of men’s violence. The proportion of GLAM sector workers with a disability is also slightly higher than in the general workforce (Australian Library and Information Association, 2019), and there’s evidence that people who experience adverse childhood events (ACEs) are more at risk of developing chronic health conditions later in life (Barnes et al., 2020). GLAM institutions therefore have a responsibility to manage their workforces in ways that take account of the fact that a higher percentage of their staff than in the general workforce are, in all likelihood, trauma survivors.
Libraries and museums often use games with patrons, as well as with staff. And while it might not be common exactly to have a trauma response associated with games, like mine, it’s perfectly plausible that some people may have childhood histories of being bullied or abused that are tied up with schoolyard games or family game night. Indeed, the current COVID-19 situation may be associated, for many people, with a traumatic time in their lives when they were trapped at home feeling scared for their health, their loved ones, or their jobs, with little to do but play board and video games. One library I worked at used to put on escape room style puzzle games for new students for O-week. Next year’s intake of students may no longer react to the scenario of being locked inside a room with a buzz of excitement, but instead with the anger, fear, and frustration of being confined in COVID-19 lockdown. Games are supposed to be fun, so if a patron has a trauma response and isn’t enjoying themselves, they may experience feelings of shame. Trauma informed library and museum practice means acknowledging that patrons may have these kinds of reactions to programming that is intended to be enjoyable and making space for that.
Australian Library and Information Association. (2019). ALIA workforce diversity trend report 2019. Australian Library and Information Association. https://read.alia.org.au/workforce-diversity-trend-report-2019
Barnes, A. J., Anthony, B. J., Karatekin, C., Lingras, K. A., Mercado, R., & Thompson, L. A. (2020). Identifying adverse childhood experiences in pediatrics to prevent chronic health conditions. Pediatric Research, 87(2), 362–370. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-019-0613-3