This is an interview with Karina Hagelin, artist, librarian, and community organizer based in Ithaca, New York and founder of Femme Filth Press, done by Naomi House of INALJ. This is part of INALJ’s 2020 series on LIS workers (current or former) who run their own businesses.
On Radical Vulnerability Work :
an INALJ Entrepreneur Series Interview with Karina Hagelin
Q1: Thanks so much for taking the time to help us better understand what Radical Vulnerability work is and how LIS folk can learn more. First could you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you got your MLIS (or your educational background) and what you do?
Hi! I’m an artist, librarian, and community organizer based in Ithaca, New York. I have a B.A. in American Studies, a certificate in LGBT Studies, and an MLIS, all from University of Maryland, College Park. I currently work as an Instruction and Outreach Librarian and Diversity Fellow at Cornell University, where I focus on library instruction grounded in feminist pedagogy, creating inclusive programming in both the library and our Makerspace, outreach to diverse communities, co-facilitating a social justice reading group for library workers and librarians, zine librarianship, and serving on our Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council.
I also run Femme Filth Press where I sell the zines I create about healing as resistance, survivor solidarity, radical vulnerability, queer femme joy, and trauma recovery.
And I do freelance work as a library consultant too! I teach workshops and webinars for librarians and professors, as well as create innovative digital branding and content strategy plans.
Q2: Can you expand on what the work you do is and what type of organizations could get value from using your service?
Many libraries and archives have added my zines to their collections. My zines, such as “The Little Book of Affirmations for Survivors,” “Surviving to Thriving: A Trauma Survival Toolkit,” and the “Femme Filth” series, speak to what trauma recovery and healing are like, through the lens of radical vulnerability and self-love. They blend personal narrative and practical tips together through bright, colorful collages. Adding my zines to your library or archives’ collection is a fantastic way to include the voice and experiences of a disabled queer femme survivor to share with your patrons, whether it’s something they personally relate to or something they’re learning about a different community from.
I offer workshops and webinars on topics like trauma-informed librarianship, creative and innovative instruction tools, and supporting survivors in libraries/classrooms. I am really passionate about trauma-informed librarianship and think knowing how to support survivors is vital because whether you know it or not, you’re already interacting with survivors. Every interaction is an opportunity for healing or retraumatization, so it’s important to be intentional about choosing healing. Learning about trauma-informed principles and practices is one way we can choose healing.
Q3: Now can you tell us how you personally started your business?
I started making zines while I was an undergraduate student as a personal healing practice. Eventually, I started sharing my zines with friends and fellow survivors in my community. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and folks encouraged me to start selling my zines to reach a wider audience. I decided to go for it and opened Femme Filth Press, which I’ve now run for 3 years.
My workshops, webinars, digital branding, and content strategy planning were birthed in a similar fashion. There was a need and demand from my community, so I went for it. I don’t try to be unafraid but rather brave. Starting projects and businesses like this can be scary and a lot of work but I know I have the skills to do it – and what I don’t know, I can learn!
Q4: I know you do this work alongside having a full time job. What are some of the skills you have developed to help you balance the requirements of both?
I think balance is a myth! Regardless, being able to do my full-time job as a librarian and run Femme Filth Press and work as a consultant requires that I be able to prioritize my tasks, manage my time efficiently, and most importantly, set exceptional boundaries around work to practice good self-care.
Q5: Finally what are some of the most important skills / certifications / etc that LIS folk can do to prepare them for breaking out on their own? Any last tips for those looking to start their own expertise business in LIS?
Three tips, from me to you:
- Set firm boundaries around your work in order to prioritize and center good self-care, especially as we cope with this global pandemic and collective trauma. It can be tempting to try and numb out through overworking or by staying busy but I think it’s really vital that we do our best to rest and recharge during this time. The battles we’re fighting are for the long-haul, so it’s important for our work, whether as librarians, activists, &/or artists, to be sustainable. Think about what this looks like for you and how you can build wellness practices into your daily routine.
- Be supportive of each other! Focus on collaboration and celebration over competition. There really is enough pie, seats at the table, etc. for all of us, y’all. Amplify the work of your colleagues, give folks shout-outs, pay public compliments to others’ work, share skills, resources, and knowledge with each other, and practice community care. Networking feels gross to me (and so many of us!) because of the capitalistic element but community-building – as in, nurturing authentic, genuine, relationships with each other without an end goal or ulterior motives, just empathy, care, and solidarity – that’s what I’m all about.
- Be a work in progress. Perfection is a myth and chasing it will only create self-destructive behaviors for you. Accept that we’re always going to be a work in progress – find comfort in it, perhaps even joy. Think of the adventure of lifelong learning, growth, and transformation! Notice this about others too and when you feel compelled to criticize or critique, do it from a place of care and empathy. Meet others’ where they’re at but don’t leave them there.
Karina Hagelin is a disabled (gender)queer femme artist, community organizer, and librarian currently based in Ithaca, NY, where they work as an Outreach and Instruction Librarian at Cornell University. They are also a First-Year Academic Librarian blogger for the ACRLog. Karina is passionate about radical empathy in libraries, survivor solidarity, creating zines, radical librarianship, healing as resistance, cats, and collecting unicorns. They currently live with their three rescue cats, Cashew, Chickpea, and Boo. They can be found on Twitter at @karinahagelin. You can find out more about their work at karinakilljoy.com.
Views expressed are those of the interviewee and not INALJ or their employer. Photo provided by the interviewee and permission granted to use it for this interview.
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