This is a story about my friend and mentor Latanya Jenkins.
Now Temple Libraries has an absolutely barbaric medical absences policy. If you are absent more than 3 days within a 6 month period, you are subjected to a disciplinary meeting. These actions can ramp up from there to being fired(!!!). Latanya had cancer for years. And throughout her time at Temple, they would force her to come in. Come to work or get written up and eventually fired. She and I would discuss our respective methods of coping with such a draconian policy. We would laugh at our stories about sleeping in our offices. We would groan at the idea that being in the building was somehow more productive than working from home (telework was dependent on supervisors and limited to one day a week).
Throughout all of this pain, the expectation at work was that the library (and library work) was more important than everything else. Libraries after all, serve The People. Librarianship is a calling. You shouldn’t go into the field for money-only love! Meanwhile Anastasia and I were literally being called “the Black and Asian ones” and other horrible racist things. And the ableism was unimaginable. But after any chats with Latanya I would feel empowered and willing to try and change the world…or at least change librarianship.
Today I learned that she has died. And all I keep thinking is how Temple Libraries refused to let her take the time she needed to heal. How “the love of libraries” was used as a bludgeon against advocating for your own health and wellness. Not only was she unable to take sick days w/o being punished, but she, like so many of us disabled folk, couldn’t work from home. She had to come to work directly after chemo or risk losing her job and health insurance. All that wasted energy to drag oneself to work-and for what?
Latanya was an amazing woman and librarian. As one of the few Black librarians (at a primarily Black school btw) she served her community in ways her colleagues couldn’t. And librarianship bled her dry. She took the time she needed when she could but she had to fight for every bit. All I keep thinking is while Latanya lived life to the fullest despite the shenanigans, she shouldn’t have had to spend so much time going to work instead of resting. She shouldn’t have been made out to be a “bad librarian” just because she was sick.
The last message she sent me was on thanksgiving, reflecting on our friendship. I am so thankful to have had her friendship. She was a beautiful soul who spread light and love wherever she went. She was especially important to Black women in LIS. I mourn her today and I mourn that librarianship didn’t thank her for all she was by offering her the space to heal.
I love you Latanya. Rest In Peace. Rest in Power. And know that your life and your memory has and will continue to be a blessing to everyone.