The gendered library

October 4, 2018

Is architecture always infrastructure or is infrastructure always architecture?  

Where and how do they differ, what tells them apart? The question of this relationship is a difficult and confounding one, with a constantly changing answer depending on the one who reflects upon it and how different infrastructures, and our relationship with them, continue to develop and emerge.  

Reflecting upon it now I feel neither is merely a part of the other, but their complex parts and purpose intertwine and create a (spatial) configurative fabric where edges can be hard to find, and are even non-existent.

In my contemplations I will consider libraries in the context of this relationship, the library being an infrastructure of knowledge and at the same time architecture that is designed to host the infrastructure and its users. Libraries have always been an important part of my environment, both as a place of comfort and leisure, but also a place of empowerment, where knowledge can be found and acquired, and for me knowledge is power.  When I can’t find the specific knowledge I’m looking for I know I’ve outgrown that infrastructure and in need of a better, or deeper infrastructure.

Considering this relationship in regards to different genders adds a new perspective and makes it even more complex. Are infrastructures gendered? Is architecture?

It is easy to point at infrastructures, like rail cars or parking lots, that have remains of older ideologies like most of our built environment. Where the structures create conditions or fail to account for human behavior which can make individuals feel and experience different things based on their gender.   

The infrastructure of the libraries certainly has it share of these remains, in regards to how different genders are represented within this infrastructure of knowledge, how many female authors there are compared to male authors, or how gender minorities are portrayed in literature and whose stories are told or represented.

The gender division of librarians can even be looked at, where there tend to be more female librarians.  The library as an infrastructure clearly has threads of gendered differences running through it even though the patrons of libraries do not encounter it directly.

 

-Ásta

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