Get to Know a Steward: Jennifer Haegele

For the fifth installment in our Get to Know a Steward series, the GAU Communications Committee asked Jennifer Haegele, steward for the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and co-steward for Morris Library, several questions about her life, the criminal justice system, Foucaultian genealogical conceptions of disciplinarity, under-utilized aspects of library services and the dynamics of co-stewardship.


GAU Communications Committee: Can you tell us where you are from, and what brought you to SIUC?

Jennifer Haegele: I was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After receiving my Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, I initially came to SIUC to pursue a master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice but ended up achieving a double major in CCJ and Geography and Environmental Resources. As of May 2013 I have been working on my PhD in CCJ.

GAU: Why are you pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology & Criminal Justice; that is, what about the field interests you?

Haegele: Although my current degree is in CCJ, I have always strived to develop an education that encompasses the use of information technology, computer science, and geospatial information systems to analyze various topics in criminology, criminal justice, and disaster planning. This is because my primary area of interest for research includes the use of geospatial analysis, agent-based modeling, remote sensing, and geovisualization to analyze terrorism, natural disasters, and the psychological behavior of offenders and police officers.

GAU: In her book, “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander points out that there are more black men “today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850.” She also notes, “About 90 percent of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense in Illinois are African American.” Given your Criminal Justice background and knowledge, what is your assessment of these statistics, and is this a problem that union activism could help address, if only partially?

Haegele: Race in the criminal justice system is not one of my areas of study, but that is an accurate statement of statistics that African Americans are overrepresented in our criminal judicial system. Unfortunately, I do not believe that “union activism” would be able to address the issue because unions are meant for institutional change not individual change. Although targeting drug offenders is an institutional issue, it is not a racial institutional issue. Therefore, the criminal justice system will not stop targeting drug offenders because drug offenders are not “one size fits all.”

GAU: In his genealogical critique, “Discipline & Punish,” French theorist Michel Foucault called the prison “an apparatus for transforming individuals,” that functions as “a rather disciplined barracks, a strict school, a dark workshop,” “rendering [bodies] docile,” much like other mechanisms in the social body. Foucault suggested the prison possessed a “double foundation – juridico-economic on the one hand, technico-disciplinary on the other,” and that it came to appear as “the most immediate and civilized form of all penalties,” and “‘natural’, just as the use of time to measure exchanges is ‘natural’ in our society.” Does that analysis in any way describe the present day prison or criminal justice system, or is it very much off the mark in the contemporary context?

Haegele: I am not well versed in the prison system but I do know that our prison system has changed drastically from its original inception. Yes the prison system is still used as an “apparatus for transforming individuals,” however, prisoners are no longer confined to their cells in solitude to think about what they have done and “repent for their sins.” Prisoners are now grouped together in blocks, receive visitations, make phone calls, watch TV, and play games and sports with each other as a means to keep them occupied during their incarceration.

GAU: Turning the page, if we may, what is it like working as a Research Assistant in Library Affairs?

Haegele: My position entails maintaining the Geography Information Services (GIS) department within Geospatial Resources. As GIS is a true passion of mine I naturally love the position in general but the people I work with (and work for) make my time spent there even better!

GAU: In thinking about your two stewardship positions, the popular books-for-prisoners campaigns come to mind. These initiatives seems to have had a resurgence of late, and have featured prominently in other movements. For example, The People’s Library of Occupy Chicago coordinated donation efforts for books for jailed dissenters. Are these sorts of initiatives important, and can unions help improve them in any way?

Haegele: There are several initiatives that are important for offenders, like the books-for-prisoners program that you mention, as they are meant to help provoke knowledge and prevent idle hands for inmates. However, inmates do not have unions to fight for their rights as prisoners, changes for inmates happen as various situations arise. Unfortunately, I am not sure as to whether a union for prisoners would benefit them.

GAU: In your informed opinion, as someone familiar with library organization, is the Dewey Decimal System overrated?

Haegele: I am not familiar with DDS so I have absolutely no idea.

GAU: What little known aspect of Morris Library should graduate students start taking advantage of more?

Haegele: Graduate students should take advantage of the writing center. Students know that the writing center is there to help them critique their papers, but many graduate students do not know that they also help with theses and dissertations and that they even have workshops designated for them.

GAU: In an essay discussing the ethos of “street librarianship,” Alycia Sellie, CUNY Graduate Center faculty member and Electronic Resources and Serials Management Librarian at Minas Rees Library, wrote that “we must be critical of proprietary systems that are costly and hard to use—from Blackboard to Facebook. We need to use alternatives to the technological giants, and we should talk not just about how to use a tool or a resource but how to understand its structure and how it works (or doesn’t). We have to acknowledge the world beyond our university or our stacks, and not remain in digital ivory towers. We should invite the messiness of an unjust world into our work and confront the contradictions. We have to make it ok that not everyone feels immediately comfortable with technology, and that there are still many socioeconomic factors that create real barriers.” Sellie added: “What could unite radical librarianship and the digital humanities as movements is a larger investment in social justice and information accessibility. Even if libraries or dh [digital humanities] haven’t been explicitly committed to socioeconomic justice in the past, I believe that an investment in these issues would be a uniting step that we could take together.” She has also discussed the benefits of trying to include alternative media materials – like underground newspapers, zines, union weeklies and other radical publications – in libraries. What do you make of Sellie’s ideas?

Haegele: Sellie has a valid point that a lot of content, despite being digital, is not free to the public. Although this can be seen as an issue, the issue is being looked at one-sided (i.e., as the public who has to pay). The issue must also be looked at from other points of view such as the writer or owner who needs to be paid so they can live, the university or library that procures the media for their patrons, or even the student or individual who pays through their fees to access the library that has the media they seek. Trust me, I would love to have all the articles I need for my research be free but that’s not something that’s going to happen anytime soon. Its like asking iTunes to be free.

GAU: As anyone who has checked out the Who is My Steward? page on the GAU website knows, you and Lyndsey Hanson are our co-stewards for Morris Library. Is there any deep-seated steward rivalry lurking there with loads of pent up mutual animus festering between all the catalogs and call numbers? Or, conversely, does the dual stewardship foster stronger union solidarity?

Haegele: Haha, I am new to the Steward game by a couple months and have only met Lyndsey once. But when I did meet her she had a great personality and seemed to take interest in my studies as I did hers. Even if I had known her longer than I have, I doubt there would be any rivalry. As graduate students, we definitely don’t have time for that!!

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