Friday, November 8, 2013

Keeping politics out of Libraries

I remember the first Iraq War.  Libraries all over the country were putting yellow ribbons around their libraries in support of the troops.  The American Library Association frowned on the practice and mentioned libraries are a neutral place for all ideas to be represented.  Having yellow ribbons in libraries indicated support of the war and that was not neutral.  Fair enough - if that was as far as it went.  In the following weeks the American Library Association (ALA) went on record as being against the Iraq war... so much for neutrality.  Individual libraries couldn't support the troops with yellow ribbons but the ALA could condemn the war.
Librarians are often on the more liberal side of issues such as abortion, gun control, censorship, gay marriage.  Conservative librarians exist but they say they have to 'lay low' when these issues are being discussed because their opinions aren't welcome.  I remember one instance in a library in which I worked ... they wouldn't allow Chick Filet to provide freebies for a summer reading program because Chick Filet was anti gay marriage.  After years of supplying the libraries with generous gifts whenever they were asked they were now shunned because they didn't have the 'correct' view of gay marriage.  No neutrality being practiced there.
As I read the news I hear that President Obama is trying to get people to advertise and promote Obamacare.  Athletes such as football players, and professionals such as librarians are being asked to promote the program.
I believe that any librarian who advocates for Obamacare or advocates against it is trashing the neutrality of librarianship that has been in place for centuries.   
Our customers/patrons are a varied lot.  We have Atheists, Christians, Muslims, Conservatives, Liberals,  Tea-Party, Progressives, blacks, whites, asians, citizens, non-citizens, immigrants, wealthy, poor, gays, straights, adolescents, elders, men, women, children, soldiers, peace activists, etc.   We serve the world!
Each of us have personal opinions about politics, religion, cultural issues - and we should.  We have a right to hold personal opinions about every issue out there.  However, as professional librarians our opinions should be left outside the libraries and our neutral attitude toward information should prevail inside libraries.
Fundamental Christians should be treated with the same respect as Atheists or Satan worshippers.  The information you provide them should meet their needs and they should be helped without an attitude of censorship on your part.  The information on the shelves or in the database should be handled in a neutral manner; it should be acquired by librarians who provide pro and con information on all subjects collected; it should be cataloged fully with appropriate subject analysis; it should be provided by the information librarians without bias.
In my Acquisitions and Collection Management class a liberal librarian said it was wrong for conservatives to bring their biases into the selection of materials.  But later on in the class she stated it was her moral duty to 'educate' customers on how to think and to suppress conservative materials while selecting liberal materials.  Do you see the bias here?
I sincerely hope NO professional librarian takes the bait and advocates for Obamacare as a librarian.  I also sincerely hope NO professional librarian advocates against Obamacare as a librarian.  What you do on your own time is your own business, but what you do as a professional librarian impacts the neutrality of our profession.  If we allow one view to prevail in the library world - and condemn any opposition to it - we are no better than the Nazis who burned the books that didn't match their view.

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My Journey from Libary 1.0 thinking to Library 2.0 action!

This will be a new beginning as I explore with you the concepts of Library 2.0 and how it can and should impact the way resources are cataloged!

Cataloging is...
Access to information
The structure that makes things findable
The keyring that holds all the keys together
The right tool for finding information