Monday, May 16, 2016

“Norma, I was wondering how in the world you survived in the librarians' world.”

The only librarians he knows are his two cousins and they are very liberal, so he asked me and I responded.
Norma demonstrating CD-ROM system in 1988
"Until 2000 I was a Democrat. That was the year I retired. However, I was actually apolitical, and all my core values were the same as now—pro-life, pro-business, creationist, Christian. Because I had always been concerned about the poor, racial issues, various injustices, the environment, the Democrats seemed the logical party since that was what they preached. I never voted for Reagan, or Ford or Bush I. But the worm had been turning actually since my husband went into business for himself in 1994 and I was the researcher and staff.  Slowly, slowly, along with some personal problems in our family, I learned about “enabling behavior” and how much of the good we think we do for others,  we do for ourselves to control them or the circumstances. I began to take Matthew 25 very seriously, and realized in those passages about meeting Jesus in person, we are never told that the other people will change or that we will change the circumstances of their lives—poverty, prison, hunger, etc.
Aside from all that, I know now I would not have been promoted or published (I was Associate Professor at Ohio State University when I retired) if I had been an open, out of the closet, conservative. My publications are/were apolitical, a lot of stuff about journals and 19th century women writers for farm journals, articles about veterinary titles, how to use databases, etc., but if I had been as outspoken then as I am now (social media wasn’t an issue although I was on Usenet) my career would have been toast. A conservative faculty member will not get grants, office space, research time, or appointments to important committees in most of academe. It’s not dissimilar to the problem blacks had in the 1920s when there was a quota in almost all universities (I also did research on black veterinarians turn of 20th century). Conservative faculty are tokens. 
Academic libraries are a little different than public libraries, (the profession has 4 types—school, special, academic and public).  Politics may not be as important for a health librarian or a physics librarian—some of the publications they purchase might have a political edge, but most would be straight research. Fields like Education, Women Studies, Black studies and social work would be much more political. But public librarians? 223:1 liberal to conservative (2004 figures). That’s higher than Hollywood or the ACLU. You can imagine how the budgets are spent for those libraries! 
For years and years I battled our local public library. They flooded the shelves with anti-Bush titles during his term—I think they purchased every one ever published. For instance, there are 3 large Lutheran churches in our area, and there was one book on Lutheranism copyright 1945 on the shelves. It was easier to find a new title on the occult than anything Christian. Even main-line. Lots about the Amish titles, who are sort of considered “cute” and interesting around here, but don’t actually live in our town. Any book on Martin Luther King, Jr. was classified as Christian, so that’s how “balance” was achieved. Everything Michael Moore ever did was available in multiple copies and formats.
It has improved somewhat, and I now see popular titles by well known TV Christian preachers or best sellers on the shelves, but I think most Christians learned years ago to just go to the book store or Amazon and avoid the library. My public library had about 50 journal titles on various technology/computer topics, everything from popular computer stuff to high tech production, and only three Christian titles. It was good enough for a small college library. And when I pointed this out and made suggestions, their reasoning was those publications I recommended were not on their lists of reviewed titles—you see, the same people control the review publications that control the library systems and it’s a closed loop. 
Your cousins don’t even realize the “liberal privilege” their profession provides. Their own publications and professional organizations protect them. It’s really the same complaint that blacks have about “white privilege,” in that when you live in it and it is your life, career, and friendships, it is just normal, not privilege. But to add to the mix, I’ve never met a librarian who wasn’t also a missionary for the importance of information and knowledge (can no longer say reading, too old fashioned). Their personal beliefs and values strongly affect their professional lives. 
If this doesn’t sound like the librarians you know that’s because most of the staff you meet in your public library are not librarians. They may be highly skilled para-professionals or shelving clerks or interns, but the librarians with a double master's or PhD are in the back room with the door closed working on the budget or a local committee report or a snag in the computerized circulation system or a speech for the next professional meeting.
So, that’s why you don’t know any conservative librarians (other than me)."

(Spacing is off because I copied this from an e-mail to my friend.)

No comments: