Thursday, April 18, 2019

Racism in the library profession

I've often mentioned at my blog the overwhelming list to the left of the library profession--a study done about 20 years ago said 223:1, making the profession more liberal than the ACLU, most university faculties, and probably the American Communist Party. So Library Journal (the "premier" publication of the American Library Association) this week tweeted "Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries." The journal's Twitter account then linked to an article [it was a blog] written by a Sofia Y. Leung, who describes herself as an "academic librarian" and lists intersectional feminism, social justice, and cats as things she likes. LJ should be ashamed for providing such drivel and being so racist--even if it was a blog post by a nobody.

I'm not surprised libraries are rolling in whiteness. The public library movement was started by women's clubs who thought literacy was important for 20th century Americans. The clubs, were social and educational and like the nation, segregated, but both white women and black women developed what came to be known as the public library--open to all who lived in the community or a small fee for those outside the jurisdiction. Libraries were established by white middle women, they were intended to serve the middle class and promote middle class values (education, family, children, marriage, religion, patriotism, leisure, home making skills, etc.), the library schools graduate primarily white middle class students and through bond issues have traditionally been supported by middle class white people.

Librarians have been promoting every progressive goal, especially women's rights, civil rights, environmentalism, and Democratic politics for as long as I can remember--and I first worked in the town library in Mt. Morris when I was a teen-ager. They have burdened themselves with LGBTQ movement, the HIV epidemic, income gaps (although they've not been successful in raising their own salaries above the EITC level), health disparities, domestic violence, etc., and I'm sure 90% of public librarians (and staff) are on board for the Green New Deal.

Being a middle class white institution brings some baggage, particularly guilt, for living and working in such abundance and freedom--our public support, our education, our wealth as a country. So this intersectionalist librarian Ms. Leung (an academic near as I can tell) is just following in the steps of her foremothers believing in 2019 that white people just take up space. Maybe her library can create separate restrooms, water fountains, and separate entrances for white people. It worked before for Democrats when they created Jim Crow facilities.

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