On Friday I attended the American Anthropological Association and was on a panel about using open access resources in teaching. I promised to share my notes on that conversation, and I will. But first, I want to address something that happened last week that rightfully has librarians stirred up.
On Tuesday, the Washington office of the American Library Association issued a press release about some new reports on some of the things libraries do. On Friday, the president of the association pointed toward these efforts as programs likely to appease the incoming administration: helping entrepreneurs and veterans and providing broadband infrastructure to advance national goals. The subtitle of the announcement was dismaying.
New briefs show how libraries support policy priorities of new administration.
No. No, we don’t support the new administration’s priorities. We can’t.
The unhappy responses were fast and furious and the ALA president apologized, calling the release an unfinished draft that was prematurely issued.
Of course, it may be business as usual for a lobbying arm of a professional association to gesture toward working with a new administration. They're going to have to go to the legislature to advocate on our behalf. But these are not normal times. This cringing act of self-serving “please don’t hurt us” rhetoric met with a storm of protest because we cannot partner with an administration that won on a platform that was openly racist, islamophobic, and homophobic and is working to bring on board a cabinet that will fulfill its ugly promises.
Here is what we stand for, stated right there on the ALA website: equal access to information for all, intellectual freedom, privacy, democracy, diversity, lifelong learning, preservation of culture, professionalism, service, the public good, and social responsibility.
A proto-fascist administration has been elected thanks to voter suppression, gerrymandering, propaganda, falsehoods, divisiveness, racism, and fear – as well as understandable anger that big business and the political elite have colluded for years to disable democracy and enrich the few at the expense of the many. We can either believe a strong man with no experience and autocratic tendencies can single-handedly fix that problem by repressing dissent, deporting immigrants, taking rights away from women and GLBT individuals, and depriving Muslims and people of color of Constitutional protections – or we can act on our values and resist.
Everything libraries stand for is on the line. The chance to hang onto some federal dollars pales in comparison. There is no middle ground, here. We have to choose: our values or the goals of this administration. We can’t have it both ways.
This is not the time for appeasement. If we truly believe in our values, if they’re more than feel-good slogans, we must commit ourselves to fighting for them.
ALA’s Controversial Press Release for Posterity by Rory Litwin
Open Letter to ALA President Julie Todaro by Sarah Houghton
ALA Does Not Speak for Me by Emily Drabinski
When Professional Values Must Become Political Deeds by Andy Woodworth