August 17, 2017

Feedback: Letters to LJ, June 1, 2017 Issue

“[EPL’s] sanctions [against one librarian] limit our collective First Amendment rights as well as impeding the vital work of public institutions”

Evanston protest

We, the undersigned, protest the sanctioning of adult services librarian Lesley Williams by the Evanston Public Library (EPL), IL. While it is technically being explained as resulting from “unprofessional conduct,” we recognize that disciplinary action against Williams takes place in context of a broad assault against intellectual freedom. Cynically wrapping itself in advocacy for “balance,” this assault targets educators like Williams for presenting diverse perspectives intended to engage the full range of the community served by public institutions such as EPL. Disciplinary action against Williams, then, is part of a general attack on institutions of public education.

The only black librarian at EPL, Williams has been previously targeted by the library administration for the very work that has earned her recognition and awards. In 2014, she brought Palestinian American journalist Ali Abunimah to speak at the library; this event was almost canceled for lack of “balance.” Subsequently, Williams helped to program an event with We Charge Genocide, a grassroots movement by young people targeted by police violence in Chicago; EPL pulled its sponsorship. In 2015, Williams was sanctioned for discussing with community members the acquisition of an important archival collection [related to] black genealogy.

Williams is well regarded within and beyond Evanston. She received the Open Communities’ Spirit of Open Communities Award and [honored] by the Morton Grove Muslim Community Center for her work combating racism and Islamophobia; she has done innovative programming at the library, including the “11 Months of African American History” series. She has been invited to work with the National Endowment for the Humanities as a consultant and program evaluator, has presented programs at Internet Librarian and for the American Library Association, and served as a consultant for the Himmel and Wilson library consulting firm.

As advocates for academic and intellectual freedom, we recognize that the sanction of Williams targets a progressive and engaged educator. These sanctions limit our collective First Amendment rights as well as impeding the vital work of public institutions. We condemn the sanctions against Williams and urge EPL to dismiss them and to reinstate Lesley Williams, a talented educator and a vital community resource.

—Rachel Ida Buff, President, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM), American Assn. of Univ. Professors (AAUP); Alexis M. Jordan, Graduate Student Exec. Cmte. Member At-Large, UWM AAUP; Arijit Sen, Assoc. Prof. of Architecture & Urban Studies, UWM; Renée Calkins, Senior Lecturer in Classics, UWM; Jeff Edwards, Staff Organizer, Univ. of Illinois-Chicago United Faculty

Learning politics

My state library association’s education committee learned that librarians want to increase their knowledge of library politics, and we’re trying to address the lack (John Berry, “Teach Library Politics”). It’s a sad thing that this is a subject that LIS programs don’t require.

Whatever your level of work in a library, whether you’re a page or a director, politics affects you. Your library’s budget, policies, and even programs can be influenced by local politics, even when you don’t see the immediate effect. I learned everything I know about library politics on the job—and it was a crash course! I don’t wish that stress on anyone and hope that LIS programs start to address the issue.

—Nicole Miller, Lib. Dir., Cannon Falls Lib., MN

Condescending!

What an incredibly condescending commentary from someone whom I have never seen engaged in any kind of advocacy or activism for libraries here in NYC (John Berry, “A New Challenge for ALA”). Big talk for someone who doesn’t show up.

—Christian Zabriskie, Branch Administrator, Yonkers P.L., NY, and a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker

CORRECTION

In the bibliographic header and body of the Self-Help review of ­Katrina Onstad’s Weekend Effect (LJ 5/1/17, p. 62), the title was misidentified as Take Back Your Weekend. LJ apologizes for the error. In an update on Jill Shalvis’s Lost and Found Sisters (starred review, LJ 5/15/17, p. 73), the trade paper­back is being promoted as the top format: ISBN 9780062448118. $14.99; disregard the hardcover edition listed.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 1, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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