When librarians turn to politics having nothing to do with library issues, they often look ridiculous. This is one of the main reasons I’ve always opposed the ALA getting involved in non-library issues. A library association speaking on library issues speaks with authority. On other issues, it just sounds like a blowhard.
Decades ago various hippies and radicals and other intemperate librarians began infiltrating the ALA to try to use it as a mouthpiece for political radicalism on non-library issues. Most of them got co-opted and contained within the SRRT. The Regressive Librarians Guild is an even more radical group, but they’re much too pure to be a part of the ALA. They’ve all been keeping much quieter in the last couple of years. I don’t know if they’re weary of their weak positions being ignored or are just all retiring.
I say that because the newer generation of librarians doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about the ALA speaking up on every controversial political issue around. I haven’t seen it in what I’ve read by or about younger (or at least newer) librarians. Someone from the ALA New Members Round Table conducted a small and admittedly unscientific survey among the NMRT librarians and posted it to the ALA Council Listserv last week. Here’s one quote from the results:
"I then asked their opinions about some issues that Council has recently dealt with in order to gauge how I should be voting in the future. The first was whether ALA should be involved with social issues relating to libraries (I used benefits for same sex partners of library workers as the example). 64.2% said yes, 7.5% said no, and 22.6% maybe. The second was whether we should be involved with non-library social issues, the example being withdrawing troops from Iraq. 2.8% said yes, 73.6% said no, and 18.9% maybe."
Those numbers reflect my opinion for years. The ALA should speak out on library-related issues. Though I don’t always agree with its position on those issues, the motivation and authority is there. However, it should stay away from other issues to avoid sounding stupid. Seriously, who could possibly care what a library group thinks about Iraq? Does having an MLS make one an authority on foreign policy?
For years the regressive librarians have been attacking my position on this, but I think I’m in the majority here. It’s just that most librarians are just afraid to speak out, lest they face the wrath of Cranky Marxist Dude. Supposedly anyone who thought the ALA shouldn’t indulge in political controversies unrelated to librarianship was "conservative." If that’s the case, most of the profession is probably conservative.
Speaking of conservative librarians, have you seen the reaction to this poor schlub? The poor schlub is Bert Chapman – politics librarian at Purdue – who thinks homosexuals are uneconomic. He doesn’t even bother to point out thier superior fashion sense (at least the men). Maybe he doesn’t realize why people are upset by his views. "Hearing rumors of a student protest, he said he wished the matter would simply go away." I’m sure he does! But think of it think of it this way, Bert, as a blogger, there’s no such thing as bad publicity!
Considering he claims to be an unrepentant conservative Christian in an overwhelmingly liberal profession, he shouldn’t be surprised that saying homosexuals are an economic as well as moral drain on society because of their predilection for prison rape catching AIDS is going to upset some people on the left, or that students are calling for him to be fired.
To be a librarian in academia is to be within two liberal cultures that both reject his views. Had he written an article suggesting the involuntary euthanization of conservative Christians, it would have been a different story. Then the academics and librarians and students might have said, "That seems a bit extreme, but at least his heart’s in the right place!"
I used to be classified with several presently inactive conservative librarian bloggers attacking the politicization of the ALA, and I was almost pleased to see the existence of this blog since the old ones have died off. On the old blog, I had a blogroll of other annoyed librarians, and he could have made the roll. He’s obviously an annoyed librarian. His blog post is pretty silly, though. He’s no Conservator or Heretical Librarian, that’s for sure.
However, had he not written that blog post, I might never have perused the Purdue student newspaper and discovered a letter to the editor from a student making the economic case against librarians. (Read the bottom letter.) The last paragraph is a gem, and gives me hope for the future:
"Getting rid of librarians makes economic sense. Walmart trusts people to check out their groceries, so surely we could implement self-checkout at our libraries. Replacing librarians with minimum wage workers to put books back on the shelf and assist people with self-checkout would save billions. This process could even generate new income if we allowed police to access these systems and fine those who don’t return books. Of course, a degree of service would be lost without librarians. However, I think we’ll manage locally as long as someone teaches the new workers to be as helpful as the last Purdue librarian I spoke to who offered to ‘help me do a search on "the Google."’"
"The Google." Maybe those oneohonions are on to something after all.