The big library story of the week would have to be this one about librarians protesting President Trump’s executive orders and everything else Trump-related.
It’s one of the few news articles about libraries that demonstrates knowledge of libraries at all. Maybe the author’s a librarian or knows one. Historically, it goes back to the 1950s as well, so there’s definitely some context.
The most interesting, and perhaps even the most effective protest, are the “Libraries Are For Everyone” signs created by a public librarian in Nebraska.
It reminded me a bit of the librarian in Ferguson, MO during the unrest there, but on what could be a much bigger scale. Regarding that situation, I wrote at the time:
“Stuff like that is what makes libraries special in a way that maker spaces or whatever the next new thing never will be. All people can come and sit, read, work, play, and study. Nobody’s harassed. Nobody’s turned away.
Maybe libraries are a little boring, but sometimes boring is a lot better than sexy.”
Libraries being there for everyone is a great public message. It’s meant as a political protest, but it shouldn’t even be controversial.
Libraries are for everyone. Schools are for everyone. Roads are for everyone. Parks are for everyone. Trying to argue against that just makes you look like an awful person who can’t face reality. There are plenty of people like that, but they’re hopefully a minority.
And then there are other forms of protest that are probably pointless since they seem like little more than librarians congratulating themselves on how much they “resist,” like the public outrage over some ALA press releases nobody was going to read anyway.
The most useless protest is always from librarians who want the ALA to become a political advocate for issues that have nothing to do with librarianship. It shouldn’t happen, and when it does the ALA just looks ridiculous.
Then there’s the @LibrariesResist group who put up a page of links that says it’s “Building a curated list of resources for libraries and library workers in the resistance. Because if Park Rangers can do it, so can we.”
It’s hard not to groan at this, not because the links aren’t useful, because some of them are, but because it’s pretending to resist something that doesn’t (yet) exist. It is completely legal for librarians and anyone else to put together a list of links. You’re not “in the resistance” if nobody’s trying to stop you.
The rogue Park Rangers, if they were indeed Park Rangers, were federal employees under a gag order imposed by the President. If your employer tells you not to communicate with the public and you go ahead and communicate with the public, that’s resistance.
Unless something changes drastically, the President isn’t able to issue a gag order on librarians who aren’t working for the federal government. So all those librarians who want to display “Libraries are for everyone” signs or put up displays of books on Muslims or compile lists of links are completely free to.
They’re making a political statement, but they’re not resisting because nobody is trying to stop them. That’s the easiest kind of resistance there is.
And from federal librarians? Now a “‘Rogue Library of Congress’ Twitter account has been started, but no one has tweeted from it yet.” Why? Because so far federal librarians haven’t been told to stop communicating with the public.
The frustrating problem for most librarians who want to protest the current President is that they have very little to protest as librarians and almost nothing they can actually resist because there’s no pressure on them to stop doing what they’re doing.
Putting up signs about the library being for everyone or having information for everyone is just a recognition of basic facts about American libraries. It seems political at the moment, but doesn’t have to be.
If librarians want to protest, then protest. But continuing to do a job that nobody is trying to stop you from doing isn’t resistance, no matter how good it makes you feel about yourself.