April 19, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, August 2017 Issue

“We are here to provide information on an equal footing to anyone who comes through the door. That is ‘social justice’ enough”

No politics!

Public libraries, as well as any publicly funded [institution], should stay out of politics. Period (Margo Gustina and Eli Guinnee, “Why Social Justice in the Library?”). We are here to provide information on an equal footing to anyone who comes through the door. That is “social justice” enough. And in my many years of library work, I’ve never actually seen a patron “oppressed” by library staff.

—Name withheld

Personal vs. professional

I was…pleased to see “Why Social Justice in the Library?”. The authors were smart to point out the first tenet of the [American Library Association’s] Code of Ethics, which deals with equity of access. The question that I am left with is, when are we as individual professionals with typically leftward politics (and I am no exception) in conflict with another tenet in the ALA code: “We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.”

When libraries choose to allocate our “limited time, money and energy” to a program or in a direction aligned with a social agenda, are we not conflating our personal convictions with our professional duties?

Professionally, I struggle with the notion that our libraries become identified as places of progressive orthodoxy, perhaps leaving conservative members of our community less than inclined to use and support our services. It’s a dilemma between…following the idealism that initially attracted me to the profession and…ensuring that people whose values run counter to what I recognize as social justice not feel reluctant to seek public services.

—Rich Boulet, Lib. Dir., Blue Hill P.L., ME

Other First Ladies better?

I can understand your excitement about having Hillary Clinton speaking at [the American Library Association’s] June conference (Meredith Schwartz & others, “Winds of Change”). However, it may have been more appropriate to have had either Laura Bush or Michelle Obama speak at the closing session. Laura Bush, who has a master’s degree in library science, has made major contributions on a federal level to our profession. Michelle Obama is providing innovative plans for the Obama Presidential Library Center to be built in Chicago. Both have worked tirelessly, especially with children, to promote education, books, and lifelong learning.

—Joan Levin, Retired Libn., Highland Park, IL

Congrats, Nashville!

I think our libraries are fantastic so it’s nice to know that the pros do as well (John Berry, “Library City: Nashville Public Library; Library of the Year 2017”). Even the basics of the library thrill me. It seems like only a few years ago that I realized DVDs were available to check out…. Not everyone can afford cable or the price of admission at a theater, so this is wonderful.

I have asked the library to order a particular book, and they have done it every time—I’m still amazed…. The work they do to meet the community’s needs is inspiring, and the focus on engaging children is brilliant. I remember in the “old days” calling…to ask questions like, “How do you convert Celsius to Fahrenheit?” or “How much has the cost of living risen in the past five years?” I don’t need to do that anymore, but I still engage with the librarians, asking for book suggestions, etc.

Recently, someone tried to get me to join the Y (I can’t afford it), listing the great classes they have. I showed them the magazine from NPL and how they had many of the same classes for free! Congratulations, Nashville Public Library! You deserve it.

—Tracy B. Ann, Nashville


Amy Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success (LJ 6/15/17, p. 71) is in hardcover at $26.99; ISBN 9780062358295. Quoted in “Meaningful Measures” (LJ 6/15/17, p. 36–38), Christa Werle from Sno-Isle Public Libraries, WA, is Public Services Project Manager, not Director. In the same feature, the executive director of COSLA is Tim Cherubini, not Tom. And, finally, in “Life + Library” (LJ 6/1/17, p. 46–47), the Cornelius Library, OR, was designed by Scott | Edwards Architecture of Portland. LJ apologizes for the errors.

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

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