March 21, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, October 1, 2017 Issue

“Librarians are not creating the problem of bigotry by daring to name it and confront a political figure who embodies that value”

Name bigotry

I am disgusted by the arguments for so-called objectivity and neutrality in the library and the characterization of those librarians who acknowledge the harmful policies coming from the current presidency as “snowflake librarians” who try to “hijack the place for [their] own personal therapy” (Paul Klenk, “No politics!”). As others have mentioned, some policies and values are too dangerous to tolerate (Lou Coatney, “Hostile cultures”).

This is why librarians are actively protesting Trump…. Our professional duty to provide equitable resources…requires the identification of different privileges or disadvantages of some community members and groups…. It is impossible to create a plan for equitable resource provision…without the explicit acknowledgment and naming of the specific and systemic causes of these differences in privilege among our patrons, such as the undocumented families who may be deported or Muslim families who may be torn apart by executive orders.

Librarians are not creating the problem of bigotry by daring to name it and confront a political figure who embodies that value. Likewise, by contextualizing these problems as the progressive librarian’s personal ­vendetta, the systemic nature of their origins is disregarded.

These problems have long gone unnamed and not publicly acknowledged, which only feeds them. It is only by bringing these problems into the light that we…can provide resources and services that truly serve all community members…. Historically, librarians have been complicit in discriminatory and prejudiced policies…[such as] the librarians who aggressively endorsed and enforced segregation in public libraries and turned black Americans away. It is only with an eye to our profession’s past and…[to] an equitable future that we can do our best work.

—Astrid Cook, Durham, NC

Go fight Google

Nicole Cooke (“Tolerance Is Not Good Enough”) and her followers want librarians to become “social justice warriors”? As a student, I always preferred using [the library] to going to my K–12 and undergraduate college classes because I could educate myself instead of being preached to by some pompous jerk.

Fortunately, thinking for one’s self was encouraged at Columbia University’s former School of Library Service, where I received my doctorate. Unfortunately, I soon found that most of my colleagues in schools of LIS were less accepting of ideas they did not consider politically “progressive” enough. When I taught classes in LIS, my lists of suggested readings usually paired material with opposing opinions to encourage students to think and decide for themselves. This approach was not popular among ­either students or faculty, so I became the director of a university library and ensured that opinions of all sorts were represented.

It is unfortunate that American schooling in general has degenerated over the decades and that schools of LIS are now speeding their rate of decline. One sees this in the readily apparent dismissal of intellectual freedom and “balanced collections” in most libraries one visits. Right now…American librarians who want to be “activists” should be fighting Google’s politically tendentious policies.

—Stephen Karetzky, San Francisco

Chaos and creativity

I second Michael Stephens’s observations (“What’s Next”). Experiencing Dokk1 in operation as its staff carried out the same philosophy of service expressed in each workshop and keynote made Next­Library 2017 a more powerful marketplace of ideas than learning in a vacuum. The spirit of organized chaos meant [being] open to whatever happened next—new ideas, new colleagues, and the ever-changing use of the same spaces. Bravo to organizers and ­participants.

—Maxine Bleiweis, Maxine Bleiweis & Assocs., Bridgeport, CT


In Mystery (LJ 9/1/17, p. 83), the review of Allison Brook’s Death Overdue misidentified the author as Marilyn Levison; Brook also writes as Marilyn Levinson. In the same issue (p. 98), Alejandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess’s The Magical Twins will now be released in December 2017 (ISBN 978159454084). In SF/Fantasy (LJ 9/15/17, p. 60), since review publication, the “unforgiving” typeface of the anthology In the Footsteps of Dracula has been revised.

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



  1. Abby Reiter / Librarian / Mount Prospect Public Library says:

    I agree with Astrid Cook (Name Bigotry 10/01/2017) that the potentially harmful effects of the current administration’s policies on our patrons shouldn’t be disregarded or relegated to “snowflake” territory. However, I think what is much more important is that we keep this conversation open rather than closed. Neutrality and objectivity in the library are complex moral and ethical issues that have been debated for decades, without definitive answers. I believe an open dialogue, rather than a staunch, unmovable opinion one way or the other is what will keep us questioning and communicating and “do[ing] our best work.”

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