February 16, 2018

Libraries After Charlie Hebdo : The Threat of Violence, the Fear of Self-Censorship

On January 7, two masked gunmen forced their way into the Paris offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and wounding 11 others. The perpetrators, who identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda’s faction in Yemen, led police on a manhunt across Paris, and were found and killed two days later. The tragic chain of events shocked and horrified the world, but also served as a cogent reminder that many of the materials safeguarded by librarians and archivists represent ideas that hold powerful meaning for people, and can even move them to violence.

Charlie Hebdo | Opinion

This morning [January 8] in a Tweet Bredebieb asked me “what should public libraries do,” about the Charlie Hebdo attack. It was frankly a bit of a humbling and scary question. After all, I am not in Paris, and I cannot claim to know everything that French libraries do now. However, it would be an obvious act of cowardice to simply claim ignorance or to respond with some high level non-answer like “help the communities have a conversation.” So I provided some ideas. Still, Twitter is not exactly a place to have a deep discussion of where these ideas come from, nor truly share what I think public libraries should do. So in this post I’d like to give a deeper answer to how I feel public libraries should respond to horrific acts like the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.