Saying that the United States today is a politically charged climate would be an understatement to some. As librarians, it is our job to prepare our patrons, whether they are students, the public, or a bit of both, with the proper knowledge and research tools they need to continue in society and succeed. Libraries and politics are part of the same world. Libraries exist in an other space: they’re part of the politics that have direct influence over budget, free speech, access, and funding, they directly impact the educational realm while often times not being a full part of it.
Many times, when educating those we serve, librarians must perform a very delicate tap dance along politically volatile subjects. One of my current projects is putting together a webinar on fake news: a popular subject, to be sure. One of the most important things we need to remember is this:
Never shy away from the truth. Librarians are not given the “luxury” of being able to avoid it. When we are asked questions, we give answers, whether it’s what our customer wants to hear or not.
Facts are more important than feelings.
The truth is more important that being inoffensive.
Libraries have never been neutral space, and librarianship will never truly be neutral. Librarians exist to provide facts to everyone- equal access regardless your walk of life.
Statistics indicate that 78% of Hispanics, 72% of women, 70% of parents of minors, and 70% of those 50 or older say that closure of the public library would have a major impact on their community.
Libraries have been consistently at the head of the curve when it comes to taking advantage of and integrating new technology into the public.
Librarians have been on the front line combating government surveillance (looking at you, NSA) since the ’30s.
Before Snowden, librarians were the protectors of patrons’ privacy.
The ALA- American Library Association– has listed ‘privacy’ among its top concerns since the organization’s foundation.
Librarians have, quite literally, taken the government to court over surveillance habits, the Patriot Act, and more.
Libraries are one of the most powerful political powers in the modern world. They and their librarians hold the keys to information to the masses. They promote literacy and education, marching along side parents, teachers, and principals. They fight for inclusiveness and equality, because knowledge should never be censored or forbidden. They provide safe havens for those who need it, and shelter for those who have none.
Librarians have always been political.