But there is also another possible danger: McCarthy-style witch hunts against librarians, along with the questioning of the need for the current number of them.
Today a New York Post columnist named Naomi Schaefer Riley took potshots at librarians worried about about the Trump administration’s threat to such trifles as free expression and diversity. None other than an acquaintance of mine, Sarah “Librarian in Black” Houghton, was among those in the crosshairs.
At least superficially related to the role of libraries, the ALA announced it was against “any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry.” Which also explains the ALA’s defense of the ability to access pornography on library computers…
One reason for the constant stream of partisan statements from the ALA in the past 15 years may be that the political environment has become more polarized. But this period has also coincided with another important development — the rise of the Internet.
Now that we can buy cheap used books on Amazon, look at resources online through Google Books or other databases and access periodicals in the comfort of our own home, the role of librarians has shrunk considerably and many seem adrift.
As one recently told The Wall Street Journal: “If I didn’t spend my time helping people look for lost keys, wallets, jackets, sweaters, gloves, backpacks, cellphones and laptops, I’m not sure I’d even have a job.” Maybe the culprit behind all of these silly press releases is obvious: too much free time.
Along the way, Riley alerted library foes about Sarah Houghton: “Take a blogger called Librarian in Black, who wrote to the ALA president: ‘[Trump] has stood for racism, prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination for his entire life — including during his campaign. Those are all things ALA stands firmly against. Explain to me why we’re ready to work with a bigot? Because I’m not ready for that at all.’”
My own hunch is that more attacks on librarians will follow. Donald Trump doesn’t read books, but his alt.right-friendly sidekick, Steve Bannon, does along with plenty others in the Trump camp. They will not be fond of librarians’ pushback against censorship and government surveillance, or of the profession’s eagerness to serve multiple ethnic groups or LGBTQ people.
As shown by the favoritism toward climate deniers and and union-haters, the Trump administration in many ways will be a subsidiary of the Koch Brothers regardless of the brothers’ admirable skepticism toward The Donald in the past. Even before Trump prevailed in the Electoral College, the Koches’ organizers were fighting against adequate tax support of libraries.
The irony is that Trump won partly through his populist appeal to our much-neglected rural people and working-class Americans, for whom libraries can provide powerful paths for social mobility. Now Trump’s friends may well imperil these very institutions and the free spirits who work in them.
No, Naomi Riley is not a member of the Trump team, just a columnist for a conservative tabloid newspaper that supports Trump. But methinks she is doing a fine job of channeling the mindset or at least the future mindset of the Trump crowd. The White House press secretary’s job in the Trump Administration is still open for now. Perhaps she should apply. Trump is about lies. Libraries and librarians are about facts and truths. They cannot help but end up on his enemies list along with government scientists imprudent enough to have worked against climate change.
Why smart conservatives and libertarians will fight FOR libraries
Whether Trump is himself a conservative is still in doubt—given all the ruin that could result from the reckless fiscal policies he advocates—and meanwhile I’ll not give up on conservatives and libertarians as library boosters. None other than WIlliam F. Buckley, Jr., was gung ho on the TeleRead vision of well-stocked national digital libraries and more than a little concerned about government surveillance of patrons.
WFB’s enthusiasm jibed with his beliefs. The best local libraries reinforce, not weaken, capitalism with treasure troves of information for entrepreneurs. They also are packed with information about government, including old news clips and other material that can be used to document abuses. Furthermore, despite Riley’s mention of porn, libraries actually reinforce family values through such activities as story telling hours. What’s more, libraries serve students attending all kinds of schools—not just public, but also parochial, private and charter; I wouldn’t have it any other way, just as I want libraries to carry Trump’s (ghost-written) books and avoid any kind of political correctness. Above all, libraries are community institutions. Is Amazon going to provide meeting space for civic groups? And do we really want to farm this and other library functions out to private corporations?
Simply put, the least problem for good librarians is finding things to do to serve their communities.
I won’t count on it, but ideally the Harvard-educated Ms. Riley, a past editorial assistant at Buckley’s National Review, will reconsider her views on libraries and librarians. In fact, she recently tweeted a link to an item on the library apartments of New York. Who knows?
Related: Growing up inside a library apartment: A lesson for Ben Carson, Trump’s Housing pick?, a TeleRead post from last week.
And a recommendation: Drop by the EveryLibrary site to help fight the Koches and otherwise stand up for local libraries.