In Donald Trump’s America, you might have to wave good-bye to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with budget given as an excuse—not the best of news for the rural people who voted for him.
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.
In Why quiet-loving librarians can’t shut up about politics, Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote:
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.
David, you really should get out more—meaning read a more diverse group of sources. You seemed to hit every hysterical button there is.
Far from being a threat to our democracy, the Koch brothers are among of the few in the larger corporate would who don’t envision a cozy relationship with politicians know as crony capitalism or Chicago-machine politics. Executives give to politicians and, in exchange those politicians give them subsidies and create a maze of regulations that make it impossible for little businesses to grow into competitors to the giants. The Koch brothers are among the few in the giant corporate would who oppose that. That’s why they are being demonized. Evil hates good.
Have you even bothered to check out where corporate giving is going? In the 2012 election, the top 13 corporate donors gave to Democrats. You’re down to #14 before you find a Republican donor. And those evil Koch brothers that you think are trying to buy politics? The pair of them only come in at #24.
Nor does the American Library Assocition need to be taken seriously. Each year when “Banned Books Week” rolls around, it exposes something disturbing about the ALA. The bans are typically parents upset about books that they regard as harmful for their children. Mark Twain’s books figures prominently in their protests because he seems unable to bring up black people without putting in some sneering comment about them. Twain really is a dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist. I know. I’m listening to his Life on the Mississippi.
The ALA simply hasn’t thought deeply about a topic that’s their #1 intrusion into politics. There are two ills not one. One is censorship, meaning the government bans the printing and distribution of books. That is not the same as parents protesting a book being required reading in schools. The latter illustrates free speech in all its glory. The other is indoctrination, which means the state dictates what books are read, for example in schools.
Of the two, the latter is far more dangerous. The Nazis couldn’t do much harm when they removed Jewish writers from school textbooks or, in the case of Heinrich Heine, labeled his writings “anonymous.” Negative propaganda isn’t that effective. It merely makes the targeted people invisible.
What is effective is indoctrination, meaning what books are taught in schools and promoted by libraries. That meany books that put a bad light on Jews. And it the case of Nazism, that meant kiosks displaying, where kids could read them, the nasty blend of antisemitism and porn that filled Der Strumer.
Who protested against that? Not the German equivalent of the American Education Association. Volkschule teachers were among the most zealous Nazis. Nor to my knowledge did librarians protest book burnings. It’s easy to understand why neither did anything. Both are government employees and thus easily dismissed. The protests against textbooks and Der Strummer kiosks came from parents, particularly religious parents. They were doing exactly, precisely what the ALA sneers at each year when Banned Books Weeks rolls around.
With its Banned Books Week, the ALA takes the side of Nazi Germany in that dispute. Is it any excuse that ALA officials seem unaware of the parallels? Not really. They have a duty to be informed, particularly about a topic they stress so much. Indeed it is difficult to find debates separated as much by time and geography that could be more identical. Black parents protest making Twain’s racism mandatory. Germany Catholics and Protestants protested the anti-religious and anti-Semitic content of required reading in German schools. The two are not just similar. They are identical.
When I worked days at Seattle Children’s Hospital, there was occasions when I needed to get medical orders changed. I soon saw they there were good people who’d brave politics to do what was best for a child. I need only approach them to get that order changed. There were others who were so fearful of criticism and hospital politics, they had to be manipulated into doing the right thing. I did that too. And last and worst were those who thought only for themselves. Any appeal to do the right thing got nowhere with them. For them, I adopted what I called a “Go to hell” attitude. I defied harmful orders. Your can read instances of each in the four books in my ‘hospital series.’
The ALA bureaucracy is clearly in the last category. They’re quite happy with state-dictated indoctrination. You saw that in 2003-2004 when they waffled about condemning censorship in Cuba, a brutal dictatorship for which, judging by their website, the ALA hierarchy has a particular liking. In contrast, most librarians seem to be in the middle category. Parents can persuade them to substitute a less racist book for Twain. In library and school circles, listening to parents like than is blasted as “self-censorship.” Imagine that!
What we need more of are librarian who will take on the ALA and oppose what might be called its “supremacy of the librarian” ideology. Give librarians and school officals the power to dictate what kids must read, they will point out, and you give the state that power. And if a state can dictate what must be read, then it can also dictate what can’t be read. The two go together.
David, you really do need to get out more and broaden your reading. In politics, believing in the Koch conspiracy is enough to indicate that. The Koch’s are hated because they oppose corrupt government/corporate politics. The Democratic party knows that, but it also knows that it’s rank-and-file are typically too stupid to figure that out.
You neeed to leave those fever swamps and breathe some fresh air. You might try this website and from it acquire other sources.
@Mike: For time reasons, I can’t really give this a response, but in terms of Mark Twain, here’s a great essay on the racist issue.
I’ll side with the librarians—and the professor!
Don’t bother responding to this filth. You cannot educate stupid and you cannot reason with it. It is a waste of time, effort and rising blood pressure
I can confirm that the attacks on me have started following this article, though slowly. Most of it has been on Twitter and so far is purely political posturing and whinging, though some has crossed the line into harassment based on my gender and other protected classes. I’ve reported several accounts to Twitter so far and blocked several IPs from my website. I was privy to a few online conversations about whether or not the author of this piece had intentionally not used my name to “protect” me. I don’t think so. I think it was pure laziness of not clicking on the “About” link on my website to find the actual name of the author of the piece she cited. (The author is clearly a writer but not a journalist). I don’t need protecting in any case. I published my open letter to President Todaro on a public website I run that is, with an easy click or a web search, traceable to me as a human being with a name and a workplace and everything. This is not the first time nasty people have taken a run at me for publicly making statements they do not agree with. I’m sure it won’t be the last. But if anyone starts actually targeting or coming at librarians with real actions, other than idiotic online trolling, they’d better be ready for a fiery rain of hell upon their heads.
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If they come for ANYONE — librarians, seniors with Medicare or Social Security, gays, trans, Muslims, Hispanics, Jews ad nauseam, they will find an equal fiery rain of hell.
They have mistaken the ignorance of The Stupid for the consent of The Majority.
Before the election, I was convinced that the Koch-suckers would hang themselves with the rope that they’ve grabbed. Now, I’m still convinced of it but they’re likely to take America down with them before that happens.
Democracy and equality will eventually prevail but it’s gonna get damned ugly before that happens. Remember Biden’s convention speech where he said that Americans have never let their country down? We can’t say that any longer.
David, Love ya and the site, but good grief the man is not even in office yet! How about we all take a step back, de-politicize the issue till something actually happens? My annoyance is Librarians should be about helping people find the book and knowledge they are looking for, not shilling for left wing causes. My goodness, the original author’s column reads like life has ended, when in fact Trump has not been even inaugurated yet. Step back, deep breaths. The world has not ended.
@Murph: I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I want everyone to hang around TeleRead, whether they love or hate Trump. I’ll speak my mind, and in return, Trump supporters are very welcome to speak up in the comments area.
Actually, like you, I don’t want libraries to be politicized—whether on behalf of the right or left. Murph, my real worry is that libraries will not be able to help “people find the books and knowledge they are looking for.” In Canada, the conservatives then in power destroyed information associated with climate change. And now in Washington, the Trump people have asked for a list of government scientists working on this issue. Let me also repeat my observation about librarians and fact. Librarians are pro-fact. Trump lies so obviously that one journalist has correctly concluded that the idea isn’t simply to fool people – but also to demonstrate The Donald’s power. On top of that, libraries traditionally encourage civic engagement, in a non-partisan way, and Trump and friends seem to have the opposite viewpoint, having committed voter suppression.
Furthermore, Trump himself is a non-reader of books, and given Paul Ryan’s past hostility to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, I wonder if IMLS will even survive.
Meanwhile, the writer for the pro-Trump New York Post is convinced there are too many librarians with time on their hands for politics. Not a good sign. I very much hope I’m wrong. Of course, if warnings about censorship can reduce the risks of the threats becoming reality, commentaries like mine will have served their purpose.
Can you elaborate, “Trump is a non-reader of books” Do you have access to his library or lack there of ? I really did not realize that librarians were in jeopardy of losing their jobs because of a man who has yet to take office. Has he made threats of censorship and if he has can you please direct me to a link or web site or any place where I can find out if this is actually true or maybe just false reporting.
@Sheri: Thanks for writing in. No need to take my word about Donald Trump’s minimal interest in books. Trust The Donald.
As for the threat of censorship, Trump dreams of changes in libel laws to make it easier to sue reporters. He has threatened Washington Post owner Jeff Bezis with antitrust problems at Amazon. Trump’s team requested the names of government scientists dealing with climate change matters – not exactly reassuring. Most importantly of all, he lies, lies, lies, and it would be naïve to think that the people around him don’t see fact-loving librarians as a threat. Let’s see what happens to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is already in the crosshairs of House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“the Trump administration in many ways will be a subsidiary of the Koch Brothers”
So funny! The American Library Association in many ways is a subsidiary of George Soros. Only in reality, as in it’s already happened and continues to happen, with ALA teaching K-12 students Soros lessons on how to write fake news and how to use libraries to disseminate library-generated fake news.
And the false concern about Trump and censorship. Meanwhile, ALA refuses to publish how its Office for Intellectual Freedom promotes homophobia and harms the LGBT community. Total blackout. Heck, even ALA censored itself a few months back, when it deleted its guidelines telling librarians to ignore child porn viewing, in direct response to my advocacy all these years and to the work of two others who wrote a book about how ALA facilitates child porn in public libraries and perhaps one other organization. Now ALA has removed the publicly visible evidence of its child porn facilitation while it continues working that goal behind the scenes.
And LiB, people “attacked you”? What, you mean like when you were part of #TeamHarpy that made false claims about a male librarian being a sexual predator which ruined his career, the other members of TeamHarpy admitted it was faked and you still haven’t? Were you attacked like that? This comment is not an “attack,” its just a summary of a year and a half of torture for that librarian that you helped perpetuate. I am absolutely astounded the double standard life you lead.
Michael W. Perry — Bravo!
I’ll side with the librarians—and the professor!
Consider what Nat Hentoff, whom very few people would call a conservative or a right winger, had to say about the American Library Association. The Spineless American Library Association .
Trust the American Library Association to stand up against book banning and jailing librarians? Not if a totalitarian despot does it. Side with the American Library Association’s spineless reaction? Not I. As you had no problem supporting Bernie Sanders. a fanboy of Latin American despots such as Fidel, you may not have the same opinion as I do about the ALA.
@Reader: No defense of Castro’s totalitarianism from us. Check out a past post. That said, ALA has many positives and is very right to worry about Trump. DR