Everything we do is political
October 16, 2013
In response to yesterday’s post, I got into a conversation about why @janeschmidt has a disclaimer in her twitter bio.
One of the key comments made was that the disclaimer became necessary once she started discussing politics. I mentioned that everything we do is political, she agreed, but noted that many people do not.
Of course, this is one of our profession’s many problems. And it is a problem that naturally arises from the tensions and contradictions (as well as outright lies) that we all learn in library school, somewhat codified in the ALA Code of Ethics.
First. Every single item on that list is political. To the extent that you think librarians ought to adhere to this ethical code, you are political and everything you do as a professional is politics.1
Second. I often do see this notion of ‘information professionals need to be neutral’ which is just absurd. If the information is not neutral, why should the professionals be?2 It also seems absurd when most librarians will defend libraries as necessary because ~democracy~. This is also a political position, as it outright advocates for one particular kind of government.
Third. Since most libraries are publicly funded (thus also at the mercy of politicians) attempting to take an apolitical stance is severely damaging to any efforts to lobby or advocate on our own behalf. We must be political. Choosing not to be political in this context merely means that we’ll forever be at the mercy of partisan governments, who are most certainly not neutral in the ways we like to pretend we are.
Fourth. Claiming an apolitical stance, is itself a political stance. And it is a terrible one. On the one hand, we have piles and piles of evidence that the current system is structured to benefit some at the expense of others. And on the other hand, we have people claiming that doing nothing somehow means that they cannot (or should not) be held accountable for being complicit.
Being apolitical means endorsing the default, status quo and the status quo is unnacceptable.