and being political is a good thing
My last post has kept me thinking and I wanted to add that not only, as librarians, is every thing that we do political but this is one of the best things about our work.
In a lot of ways, I know that I’m an idealist. Always have been and always will be. But, one of the things that kept me interested in librarianship, after starting school and realizing that the profession was different than I had imagined1. But it was one of the few fields that I realized I’d be happy to work within since, at our very essence, us and the institutions we represent are fundamentally awesome. And this awesomeness, in part, is because of the very real and inextricable political stance we embody.
The notion of a ‘public’ library was, back in Carnagie’s day, a radical fucking idea. Particularly at a time when literacy rates weren’t as high as they are now. And the thing is, public libraries remain a radical fucking notion2 – note, I do count academic libraries since people not attending the school can usually access the library to some degree.
However, we are fortunate that librarians throughout the years have remained political.
Since while the notion of public libraries was radical in Carnagie’s time, there were also significant disparities as to who actually constituted this ‘public’. All of which is codified in our classifitory schemes like the Dewey Decimal system or the LOC classifications3. But we have been and still are working to change this, to expand a notion of public that, yeah, can include homeless people.
These changes wouldn’t have been possible if librarians had been apolitical.
Although, tbh, I hadn’t imagined it that much since there was only about four months between making the decision to apply and applying, and starting. ↩
It does make me a little sad that some of these qualities and how libraries have changed is the source of a lot of whining from librarians. “Omg! Immigrants come into the library to find jobs!” “Zomg! Homeless people come into the library to stay warm/sleep!” “Zomg! Teens in the library are sooo noisy!” – All of these things are good things. And shows that we are doing something right. ↩
Whose problems have been documented elsewhere, but mainly I mean that these classification schemes were not built to accommodate anything not-white, not-hetero, not-cis, and not-man. ↩