Friday, June 23, 2006

Politicized Librarians Damage Our Profession

Employees of the Seattle Public Library have passed a resolution calling for President Bush to resign. That resolution will be introduced at the ALA Conference in New Orleans.

I'm wondering if these Seattle "librarians" have free access to psychological counseling services? I suggest they seek out such counseling at whatever price is necessary.

Who cares what these extreme left-wing people think of Bush or any other national political figure? And why are they so concerned about politics and not librarianship? What are these people doing in our profession? If they don't want to be librarians, then leave. Be social workers. Join the staff of politicians like Dennis Kucinish or organizations like the Communist Party of the USA.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin wrote about "unhinged librarians" protesting against First Lady Laura Bush's appearance at the ALA Conference. She quotes ALA councilor-at-large Mark Rosenzweig, whose rant must be read to be believed.

These phony so-called "librarians" are damaging the library profession with their head-scratching antics that only serve to call attention to the general public across the nation that there is something seriously wrong with librarians.

Can you imagine if these people were as passionate about their profession as they are about politics? Can you imagine how much further along we and our users would be?

I've written before about "reluctant" librarians. They are here because no one else would take them. They are failures who desperately looked for jobs in libraries after all else failed, and unfortunately were successful. They found a home in the American Library Association, which is notable more for its promotion of partisan politics (hello Fahrenheit 9/11) than for librarianship.

Years ago when I was a library school student, the older librarians expressed strong disappointment with ALA for becoming involved with things unrelated to librarianship. Things have only gotten worse in the intervening years.

A good first step would be the closing down of the ALA "Social Responsibilities Round Table," a grotesque piece of furniture around which are seated the aforementioned Rosenzweig and others with similiar extremist views.

Librarians, such as those in Seattle, need to get back to librarianship, and ALA is supposed to set an example for that by cultivating political neutrality and librarianship above all else. Otherwise, they need to get out of here and make way for real librarians who have a passion about this profession and aren't so clueless as to pass resolutions that have nothing to do with libraries.

There are a lot of great students coming out of library schools these days. I've met some of them. It's a shame fake librarians are currently standing in their way.

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T Scott said...

I agree that it is inappropriate for librarians qua librarians to pass such a resolution, and I don't think ALA should take an official stance one way or another on what the current administration is doing, except within the very narrow range of actions that directly affect librarianship.

Nonetheless, you slander the librarians when you say that because they have passionate political positions they are "phony" librarians and aren't as passionate about their profession as they are about their politics. How the hell do you know that?

I'm very passionate about my profession -- I also feel strongly that Bush should be impeached. I'm passionate about a whole variety of things. I can keep those passions separate when necessary -- for example, as a library director I think it is very appropriate to encourage the people in my library to vote and to make sure that we have flexible schedules if need be to make it easier for people to do that -- I would never offer suggestions, as the director, about who to vote for. As a member of the MLA Board of Directors, I strongly support our lobbying efforts to increase funding for NIH and the National Library of Medicine (which we do regardless of the administration in power). I would fervently oppose an MLA resolution such as the one being suggested by the Seattle librarians.

I think it's a mistake for the Seattle librarians to offer their resolution as librarians. But to suggest that because they've done that, they're phony and don't care about their profession is nonsense.

Stephen Leary said...

T Scott:

You accuse me of "slander": I think you must mean to accuse me of "libel," but whichever it is, LOL to both.

You're using a straw-man argument. Of course people can be passionate about many things. I certainly am. But any librarian who uses his library position to publicly go out of his/her way to further a partisan political agenda that has nothing to do with libraries is by definition a phony librarian. I don't think you're arguing seriously here.

"How the hell do I know" they aren't as passionate about libraries? By their actions, obviously. How would I or anyone NOT know? Voting on the impeachment of Bush and taking it to ALA?? But I think you're being facetious. It's a blog anyway, everybody likes to be over the top. Your affinity with these people I think blinds you to what everyone else is seeing in terms of librarians and politics. Yeah, I'll go out on a limb and say they're more passionate about

I can't wait until the news reports come in of phony librarians at ALA protesting Laura Bush. I should have some fun with that. The Seattle folks with their silly resolution and ALA in general are an embarrassment to the profession.

library2.0 said...

Steve, I'm a UK resident, and really admire your blog. I agree, perhaps certain ALA members are mistaken in asking Bush to be impeached etc, and the ALA should not become politicised. But are you saying librarians etc should not act politically perse? I mean the case in Gwinnet County in which Jo Ann Pinder was dismissed by what I READ, was right-wing pressure groups (and yes, I DID read your blog entry on Spanish books etc). Also, the case in Idaho in which funds will be with-held by patrons as youngsters may see books on sex ( These are incidents in which right-wing politics interfere with us as librarians. So my question is, is it ok to be non-political through our organisation mouthpiece (in the US case, the ALA), but to be told what to do by another political organisation?

T Scott said...

To library 2.0 -- I believe that he's saying that anyone who disagrees with him is "by definition" a phony librarian. And he's right -- it's his blog, so he gets to be as foolish as he wants to be.

Rebecca B. said...

I rarely comment about blog posts, but I read this post and its comments a couple of hours ago and wanted to respond.

tscott, I don't think that Stephen is saying that librarians can't have strong political opinions, but that it's unprofessional to use their professional positions as librarians to vocalize those opinions. Likewise, professional associations are not the place for political resolutions and agendas.

If a librarian, a group of librarians, or anyone else feels that strongly about a political figure or issue then they can and should join a political party or group to advocate their position. They should not use their professional association(s) to advance an agenda that is so completely unconnected with that profession.

While it is one thing for ALA to lobby on behalf of library funding and express concern about the Patriot Act, they should stay away from other political issues altogether and focus on librarianship. We have enough issues within our own profession to discuss without including politics. When we waste time in our meetings and conferences discussing and passing these partisan resolutions that have nothing to do with the profession, we are not using that time to disucss things that are truly relevant to the future of libraries.

T Scott said...

Rebecca B -- If you read my first comment carefully, you'll see that I agree completely with the point that it is unprofessional to use one's professional position to vocalize political opinions. I questioned Stephen's making the leap from that to saying that librarians who do so are phony librarians who aren't passionate about librarianship. I think that's completely ridiculous, but it doesn't mean that I agree with the stance of those librarians. Stephen responds that such librarians are phony "by definition". I think that's foolish, but it's his blog and he gets to define words however he wants.

I agree with you that Stephen did not say that librarians aren't entitled to hold personal opinions and I didn't mean to imply that I thought he did.

Stephen Leary said...


I don't see the similarity between the Gwinnett case and Idaho on the one hand, and the Seattle librarians as a group demanding the impeachment of Bush. That is totally political and has nothing to do with librarianship, although they may make some lame attempt for it to appear that way. I'm not buying it.

Stephen Leary said...

T Scott said...

To library 2.0 -- I believe that he's saying that anyone who disagrees with him is "by definition" a phony librarian. And he's right -- it's his blog, so he gets to be as foolish as he wants to be.


I think your post is immature and unprofessional. I will start deleting your future posts if you continue in like manner. It's clear you're having problems dealing with a different opinion than your own.

Rebecca B. said...

While I think that this discussion is already getting heated, I think that I'm going to respond again anyway. t scott, I understand your questioning the use of the word "phony" being used in this context and the questioning of these same librarians' passion for librarianship.

I would argue that since they are using the guise of librarianship to further their political agenda they are using the profession and its associations in a "phony" manner. It's used simply as a means to voice their personal opinions rather than as a profession.

If they were truly as passionate about librarianship as they are about these political issues then they would use their meetings and conferences that are meant to be about librarianship to actually discuss librarianship and not their political agenda. They could use other non-librarian meetings for other discussions.

Librarianship especially needs to have a professional political stance of impartiality and nonpartisanship. Any non-library related politcal stance on the part of our profession leads to a biased environment for our patrons which violates section I of the ALA Code of Ethics.

jmnlman said...

but in the Idaho case what would be the nonpolitical position to take? Against censorship which would be of course interpreted as being left-wing in this case or givv in to the mainly conservative pressure?