Citizens & Librarians
Citizens & Librarians
Citizens and librarians alike have expectations for libraries and well run ones can be a boon to everyone. Learn how to audit libraries for best practices and why it is an excellent idea to get onto library boards to effect change from within. For librarians, learn how to change things so you can work in safe working environments free of men viewing inappropriate material on the Internet, etc.
More coming soon. In the meantime:
Lists of Books from Parent Groups:
Lists of Books from Professional Organizations:
Librarians seeking to help WLA grow by coordinating with each other anonymously may do so on Discord here: https://discord.gg/D7smZWwQZz
Report on the State of Librarianship from an experienced librarian whistleblower writing for World Library Association:
It’s tough to be a librarian these days, regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum. Problems and challenges are coming from every direction, making it hard to determine what, exactly, librarians need to be viewed as the a-political professionals they once were instead. Even greater than this is how a toxic core is poisoning an entire profession for those who do seek to uphold the very best values and practices of librarianship.
Some of the challenges librarians face are those that have always been present: unruly patrons, difficult administrators, and lack of funding. Some of those issues have taken ugly turns, however, morphing into something far darker and more frightening to address. Other challenges in the library sphere are new and are actively driving wedges between libraries, librarians, patrons, and families.
Some of the problems relate to a collapse of moral behavior in public. Others are the result of politically extreme training that flows through most Library and Information Science masters degree programs and the post-graduate professional development training offered by other library associations. Then there are the usual problems of not having enough staff, resources, or basic respect owed and given.
To be perfectly frank, it’s all quite a mess. Let’s explore it all a bit, shall we?
Librarians are currently acting as though crafting and following effective collection curation policies is like a modern mass book burning. While many well intentioned librarians seek to tuck materials in places that are more age appropriate, others have the disheartening attitude that all students should be able to access all materials at all times. The flags of “some children develop faster than others” and “some of our students are quite mature for their age” are waved to justify materials school boards will not allow to be read aloud at public school board meetings to be presented to children heedless of how graphically sexual and disturbing they may be.
Some cities and states have taken steps to insert committees to help manage book purchases, collection curation, and respond to book challenges. While this process does slow down library work and inserts another opportunity for personal politics to be substituted for effective and efficient politically neutral policy, it has become an unfortunate necessity following too many libraries and librarians either taking no steps to protect students and children from developmentally inappropriate materials or are actively seeking to place these materials within reach of those same students and children.
Internet Safety and Security
It is a daily fact that libraries are used to access pornographic materials. Research databases are stuffed full of as wide a range of materials as possible, including those with adult content in them. Many librarians rely on vendors to provide filtering tools and to curate content for students and it is not uncommon that Internet access provided by the library itself is managed by an entirely different department.
But what do librarians say about filtering out adult material for students and patrons? That it’s a violation of those patron’s rights.
Librarians have been trained to promote and endorse a policy of radical access that deems it right and proper for any patron of any age to access whatever materials they desire or might stumble across.
Filters might be applied to computers in children’s areas and school districts typically have policies about blocking specific websites, but these filters are easily bypassed. Librarians do not stop children from using computers in adult areas of the library, making it easy for them to access websites such as Omegle and controversial gaming platforms like Roblox that have areas or mini-games rife with pornographic themes and graphic adult discussions in public chat boards.
Tools exist to help protect children and patrons from being exposed to pornographic materials, but many libraries either cannot (through policy) or will not (due to training) deploy those tools.
Librarianship in the United States of America has leaned towards the political left for decades. Gone are the days where libraries were declared to be places of neutrality, open to patrons of all perspectives and views. In its place are declarations that it is flat out impossible to be politically neutral and libraries are told by organizations like other national and state library associations that they must espouse politically left viewpoints and policies or be deemed part of the -ist brigade: racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, and so on.
This issue plays out both in library policy and internal practices. Librarians share tips on how to discourage or block politically right leaning patrons from using public rooms, they rage internally about having too many men in administrative positions, and create such a hostile environment overall that any professional librarians who do not share those perspectives keep their heads down and try to pass undetected by their fellow professionals.
Professionalism in Librarianship
Gone are the days of librarians being thought of as mousy older ladies with neat gray buns, half-moon glasses, and a finger constantly placed against the lips to shush loud patrons. These days, it’s considered hip in the profession to be a dark rimmed glasses wearing, wildly colored hair-dyed, tattooed punk librarian. The edgier, the better, even if the number of librarians who fit this criteria is actually quite small.
What’s coming with this paradigm shift of what a librarian should look like is an aggressive increase in librarians feeling they need to do battle with patrons instead of simply serving them. Personal feelings and values are being used as deciders of official policy more than thoughtfully considering what will be best for their communities.
Professional Respect for Librarians
On the flip side of this is that librarians aren’t actually respected for the work that they’re doing. It goes beyond the countless snide comments often found on Facebook posts asking for support for local libraries of, “Oh come on, who needs libraries anymore? We have the Internet!” There is a deep, fundamental rejection of librarians as experienced professionals. Stories I’ve heard in the past several weeks include incidents where:
- An IT department deleted a massive section of electronic resources from the library website during an update and neither bothered to notify the library of this deletion, nor offered to help correct the issue. The librarians had to turn to the Wayback Machine to recover the lost resources.
- Non-librarian administrators unilaterally bestowing a large part of a library to an entirely unrelated department then refusing to provide official support for requests to this department to reduce the noise they’re making during library events and lessons.
- Using library spaces for meetings and non-library events that leave the library trashed and numerous fixtures broken beyond the point of repair, then refusing to either apologize nor enforce measures to encourage respect for library spaces and materials.
Ineffective Local Governance
The safety and reliability of a library is often only as good as the city or county that manages it. A public library can have wonderful librarians and fervent community support and still be destroyed by city managers who see the library as a waste of resources.
Just move the computers to city hall so people can use them and get rid of the rest, is what this author has heard from one city.
In other locations, cities that encourage the destructive behaviors seen in many urban environments in the United States end up with once popular library branches being closed after an excess of violence, and drug and alcohol abuse lead to patronage dropping below sustainable or justifiable levels. Here, those acting in contradiction to acceptable behaviors are rewarded and those most in need of the resources a library can provide are punished.
Unruly & Dangerous Patrons
How do librarians in public libraries deal with patrons who have crossed all lines of moral decency? In most public libraries these days, librarians and patrons have no choice but to endure those watching pornographic materials on library computers, destroying bathrooms, urinating on or between library shelves, and more. Police are sometimes called to come try and encourage these persons to leave, but it’s rare that they have the power to actually remove these dangerous and disturbing persons from public spaces.
Librarians are stressed about these situations, frightened for their own safety as they enroll in countless professional development courses about dealing with such rough situations while also trying to justify to themselves the need to allow such unruly persons to be in library spaces. Public libraries should be welcoming to all patrons, but it is quite clear that the lines of decency are being crossed every day in libraries, often to the point where families stop patronizing these libraries out of fear for their own safety.
Accelerated Reader Program
Many parents these days are familiar with the Accelerated Reader program, created by Renaissance Learning, that is intended to help encourage students to read books by providing short quizzes on specific books with prizes or activities offered to those who achieve high scores. This program, though, is actually quite unpopular with librarians, who not only find them ineffective promoting books to developing readers but also an active hindrance at crafting a love of reading. It is not uncommon for teachers to place mandates on students to check out a certain number of AR books every week from their libraries and many school administrators insist on using the AR program despite their librarians speaking out against it.
There are places where programs like Accelerated Reader could be an effective tool for encouraging students but sadly, where and how it is administered is not chosen by those with the broadest overview of student interest and capability.
Many memes circulate social media where adults harken back to the halcyon days of the school book fair. Unfortunately, one company has come to have a stranglehold on the book fair business. Smaller competitors do still exist – Literati Book Fairs, I55 Christian Book Fairs, Bedford Falls Book Fairs – none have the same national reach and stranglehold that one company possesses.
This near-market monopoly allows that one company to set the tone for what book fairs have, and that is often a relatively high percentage of non-book items (games, toys, craft kits, and so on) and books that many parents have expressed dismay to see in their children’s hands when they come home. Profit sharing and store credit programs encourage school libraries to continue signing up with that one company year after year, as these fairs can often be the primary source of revenue for libraries to purchase new books for their collections.
In closing, this author reached out to a few other librarians to get their perspectives on current affairs and this was the core message that came back. I am sharing their words with only minor tweaks and edits to properly protect their identities:
“Libraries need to stop becoming dumping grounds for people who need social services. On the same day we had to get cops in to intimidate one guy, there was a white guy with prison tats who was visibly brain damaged and high who kept trying to chat us up at the front desk. He asked us if we had boyfriends, how old we were, he tried to chat up a teen boy in the YA section, etc. He also told rambling nonsensical stories about fighting Snoop Dogg and P-Diddy and told us that he was beaten up every night in his bedroom by Chinese hackers and that everyone was too racist to help him because he was white.
“We were completely alone and while I’m reasonably confident I can handle myself (I always keep a pair of scissors with me at the desk) this guy needed either a) an intervention or b) more prison time. But no one cares about us being in danger or brain damaged individuals trying to chat up teenagers because we’re the bottom of the barrel in terms of government funding and conservatives now hate us. This means we are on our own except for the families that visit us every week.”
“My director had a staff meeting with us where we went over a live shooter drill. She told us that she wasn’t worried about someone coming in because she knew people were concealed carrying in the library. I think that’s great but I also think we need some form of support to deal with situations like this so we don’t have to rely on a local dad or mom to kill someone to protect us.”
“I’m signed up for homeless training modules and I know that things are a lot worse in other libraries. Librarians are getting threatened, attacked, and having to rely on their patrons for protection. The guy who runs the modules related an anecdote from last year where a woman in Minneapolis was screamed at by a drunk guy and he brandished a knife at her. She had to rely on two other homeless men (themselves addicts) who had taken a shine to her to protect her because she isn’t allowed to carry a gun as a city employee and the cops have travel time. This situation should not exist but no one wants to solve it. Considering the rate at which drug-motivated attacks are increasing, I think something violent is in the works and will happen sooner or later.”
In closing, there is one additional story this author would like to relay, rewritten here for you after it was posted to social media:
“Work has been tough here. We’ve spent so much time having to be medical counselors to a poor woman with a brain tumor. She’s been given less than a year to live and the tumor is affecting her so badly she doesn’t fully understand what’s happening to her. She can’t even read any more so none of our books were able to help her. The palliative care nurse can’t come without a doctor’s order and her social worker wouldn’t come either. We wrote up a list of questions for her to ask at her next meeting with her surgeon, used a brain map to show her where her tumor is and why it’s affecting her ability to read, then loaded her up with booklets for others to read to her.”
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