Cultural Competency, library as third place, inquiry based learning, collaboration, the learning commons, transliteracy…these are just some of the areas of librarianship in which I am especially interested. But they are all for naught without advocacy. Advocacy is the silver bullet in librarianship. A library can’t be third place if it’s not there in the first place.
For my class I recently had to read some articles on advocacy (linked below). One (Martin, 2009) focused on micro-level advocacy-school level advocacy of using best practices to promote indispensability in the library. The other (Hartzell, 2012) focuses on advocacy outside the library to focus on promoting indispensability at the administration level, gaining buy-in from educational administrators in training.
These are both fine ideas and should be explored and practiced but advocacy needs to be targeted in every area. Decisions come from the top down and I’m talking about the very top. Librarians need to get political.
Libraries depend on funding from governmental bodies. In this respect, libraries are inherently political yet I hear many librarians eschew politics or political talk. Public libraries have bond measures on ballots. That’s politics. But librarians too often don’t get involved in politics. If we are to truly advocate for our profession we must be political.
Recently I’ve seen more librarians get political and I think it’s a good thing. We are advocates for everyone. It’s part of our code of ethics that libraries are for everyone.
If libraries are for everyone then I have news for you:
And it turns out, I’m not alone in thinking this. In an Opinion Piece on School Library Journal, Cory Eckert explains why libraries are not neutral:
“Public libraries have throughout their history shown bias in explicit and subtle ways—from material selection and categorization of books to strident support of anti-censorship and privacy legislation.”
“In our day-to-day work, we make decisions that are anything but “neutral.” When doing readers’ advisory, we strive to be inclusive and open-minded, some of us, for example, working to dismantle long-held gender-specific prejudices, such as resisting the idea that boys will only read a book with a male protagonist. We show up at certain parades, farmer’s markets, and community events, but not others. Our advertising is not neutral (What language(s) are used? Can everyone in our communities read it? Is it placed somewhere they might see it?). Fine structures are not neutral.” (Eckert, 2016).
This non-neutrality should expand to the political sphere. We, as librarians should be getting political. I don’t mean we should be supporting specific candidates but we should be engaging them. We should be calling out those politicians who are not supporting us and our profession. We should be getting involved in policy writing and advocacy at that highest political level.
If libraries are for everyone then they cannot be neutral. We must stand up and speak for our communities. If the Americans with Disabilities Act is threatened, we should speak up. If an entire population of people are being discriminated against, we should speak up. If education and teachers are being threatened, we should speak up. Speaking up for those who cannot is advocating for our community and by extension, our profession. Libraries are part of the larger community and communities unto themselves. If we are to truly advocate, we must be part of the political community as well.
Eckert, C. (2016, August 12). Libraries are not neutral. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/08/opinion/libraries-are-not-neutral-opinion/
Hartzell, G. (2012). The need to shift and widen school library advocacy efforts: An opinion piece. LMC 30(6), 12-13.
Martin, A. M. (2009). Practical advocacy: Lead to empower learning. LMC, 28(2), 7.