Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Not a question of if, but a question of when

Back in the fall, I wrote about how ALA could rebuild trust with its membership after the Great Press Release Debacle of Aught Sixteen. In that post I laid out a three-point plan for how I believed that the association could restore the relationship with its members. There is one point that I want to use as a framework for this post:
First, I think it is incumbent upon Association-level leadership to restore the relationship between the Association and its members by centering the voices and taking seriously the concerns the people among its membership who will be most vulnerable in the coming years.
Much of the conversation around the conflict within the Association membership seemed to center around conflating personal opinions with professional ethics. And the thing I was most disappointed about at the ALA Town Hall was that the first speaker read this part of the ALA Code of Ethics, "we distinguish between our personal convictions and our professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources." I could find no other way to interpret that action than as a way to silence dissent from those who wanted ALA to stand up more forcefully for the values it holds at its core and more forcefully against an administration who seems to be poised to dismantle everything our core values stand for.

I was glad to see ALA come out in opposition of recent policies enacted by the new Administration to silence, intimidate, and ban. Even more so, I was glad to see the Association say, "we encourage our members to continue to speak out and show their support for and work on behalf of our core values, in their communities as well as with their local, state, and national elected and appointed officials." Given the ways in which its membership had been holding the Association responsible, the statement was the first thing that made me believe that the Association heard what its members were saying. And while this is the beginning of a conversation and not the end, it does seem to be a promising beginning.

Let us be absolutely clear in this moment: our marginalized colleagues and user community members are at actual, literal risk right now.

And given that almost 90% of librarianship is white, those of us in positions of privilege have a decision to make. Will we stand up for our colleagues and community members as the tactics used to silence and oppress them grow more bold? Or will we stand idly by behind the "professional duties" of the clause of the ALA Code of Ethics while the rights and lives of our colleagues and community members are destroyed?

As the co-author of this blog, I get to make choices about what kind of content ends up here--the issues that get addressed and the voices that get amplified. The Unified Library Scene will always be about bringing together people from disparate groups within librarianship to build a better future for our users, and right now that means standing alongside our marginalized colleagues and user community members, not just in words but in deeds. I invite you to join me in listening to the voices of our marginalized colleagues and community members and in interrogating how we can each better use our voices, our time, our talents, and our money to support those around us who need us to show up.

Stay positive,

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