I spent my childhood in libraries. Their stacks, their people, were my sanctuaries, the safe and nurturing places where my real community lived (rather than these changing cities where my family seemed to continually be moving). So it makes sense to me that libraries are now declaring themselves as sanctuary spaces—although with political overtones that return us to the radical face of librarians.
Librarians all over have declared themselves in alliance with their diverse population rather than submit to the paranoia of executive orders.
Remember the Patriot Act? The thing rushed through on the heels of 9/11 giving the government rights to poke their nose into our digital, personal, and private lives? Remember how librarians reacted? As the ALA said:
“Libraries are key sources of information on all kinds of subjects and from all perspectives for their communities. Reading has always been one of our greatest freedoms. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth.
“Libraries provide a place to exercise intellectual freedom: a free and open exchange of knowledge and information where individuals may exercise freedom of inquiry as well as a right to privacy in regards to information they seek. Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. In a library, the subject of users’ interests should not be examined or scrutinized by others.”
Sound familiar? Then as now, we find librarians on the front lines—politely; firmly—in pushing back against ignorance and paranoia. The ALA now writes:
“We are shocked and dismayed by recent executive orders and other actions by the new administration, which stand in stark contrast to the core values of the American Library Association (ALA). Our core values include access to information; confidentiality/ privacy; democracy; equity, diversity and inclusion; intellectual freedom; and social responsibility.
“As our strategic plan states, ‘ALA recognizes the critical need for access to library and information resources, services, and technologies by all people, especially those who may experience language or literacy-related barriers; economic distress; cultural or social isolation; physical or attitudinal barriers; racism; discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity, immigrant status, housing status, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; or barriers to equal education, employment and housing.”
“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. Additionally, ALA has tools and resources online to help you advocate for our core values:
- Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services
- Government Relations
- Information and Technology Policy
- Intellectual Freedom
- Libraries Respond
“ALA is committed to using its national platform for speaking up and speaking out for its members and constituents in these chaotic, unprecedented and challenging times. We appreciate the library community’s continued support.”
Libraries are the place to go for entertainment and enlightenment, facts and opinions, to learn a language or get a tax form, to hold meetings about anything from writing to genealogy.
So today’s Takeback Tuesday message is the: The ALA have got our backs. You can join them, here.