Group of Academic Librarians Re-Asserts Library Neutrality

Read this:

It seems some librarians are re-gaining the professional gumption to push back against the hyper-political kooks in our profession.


“Neutrality is a principled, ethical stance which states that the library as an institution – and library workers as representatives of that institution – cannot and will not impose their own values and worldviews on users (consistent with  ALA Code of Ethics clause #7). Such an ethic is, in fact, a central pillar of counseling, a profession dedicated to responding compassionately to trauma: the Ethical and Professional Standards of the American Counseling Association state that

Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature. 

“This form of value neutrality then extends providing equal access to all members of the community (stakeholder neutrality), as well as a transparent venue for speakers, dialogue and debate (process neutrality), and the freedom for patrons to use information for their own purposes (goal neutrality). In multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, and multifaith societies such as those in the West (Sandercock 1998), this can be the only possible ethical institutional position a publicly-funded library can take. There are simply too many diverse stakeholders with their own priorities, values – and most importantly – political causes for the library to adopt a position on any one of them and still hope to be able to provide a welcoming and open environment for all.  

Far from constituting passivity or an investment in the “status quo”, these four dimensions of neutrality are difficult work, and essential in any democratic society, but particularly so in times of such stark political polarization.”


Did they get any of their ideas from me and/or the “No Mere Mechanism” statement? Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares? The point is that despite the ALA’s best efforts to twist the image of librarians–and the message going out to them on the matter of neutrality–there are still some librarians who recognize that they have a public trust and a philosophical history as a profession that goes back farther than the last time some dude they didn’t like got elected for something or the last time some white cop with a flat top tazed a brown person.

I guess there’s hope.

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