Going Woke Isn’t Hard When You’ve Got a Library Card

American school districts need new policies to guide their librarians in their acquisitions practices. New policies, which provide explicit guidelines on political pluralism and obscenity, as well as reaffirming librarians’ deference to parental preferences for their minor children, would do a great deal to defuse the political battles that have flared up about the contents of school libraries.

Public and school librarians used to be cautious only to select and recommend books for minors that would not needlessly violate the moral sensibilities of any substantial portion of the American public. They did so with a deep sense of responsibility, since the public had entrusted them with the responsibility to use public monies to educate their children. Librarians therefore strove to avoid partisan commitment. They also strove not to introduce any materials which might be considered obscene to minors—and were careful to select appropriate materials for each age. This attitude was mocked by the proponents of “sophistication.” It was, however, a moral, a democratic, and a humble policy, which deserved the approbation of the American people.

Librarians, unfortunately, have abandoned these commitments. They have become “woke”—dedicated to a variety of revolutionary policies. The American Library Association now embraces among its principles an illiberal commitment to so-called “Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion.” It also effectively has abandoned its commitment that “We affirm the responsibility and the right of all parents and guardians to guide their own children’s use of the library and its resources and services.” Librarians, as a profession, now embrace partisan commitment, both in the books they select and the books they refuse to select. This commitment has led them to a particular devotion to “gender ideology” that impels them:

1. to select books that propagandize for the agendas of the contemporary “gender identity” and “gender expression” political movements;

2. to prevent the acquisition of books that critique these movements; and

3. to select books for minors that are clearly age-inappropriate, as they provide graphic depictions and descriptions of sexual activity.

Parents and taxpayers have replied by proposing a variety of measures. Some of these simply require balance and age-appropriateness in library selection materials. Others have gone toward a positive mandate to remove propagandizing books. These latter have occasioned loud cries of censorship—ironically coming from the woke education elite that is most fervent itself in favor of censorship. Libraries and librarians pose the same basic conundrum posed by so many of our elites, educational and otherwise: how do we preserve a liberal polity, with extensive freedom from the state, when civil society’s institutions have embraced woke authoritarianism? How can a liberal polity preserve itself when its educational elites have abandoned the liberal compact?

[Related: “Measuring the Spread of DEI”]

Certainly, boards of education and other responsible bodies should assert themselves strongly about library policies relevant for minor children. They should formulate strong, detailed policies about age-appropriate material and obscenity, and enforce them. There is no place for pornography on the library shelves or for Drag Queen Story Hours in the libraries. These should be prohibited at once.

As Stanley Kurtz has argued, more care should be taken about political controversies that do not directly involve questions of age appropriateness and obscenity. School boards should call for balance rather than removal—if a school librarian must purchase a book by a repellent simpleton such as Ibram X. Kendi, then he also should purchase books by intelligent and ecumenical authors such as John McWhorter and Thomas Sowell, to provide the full range of political debate. But school boards should police this matter carefully—and they could certainly require approval before purchase, by means of a set procedure to guarantee intellectual diversity in library purchases. Librarian freedom does not mean freedom to waste taxpayer money, with no remedy for misbehavior.

But what school boards need to do is to draft a new series of principles for librarians—narrowly about acquisition policies, but in general to guide librarians in their professional behavior. School boards, ideally in cooperation with state governments, must draft new principles for the libraries they fund, which emphasize that librarians:

1. eschew all ideological and political commitments and activism;

2. encourage intellectual diversity in their book selections;

3. work rigorously to exclude all age-inappropriate and obscene materials and events from school libraries and from the children’s sections of public libraries; and

4. recommit to defer to “the right of all parents and guardians to guide their own children’s use of the library and its resources and services.”

These commitments would simply reaffirm librarians’ written and unspoken commitments in previous generations.

[Related: “Graphic Content Restrictions Are Not Book Bans”]

School boards should then draft regulations to enforce these commitments, by means up to and including severance from employ. State governments should make sure that publicly funded library schools educate librarians to embrace these commitments—and add education in these commitments to the licensure (certification) requirements for school and public librarians.

School boards and states might consider more thoroughgoing reforms, should these fail. But they should try these measured reforms first, as a way to deal with the challenge of woke librarians’ professional devotion to inflicting partisan commitment and obscenity on their library’s minor patrons.

Image: Chinnapong, Adobe Stock


3 thoughts on “Going Woke Isn’t Hard When You’ve Got a Library Card

  1. Unfortunately the library schools have been infected with this. I finished my info science degree, since I had already started it but that program was such a disappointment. Almost all the hard science had been gutted in favor of the woke stuff. I managed to get a few classes with the 1 or 2 good professors still left, but mostly it was money down the drain. Luckily I could still use my bachelors in engineering and prior work experience in that field to get a real job when I got out.

    1. In Canada there is nothing to stop trusted library employees from using public libraries as a vehicle to promote their own personal agendas. Cathy Simpson, the library CEO in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario was recently fired for speaking out and suggesting that public libraries are not carrying diverse viewpoints, and should strive to have balanced collections, as is their mandate. She was censored for speaking out about censorship.

      Nearby London Public Library carries no view points on the transgender phenomenon which are not trans-affirming. Notable books, praised by major publications are simply not added to the collection. They also have refused to rent spaces to authors who question woke agendas, even though they are required to provide equal access to their facilities.

      The library in Halifax, N.S. lied to the public stating it would not censor a book called “Irreversible Damage: the Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters”, but then actively restricted the public’s access to it, in spite of defining intellectual freedom as” the right of every individual to both seek and receive information at the Library, from all points of view, without restriction”

      Libraries like Halifax and London have embraced transgenderism with religious-like fervor and have each directed taxpayers money to purchasing thousands of volumes of titles on gender, while restricting access to diverse viewpoints on these topics. And a lot of this focus is toward youth and minors. They now promote ideology where they used to offer access to ideas. You get access to the views those running the library want you to get access to.

      In Canada there are laws to prevent libraries from abridging free expression rights, but why are they not being used? There is simply no accountability. It is the job of library boards to make sure this is not happening, but they have prioritized DEI agendas, which they have no legal basis to do, as they do with intellectual freedom.

      The problem is that the tiny minority who push these DEI agendas are organized and can immediately draw on (the same) hundreds of people to sign petitions, and lobby libraries to use their public funding to do their bidding. It is time for those with any common sense to become unified and do the same. As it stands, the only recourse left at this point is to defund public libraries.

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