Posted by: bluesyemre | May 9, 2017

#Librarians in the 21st century: it is becoming impossible to remain neutral

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Library neutrality sounds innocuous, but it’s not, if you’re a librarian. Although neutrality has long been regarded and taught as an important ethic of the profession, a growing number of librarians have begun questioning whether it is preferable—or even possible—for libraries to be neutral. In this essay, Stacie Williams makes the case that it is neither.

–Stephanie Anderson

I love working the reference desk. Like most people, it was my first introduction to librarians as a little kid: the smiling person behind a desk, asking me if I needed help finding anything. In my last semester of graduate school, I took a job working the access services desk at a medical library, where I could meet new people and help them the way that I had been helped in libraries throughout my life. Even as I gained more experience in archives, I continued to look for opportunities to assist at a reference or access point of service.

Working in such a visible position, over the years, I have been constantly reminded that my interactions with patrons are a reflection of my body: my black, female-presenting body. In ways small and large, I have been reminded that nothing about libraries is neutral. Not the desks or furniture that are sometimes built by incarcerated individuals who can’t protest their labor. Not the buildings, some of which lack physical access for individuals who can’t climb stairs or walk over uneven stones and bricks. Not the collections development theories, not the leadership opportunities, not the vacation and break schedules, or the computer use policies. Not our co-workers, our funding models, and certainly not the patrons we serve. Neutrality as we use it in libraries leaves people standing at the margins, demanding to be acknowledged as capable and professional, as human, as having histories and lived experiences reflective of the bodies we inhabit. Our bodies, like the bodies of knowledge we provide access to, are not and never were neutral.

http://lithub.com/librarians-in-the-21st-century-it-is-becoming-impossible-to-remain-neutral/


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