Libraries as Neutral Spaces

On March 2nd, Dr. Seuss Enterprises released the following statement:

Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action.  To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles:  And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.  These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.

(source: https://www.seussville.com/statement-from-dr-seuss-enterprises/)

After this announcement was made, conversations began in the library world about what to do with the six Dr. Seuss titles that would no longer be published. The KCLS system made the decision (it wasn’t a larger conversation, unfortunately) to keep the six books (we have about 50 copies of each, now with LONG waiting lists – with how much these books are selling for, I’m curious how many will actually be returned?). Which then begs the question – shouldn’t something done to educate readers about the content, especially if the publisher themselves are no longer publishing the books due to how they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong” ?

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BLM: Why is it so hard for some libraries to say?

So, before we dive in to the meaty subject of this post – a COVID-19 update on the librarian front. I’ve filled my work-from-home time becoming a new publisher for the KCLS website (writing blog posts, creating content, etc.), volunteered as one of the judges for the adult entries in the Rhyme On! poetry contest (lots of very emotional poetry, it was more taxing than I anticipated), finished captioning and editing a video interview I was lucky to conduct earlier this year with Alson Kelen, am co-leading a KCLS collaboration with the Seattle Public Library for a new service they are pioneering, stepped up to lead planning for a series of LGBTQ+ community conversations as part of Pride, I’ve created video tutorials that have been shared with all staff instructing on the process of close captioning videos posted on Facebook….I’m sure I’m missing a ton of stuff, but the joke is that my name keeps popping up everywhere recently. Librarians all worried for a while we wouldn’t know what to do working from home, but I’ve definitely been filling my days.

Something I’ve learned about myself on this journey of landing in a library career is that I’m very passionate about the work of libraries. And I can’t help myself – if I feel like the library missed the mark, I say something about it. Bless the eternal patience of my manager, who probably had NO IDEA when he choose to hire the lowly Library Technical Assistant as a temporary Librarian what he was actually getting himself into. He listens to me, he laughs with me, and then he helps me speak up when there is room for my voice to be heard.

And something I can’t help but speak up about quite a bit lately is the disappointing way that the King County Library System leadership has responded to recent events. I’m referring specifically to how we have failed to step up for our Black patrons, Black staff members, and Black communities right now in any way that feels meaningful.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Continue reading “BLM: Why is it so hard for some libraries to say?”