The Glorious President of ALA spoke last week at the University of Buffalo. As with all ALA presidents, she is doing her best to bore a lot of people by emphasizing the same few points over and over. The emphases of the current Glorious President seem to be stereotypes and diversity. These sound like tiresome themes to me, but apparently the Buffalo crowd ate it up. According to the article, "Gender Week wrapped up this past Thursday with a lecture that shattered the stereotypical librarian image depicting a prudish, middle-aged, silence-loving white woman."
Shattered, no less. And how did she shatter that stereotype? Of course she referred to that NYT article on the "hip" librarians. Whereas some people thought the article was stupid (well, I at least thought it was stupid), the Glorious President loves it and seems to quote it all the time. We should all be more like these "hip" librarians, and less like the boring "white women [that] still make up the majority" of librarians.
"The article depicted the new, hip librarian as a person who could combine skillful use of technology with locating the right information upon request," the GP said. Did it? I don't recall that from the article. I recall it depicted a bunch of "activists" and "creative types" who wore used clothes and had a lot of tattoos and used librarianship as the functional equivalent of waiting tables to support their real lives. But then the Glorious President corrects herself.
"Reporter Kara Jesella described a group of 20 and 30-something librarians, gathered in a bar, drinking margaritas, wearing retro clothing and sporting an abundance of tattoos."
Yes, that's how I remember it.
Her lecture was entitled "Librarianship: A Testbed for Gender and Diversity Issues." What I like about the title is the way she's so upfront about her true agenda. Her agenda is political, and she wants to use librarianship and hence librarians to promote it. Librarians are her guinea pigs, the experimental subjects the Glorious President needs to usher in her utopia. According to the article, the lecture "also focused on how the history of the library system in the United States defines its present-day mission for librarians to advocate for social justice." The prose is a bit stilted, but I think you get the point. Our mission as librarians is to advocate for social justice. The great thing about the phrase "social justice" is its vagueness.
This isn't what I recall from the ALA's mission statement, which says that the "mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all." If that's the mission of the ALA, then doesn't it make sense that the mission of librarians should have something to do with information services and access to information? By the twisted ideologic of the Glorious President and her regressive minions, only if this interest in information lets us advocate for social justice.
That's the only thing that makes sense if our mission is to advocate for social justice. So forget all that stuff about collecting, organizing, and disseminating information and go man the barricades. The revolution could begin any minute, and you know librarians will be in the vanguard. Except for the AL, of course, because come the revolution I'll be the first up against the wall.
Her speech went over well with some of the crowd who aren't as critical of the politicization of librarianship and using librarians as tools for an non-library political agenda as I am. "Roy's message of social activism appealed to [a] graduate student in library and information studies.
'I am glad to hear that the purpose of my profession is to ultimately change the world,' she said."
I bet she's glad. That way librarianship isn't so boring. The purpose of librarianship is to change the world, presumably one library card at a time. And another starry eyed idealist enters the profession, probably willing to work for peanuts so she can change the world, if she can find a job.
The Glorious President then discussed the "Diversity Counts" study, for what would a speech from the ALA president be without mentioning "diversity," another term as vague and devoid of exact meaning as "social justice." But then again, the advocates of "diversity" and "social justice" count on this vagueness.
This time we learn more than that librarians are mostly white women and that this is a bad thing. Now we're told as well that "the study showed that librarians are becoming better educated than ever before." That seemed unlikely, but fortunately the GP clarified that statement. "'Over the ten years (between 1990 and 2000), the number of degreed librarians increased by 21.6 percent,' Roy said." Oh, I see. They're not necessarily better educated, it's just that more of them have library degrees. Very different thing.
I would have been speechless after a performance like this, but the organizer of the event had to find something nice to say. "As ALA president, Loriene heads a very influential organization that lobbies Congress," he said. That was sweet. The "influential" part was a bit of a stretch, but the ALA does indeed lobby Congress, and we can see just how successful they've been in stopping CIPA, DOPA, and the death of Net Neutrality , among other things. We should just say it's the thought that counts.
I look forward to another nine months of being told that I'm not hip enough, or diverse enough, or concerned enough with promoting an extralibrary political agenda to be a good librarian. If I were a good librarian, I'd be the kind that the GP could hold up for praise in her political speeches. I'd be something other than a boring white woman, I'd go on about how my social activism trumps my professional responsibilities, and I'd have some tattoos. It should be a fun ride for us all.