Since 2012, when I became an ALA Emerging Leader, I’ve been a proud member of the American Library Association. While the dues and conferences have been a financial investment that wasn’t always easy to afford (especially on my old BPL salary), ALA has shaped my career and made me a more well-rounded librarian. ALA has given me the opportunity to hone my public speaking and presentation skills, allowed me to serve on the GLBTRT board and the Rainbow Book List Committee, and put me in touch with like-minded professionals whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I even found my new school librarian job by networking at an ALA conference. While I haven’t agreed with every statement that ALA has made and sometimes I’ve wondered if I could really afford the high dues, my participation in my professional organization has changed my life for the better.
That’s why it has been beyond disappointing to have been made aware of several statements recently made by ALA President Julie Todaro. The first statement still stands on the ALA website. In this statement, President Todaro promises that, “the American Library Association is dedicated to helping all our nation’s elected leaders identify solutions to the challenges our country faces. We are ready to work with President-elect Trump, his transition team, incoming administration and members of Congress to bring more economic opportunity to all Americans and advance other goals we have in common.”
Two days later, another statement appeared. Reactions to the statement on social media were not positive, the statement was removed, and President Todaro issued an apology of sorts. Here, Todaro stated that she was not able to review the statement before it was posted and apologized for the “error”. While she expressed ALA’s commitment to understanding and inclusion, she was firm that she was proud of the briefs that showcased the kinds of skills librarians and the ALA could bring to the Trump administration. This apology does not appear to apply to previous statement, which echoes similar sentiments to the latter.
While perhaps it is standard for ALA to offer its services to incoming presidencies, I refuse to participate in an organization attempting to normalize Trump leadership. I, like many librarians, am in full on resistance-mode. This includes phone calls and letters to my elected officials (one of whom just received a homophobic death threat for leading a peaceful march) and donations to organizations that are now more important than ever (Planned Parenthood and SLPC, as of now). I’m finding ways to support my students who have certainly been affected by the election. Bizarrely enough, I’ve been coping with a nasty case of vertigo that has limited my mobility for the time-being, but it is my hope to recover soon so that I may take part in marches and rallies. My money and my time are limited and precious. I have been a devoted ALA member, but I cannot give another minute or dollar to a professional organization looking to pander to a President-Elect and transition team comprised of white supremacists.
I fully expected to be making phone calls to my senators about Steve Bannon and the Affordable Care Act. I did not foresee writing angry emails to my professional organization for pandering to racists and homophobes. This is not the most articulate of letters, but after hours of stewing in disappointment and anger, I decided ineloquent exasperation was better than nothing at all:
If you are feeling the way I feel and you’re hesitating to add your voice to the mix because you’re concerned about not saying the perfect thing, don’t worry. We as paying members of the ALA have the right to express our opinions publicly when our leaders are speaking for us in a way that makes us uncomfortable. If the ALA wants to support Trump, they will not be doing it in my name.
For less linguistically clunky statements, please see Emily Drabinksi and the Librarian in Black. But again, if you’re looking for the perfect words and you’re struggling to find them in your anger and frustration, write that email anyway. Your point of view is necessary and needed.
~Keep fighting, Ingrid
P.S.: ETA: This was posted by Julie Todaro this morning. My concern stands.
P.P.S.: Please excuse me for switching the statements in the previous draft. I did say I had vertigo, though. And this is making my head spin.