(American Libraries has helpfully provided an unedited transcript of the ALA Council town hall meeting this past Midwinter, which lets me turn my remarks there into a blog post here. You can also watch the video; I start around 24:45. I encourage you to read or watch the whole thing, though; it’s interesting throughout with a variety of viewpoints represented. I am also extremely gratified by this press release, issued after the Town Hall, which speaks to these issues.)
As I was looking at the statements that came out at ALA after the election, I found that they had a lot to say about funding, and that’s important because that’s how we pay our people and collect materials and keep the lights on.
But my concern was that they seemed to talk only about funding, and I found myself wondering — if they come for copyright, will we say that’s okay as long as we’ve been bought off? If they come for net neutrality, will we say that’s okay, as long as we’ve been bought off? When they come for the NEH and the NEA, the artists who make the content that we collect and preserve, are we going to say that’s okay, as long as we get bought off? When they come for free speech — and five bills were introduced in five states just, I think, on Friday, to criminalize protest — will we say that’s okay, as long as we’ve been bought off?
I look at how people I know react and the past actions of the current administration. The fact that every trans person I know was in a panic to get their documents in order before last Friday because they don’t think they will be able to in the next four years. The fact that we have a President who will mock disabled people just because they are disabled and disagreeing with him. The fact that we have a literal white supremacist in the White House who co-wrote the inauguration speech. The fact that one of the architects of Gamergate, which has been harassing women in technology for years, is now a White House staffer. The fact that we have many high-level people in the administration who support conversion therapy, which drives gay and lesbian teenagers to suicide at unbelievable rates. Trans people and people of color and disabled people and women and gays and lesbians are us, they are our staff, they are our patrons.
Funding matters, but so do our values, and so do our people. Funding is important, but so is our soul. And when I look at our messaging, I wonder, do we have a soul? Can it be bought? Or are there lines we do not cross?