My career has spanned some 40+ years as a librarian and library instructor, educator in two disciplines, and musician. My career has crossed between traditional and non-traditional. My work with the U.S. Air Force was non-traditional in maintaining a very small core collection necessary for developing, with database management practices, information about software engineering literature and the R&D projects to support military efforts in maintaining, during the Cold War, radar systems training simulators, and any type of equipment in support of aviation and for any branch of the military. The career path for me also went into years as a corporate librarian for R&D, executive management, engineering, and marketing, concentrated in the training department of the corporation. My career also kept me, practically all that time, in the academic field and in public libraries.
I have been a member of the Special Librarians Association (SLA, both Upstate New York and Florida & Caribbean chapters), American Society for Information Science (ASIS), Edison Electric institute (EEI) Library Division, American Library Association (ALA), Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), and state organizations, such as Florida Library Association (FLA), Florida chapter of ACRL, and New York Library Association.
In this career with professional groups, I have been an elected leader of groups and attended many conferences. Add to this my organizing of conferences in Florida, including a technology conference for libraries held in Miami Beach and working with the keynote speaker, Jamie LaRue, who eventually moved on to head the FTRF.
I have experience working with public libraries and the Florida statewide advocates of public libraries, including Bernadette Storck and others in the NEFLIN, TBLC, and SEFLIN library cooperatives.
Why do I have to explain these credentials? Because your newspaper publishes an article by Stanley Kurtz who appears to be from a conservative think tank and is critical of the very profession from where spent these many years. But all he has to do is be identified with POLITICS and POLITICAL IDEOLOGY and he is thus an “expert.” In the Air Force, we used to say that “an expert is a drip under pressure.” The rest of us in the professions are ignored and never get our material printed or published, especially if we worked in an academic area which does not place a requirement of “publish or perish” to appear on the shingle. That was the academic area where I worked as a professor and library instructor for 25 years of my career. No requirement for “publish or perish,” so I was ignored when I attempted to publish. Except for one time and it was by a publisher in a FOREIGN NATION under the BRITISH COMMONWEALTH. But not in American academics.
In light of all of this and the goofball chosen to write about “the soul of the library,” I also must add that my reading repertoire, since I was in the 7th Grade, has been across the board in terms of political spectrum. I read George Will as well as Paul Krugman or others. I never felt I had to massage my ego by only reading (or viewing on political analysis television) only what made me happy. “We’ll have fun, fun, fun til our daddy takes the T-bird away.” That was NOT my mantra. I also viewed CONSERVATIVE William F. Buckley, Jr. with his program called Firing Line. I would read Buckley’s op-ed columns, too and had an interest in his magazine called The National Review. I ALSO had an interest in the liberal publication, The New Republic, which challenged positions taken in the Buckley magazine.
Political ideology means nothing to me. My mantra is about humanism first. I don’t consider the Civil Rights Act nor the Voting Rights Act, from the 1960s, to be pertinent for politics because they concern humanist attitudes in the way we treat one another as human beings in a democracy. But alas, what choice do we have and LBJ was forced to force the American people to take a good long look at those two acts. What a shameful thing to say about America. But we had to come to grips with these issues, even if many of us merely define what we stand and pledge of allegiance to a flag, while too many people are nothing but hypocrites. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now we have atheists who likely prioritize more the removal of “one nation under God…” (1950s addition under President Eisenhower) than to endorse and inspire that we follow the words, “with liberty or justice for all.” Or, such people don’t take and prioritize standing up for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Too many people are thinking on individualist terms, working to destroy. Such people do this, whether Trump, atheists, or the “woke librarians” identified by Kurtz.
This might be a problem. The bigger problem I have with Kurtz is his stereotyping of librarians as all of us being these “liberal” or “woke” librarians. What an insult. I have offered my credentials and must say that, should Kurtz not conclude that I am a “woke” librarian, he is a shameful and mentally deranged person who needs a lobotomy.
Issue. Censorship. Kurtz says that too many librarians put the 1619 Project book into the library, but don’t add Peter Wood’s 1620 book. Excuse me, Mr. Kurtz, but in your bias towards conservatism, you lump us all together as being people who don’t put books from a balanced view into a library. How insulting of the man.
And Kurtz’s stupefying idiocy continues with the phrase, “traditional ideas of liberty.” WHAT? So being a humanist, I ignore traditional ideas of liberty because I don’t like them to be tailored to white supremacists? It is not questions of liberty, just as much as it’s not a question of politics. It is how we treat our fellow human beings. So Mr. Kurtz can go stuff his bias where the sun don’t rise. He is insulting to good people in America.
Take this even further. A university in Florida and a college in Michigan where conservatism prevails over liberal. The one in Florida is a very large one, too. Yet, those in Florida who must believe in white racist forms of “liberty” which should prevail over all, makes claims that the university in Florida has too damn many liberal professors. Really? I have spoken with graduates of that university and they speak about conservative professors who cram their ideas down their throats.
What about conservative MIT? It has engineers who look the other way regarding global warming and claim it does not exist. They put out fake stuff in this regard, ignoring the facts so as in the Trumparian way, they put their own spin on the issue. Meanwhile, sea levels are rising in Florida and some are fearful of the levels becoming too high. Hopefully, this never happens during our lifetime.
But what about words in the preamble to the U.S Constitution? “Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Posterity? Does Kurtz even realize that this is a LIBERAL, PROGRESSIVE THOUGHT about our descendants, not some asinine traditional thought about “traditional ideals of liberty.” Being the conservative and disgusting anti-humanist Kurtz demonstrates that he is.
In reading this Kurtz article, I am struck by his statements to stereotype all librarians as liberal and where he gets his proof and evidence of this? In America today, there are too many who simply speak off the cuff and never provide detailed evidence. Kurtz speaks about an ALA conference as if it is mush to not be considered. Let me see. So, the ALA conference I once attended about 2007 was nothing but mush and no one spoke there except “liberals?” Funny, but I find the man with a mentally deranged mind in saying such a thing. I suppose that Julie Andrews speaking at an ALA conference means she is nothing but a liberal? Where is Kurtz’s damn proof of this? Julie Andrews did not speak about politics. She spoke about her work with writing childrens’ books and working with childrens’ theatre. This is “liberal,” you damn SOB, Kurtz? What a lousy thing to say about someone who spends her time, since losing her voice due to a surgery which went sour. I applaud her for her performances on Broadway and in The Sound of Music. I suppose Kurtz just cannot handle the fact that Julie Andrews also appeared in Victor Victoria? What a dolt and scumbag.
Yes, Bobby Kennedy, Jr., spoke at that conference. Big deal. A liberal with whom no liberals even pay attention to him, particularly in the Democratic Party. But he is stereotyped and smeared by Kurtz?
Some of the others who appeared at that 207 ALA conference and I don’t recall who was there. But I KNOW they were not all liberal and there were a number of conservatives, too. Perhaps the liberals outnumbered conservatives? But when I don’t consider ideology to be important, I would not even pay attention.
In a later ALA conference, I heard a black man speak on a HUMANIST topic, describing growing up in Michigan in the late 1950s and being force to carry Mason jars in the car so they could pee while traveling. Why? Because of gas stations and other lavatory facilities where only white people were accepted. In other words, hold your pee if you have color on your skin. So, this guy, speaking about historical accounts of Jim Crow-like attitudes among whites in America and he is a liberal? More like Kurtz and others are as shameful about all the things which happened and wishes to keep it covered over. He is being like a teacher who had sex with young girls and wished to keep it hidden and out of sight. Such people are mentally deranged sickos. And there are some issues for which I find this black man to be a tad on the conservative side. But he is not liberal just because he stands up for human rights. He is called a human being.
Kurtz says, “Librarians should be politically neutral. Too many aren’t.” Maybe I could say, “Writers accepted for publication in the New York Times should be politically neutral. Too many aren’t.” I have no proof this statement is accurate because I don’t bother to count.
Perhaps Mr. Kurtz needs to learn by reading a series of books written by the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Daniel J. Boorstin. Dr. Boorstin wrote a a series of books titled The Americans. One book had the sub-title of The Democratic Experience. Dr. Boorstin was appointed by Republican CONSERVATIVE, Ronald Wilson Reagan. I suppose Mr. Kurtz would consider a chapter in Boorstin’s book about how a 19th-Century Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner exposed the corruption in the life insurance industry and made changes to it. Too liberal for Mr. Kurtz because he supports corruption and one is liberal if one takes on corruption? Explain this to me because Kurtz stereotypes all librarians as “not being neutral” and as being “liberal.” Wrong, even if he says, “too many aren’t [neutral].”
Also added to this discussion is the reporting of a conversation with someone of the FTRF. We did have a somewhat contentious argument because I felt there needed to be a moderation of what gets published or warning notes and disclaimers, or other methods of moderating the content or else we need to consider censoring books like the one Timothy McVeigh read in order to make bombs. The person at FTRF stood staunchly behind the position of lawyers at the ACLU and protecting books from being censored. But that was only one example. Kurtz makes it sound like there are dozens and dozens and dozens of such examples. Even then, the discussion did center on my suggestions as to how to tone it down when it came to consideration of censorship or not.
Then there is the librarian in Florida who told about a local evangelical fundamentalist church which came to the library and insisted the director toss out any books which contained stories of sex or violence. The director took this group to the shelves, pulled Bible after Bible off the shelves and tossed them in a waste can. The group shrieked in dismay! “How can you throw out all of those Bibles!” The library director said, “well, you asked me to throw out all books which contained stories about sex and violence, so that is where I am beginning. Now show me the other books.” The churchy folks simply departed without another word.
Furthermore, there are those who believe the Koran (Islam) should be removed. Likely Rick Santorum would like to see such a book removed. Yet, this book has no content promoting violent terrorism. Muslims tailored to Saudi Arabia (ISIS, Taliban, and what not) mis-use documents like that the same way that many who call themselves Christians do with the Bible. Most notably, the Southern Baptists once changed the Bible to make it fit their white supremacy ideas.
This question Kurtz poses presents many aspects about life and for all of us living together. Yes, perhaps if 1619 Project is in a library, perhaps Wood’s book, 1620 should be there. But even then, I really am opposed to having any book with hatred and promotion of white supremacist ethnic, religious, or sexual identity bigotry should be allowed in a library. The litmus test should be about humanism. Historical humanism reports on the good and the bad. I have no idea about a comparison of either 1619 Project or 1620, so I cannot comment. But if either one does not live up to the standards of humanism and a lack of hatred and bigotry, I would not choose one which is based on such content. Does Kurtz have specific details and examples for either of these books? If so, I would thrilled to discover what the content is about. And that is how I approached my collection development activities at a library. I was assigned religion, philosophy, music, art, and literature areas, plus areas related to these subjects. For some subject areas, such as philosophy, students often took an interest, so I would speak with them and consult with the philosophy professors. Thank goodness I was never assigned the political science area of the collection!
As a retired librarian and educator, this article by Kurtz insults and irks me. Oh, well, who cares because I am not that important, right? It provides little information with proof and evidence for what Kurtz makes a claim about my profession.