We are excited to announce the Release of Volume 2, Issue 2, of the Open Access Journal, the Political Librarian. The Political Librarian is dedicated to expanding the discussion of, promoting research on, and helping to re-envision locally focused advocacy, policy, and funding issues for libraries.
We want to bring in a variety of perspectives to the journal and do not limit our contributors to just those working in the field of library and information science. We seek submissions from researchers, practitioners, community members, or others dedicated to furthering the discussion, promoting research, and helping to re-envision tax policy and public policy on the extremely local level. In this issue:
Jill A. Work
EXCERPT – In a country where federal legislators find it within their purview to tell teachers how to teach, it is perhaps not surprising that some politicians now want to tell librarians how to do their jobs. In recent years, there have been a number of incidents in which politicians at the local, state, and federal level went well beyond their usual role of controlling the purse strings; they tried instead to legislate specific library policies and procedures, particularly in the area of collection development. These politicians are trying to enforce their views—or views of certain vocal constituents—via legislation or by the threat of firing, while ignoring library best practices.
Examining a number of these recent cases together may shed light as to whether this is a series of isolated occurrences or a disturbing new trend in legislating librarianship. It can also be instructive to see how each of these cases played out and whether the legislation was ultimately passed or defeated.
The Fifty State Library Survey
Kyle K. Courtney, Emily Kilcer, and Sarah Racicot
EXCERPT – During Midwinter 2016 in Boston, a working group of library organizations met to discuss possible joint projects to benefit the library industry. One foundational project that was identified was to help public libraries better understand what revenue models are available in state and local tax codes. As an industry we lack comprehensive current insights into the legal framework under which libraries can set a tax rates. COSLA, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, and EveryLibrary volunteered to conduct a state-by-state survey of library laws covering the various modes of governance and authority to tax exercised by public libraries as either independent districts or within a municipal structure.
Our colleague and EveryLibrary Advisor Kyle Courtney from Harvard Libraries graciously lent his research team to aid in the compilation of this narrative survey of state library laws. We expect that an open data set and a data visualization tool will be forthcoming in 2017 to be hosted on the COSLA website. We expect the results to have many uses across library organizations and for library planning.
The Language of Politics and Libraries
EXCERPT – It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when I say that the political landscape in America has drastically changed. We have seen some of the wildest political rhetoric that we could imagine come from political pundits, politicians, our presidential candidates, and various media outlets. There are accusations of fundamental biases rooted in deep belief systems that are based on many of the fears of middle class Americans who have been left behind in the job market, Americans who feel threatened by outsiders, Americans who feel they are losing their familiar identities to anonymous and unknown forces. These fears are being capitalized upon by a multi-billion dollar political industry that is designed to exaggerate threats and use fear to win elections.
When the Government Shrinks, What Will Libraries Do?
EXCERPT – The 2016 elections were divisive from the start. This election will be remembered as a clash between several competing world views. It will likely mark the true beginning of the 21st century in America in the same way that the Wilson Administration was the transition between the Victorian and Edwardian Eras and the 20th Century.
Please Don’t Suck
EXCERPT – If you’re a librarian that doesn’t actively engage in any kind of political advocacy, then you suck. That seems a bit harsh, right? A sweeping generalization that seeks to unreservedly shame librarian peers into doing something that I think they should be doing. It’s short enough to be casually cast off as a provocative tweet, one that seeks to curry favor with other politically savvy librarians while irritating, well, everyone else. Overall, it’s a pretty lazy sentiment that does not promote nor suggest action other than “do political things”.
Register to Vote at the Library
EXCERPT- We’re trying to get the community involved every day. We’re trying to engage and strengthen our communities. Many of us have amazing stats that say our patrons value our service and our community values the library, but we can’t win a vote to save our lives…or our libraries. Our users are not our voters. Non-users are making the decisions for us. We have to engage. We should be registering our patrons to vote.