Roaming Librarian Blogger returns to correct the record

It’s been quite a while since I wrote for the Roaming Librarian blog: seven and a half(ish) years, just about! In that time, I’ve gained experience in public librarianship that has caused me to reconsider some of the assertions I made on the blog. The people at Baltimore Post-Examiner are kind enough to let me correct the record.

Why rewrite past posts? They’re nearly a decade old. To many they may now seem irrelevant. Perhaps they are. However, as a librarian, I am committed to the access of current and accurate information. I feel a responsibility to make sure I admit when I have presented information erroneously or from a biased perspective, and to apologize for those errors in judgment.

Back when I wrote for this blog, I was a new graduate student, completely untested in the practical day-to-day of public librarianship. All I had was my own individual perspective as a lifelong library user, not a public servant. My perspective was shaped by my life: one lived as a white, straight, cisgendered woman in a middle-class, mostly white suburb; and then in a private, mostly white university where many people presented and behaved like me. My view of the world was harmfully narrow.

As I read over some of my claims now, and as I reflect on the tone of all of those blog posts, which leans toward foolishly naive rather than funny, I realize that my years serving the public and working to dismantle my own privileged blindness have changed my views.

For instance, I once argued against abolishing library fines, having only experienced them as a person who could always return her books at leisure or use extra income to pay what fines she did have. This view overlooks the serious barrier to access that library fines present for many library users, especially those who need the free resources of the library the most. Libraries are integral to addressing the urgent inequities in our education and economic systems. Because of that, many libraries around the country have begun abolishing their fining systems in order to remove this roadblock, in order to create a more equitable environment in the library and ensure the access all library users deserve.

I also presented an overview of censorship in too casual a manner. Discussions about censorship are serious and require thoughtful engagement, as their impact on our rights, our communities, our education systems, and our patrons is significant. Regarding this issue flippantly, as I did, only serves to weaken the protection of rights and freedoms for reading and learning. This can lead to real intellectual and emotional harm for the students, patrons, staff, or community members involved, especially those who belong to historically-marginalized groups. The American Library Association offers some wonderful resources that address questions about intellectual freedom, censorship, and the role of the library in those discussions.

In general, my overall work for Roaming Librarian had a tone that, while meant to be glib, now reads as simply disrespectful in its diminishment of the struggles or barriers people might encounter when using libraries or literature. It’s clear that my attitude was an ignorant one. I am sorry for not doing my due diligence as a library professional in neglecting thoughtful research and instead presenting views, which erased diverse experiences from these important discussions.

In the ensuing years, I have had the opportunity to practice what many consider the central purpose of librarianship: serving the community by providing people with resources tailored to their needs, with compassion and empathy. In doing these things, my heart and mind have grown and changed for the bigger and better. Serving in this profession has allowed me to leave those ill-reasoned judgments behind, which is something we all must do to make our communities thrive.

Thanks for reading!