A few weeks back, I scribbled a fillip on the far-left wanderings of librarianship in general and the American Library Association in specific. For those who have always positioned libraries among mom, apple pie, and country, this may have raised an eyebrow, if not a hackle. The exordium was not meant to anger but to exhort regarding books like “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”
Gender Queer: A Memoir is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however, coming as it does in the brackish waters of other such books like “New Kid” and “In the Dream House,” among many others. Librarians often hide behind the argument that libraries must represent “all constituencies” in the community. This is disingenuous. Libraries have never served all constituencies owing to cost and space. Nor have they been willing to touch upon all ideologies, conservative ones getting the shortest shrift. The stereotypical taciturnity associated with librarianship has given way to the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal of liberalism.
If ever there was a traitorous doubt that would make us shun to call it a culture war, doubt no longer and win the good with this speering. Entering into libraries is what are now being called “Diversity Auditors.” Academic libraries like Bard College and Loyola Marymount University are among the first to add these new Orwellian doublespeak positions. While it is more of the epater les bourgeois, it cannot be dismissed.
‘Diversity Auditors’ will now examine each book in a given collection for its ‘representation” of the authors’ heritage, sex, faith, and physical disabilities. While no library will admit to “deaccessioning” texts that do not measure up yet, come back in a few months and see what has been removed. Academic library collections are being declared not diverse enough, and libraries, strapped for funds everywhere as they are, are in a white heat to buy as many left-leaning books to correct what diversity auditors deem lacking. This is exactly the opposite of what libraries have done traditionally: build collections to mirror community standards.
According to the Wall Street Journal, school libraries in Quebec, for example, “deaccessioned” almost 5,000 books because they had “outdated content and carried negative stereotypes.” Thirty books were burned—I kid you not—in what was called a “flame purification” ceremony.
Like Biden’s upcoming choice for a Supreme Court Justice, it does not matter whether the books are excellently executed or competently done but whether they adhere to the liberal zeitgeist. Ideology is first, and the devil takes the rest.
In my own city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, a local church lost scores of its books to a liberal activist who said the books should not have been placed in the library to begin with. They ended in the dumpster before anyone knew. Yes, these minions are ubiquitous! It will not be long before public libraries will follow suit. They will be unable to do otherwise as ALA will stoke this fire until it consumes in its conflagration every book it deems unacceptable. Libraries have jettisoned their fight against ignorance for the brummagem of ideological censorship.
Can anything be done to stop this madness? I do not think so unless patrons step up to complain, parents send their children to private institutions of higher learning, and constituents dog legislators at every level to withhold library funding. While I am guardedly optimistic at the growing chorus of dissenting voices from every political spectrum, more must be done.
Conservatives have lost this portion of the culture war because too many remained incredulous about it. Withholding funding now will send a clear and unmistakable message that this sort of nonsense is unacceptable. Will this hurt libraries in ways it should not? Of course, it will. We are left with no other recourse.
The liberal mind is an oven, and it scorches everything it cooks.
Mark Y. Herring is professor emeritus, dean of library services from Winthrop University. Herring spent 42 years as dean or director in academic libraries in Tennessee, Oklahoma, andSouth Carolina. He was most recently appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to the South Carolina State Library Board. He resides with his wife, Carol, in Rock Hill.