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Don’t Leave Workers Out of the Library Narrative

Library Journal Opinion by Callan Bignoli: “There’s been a trend in articles coming out in major publications about how excited people are to get back to their libraries and how resilient libraries are—something EveryLibrary’s Patrick Sweeney called “happy-go-lucky library stories” at the recent #LIBREV conference. While they pay important attention to the needs libraries are still striving to meet in their communities, these narratives do nothing to expose the miserable realities that library workers are experiencing, or incite any kind of action to be taken in their defense. Let’s start with American Libraries. On May 1, amidst thousands of layoffs and furloughs of library workers happening all around the country, the magazine published a piece by American Library Association (ALA) President Wanda Brown congratulating the resilience and stick-to-it-iveness of “librarians and library workers.” There was no mention of lost jobs, uncertain budgets, unsafe working conditions, managers censoring and punishing employees for speaking up for themselves, or threats of placement in riskier positions—in other words, none of what has defined this crisis for many of our colleagues…I’m only scratching the surface of what’s going on, based on the stories people are sharing with me and on social media—mostly with fear of retaliation or anxiety about how helpless they feel—and things I’m coming across locally…”

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