Lately I have been thinking a lot about my politics with respect to the ALA’s position on intellectual freedom and access. I am a left of left liberal, a champion of the working class, a bleeding-heart, tree hugging “everybody get together try to love one another,” child of the hippie generation. That being said, I take a lot of issue with information that I think fosters hate and discrimination. I know that as a librarian I am going to have to put aside my ideals and serve each individual without prejudice. But do I think that is possible? How does one tolerate hate?
In considering the latter I came across an article about a situation in which a white supremacist group was meeting in a room at a local library. After one of the meetings a fight broke out in the parking lot and the police were called in to resolve the matter. No one was hurt and the matter was taken care of quickly. When asked if she would continue to allow the group to meet at the library, the librarian said, “if I don’t let them have access, I can’t let anyone have access.” My reaction to her statement surprised me, because although I abhor white supremacist ideology and have known several people who have been very hurt by this group, what I felt was pride. She was so brave, I thought, to continue her responsibility to intellectual freedom when the group she was protecting was so disdainful. I felt proud to be associated with a profession that upholds its commitment to intellectual freedom and access. So, in that situation I strongly disagree with the principles of that particular group, but in another situation I might be protecting the rights of an oppressed populace. I might be fighting to keep a library open so that people are not so separated by the digital divide. I might be pushing for an increase in Spanish language books or protecting the religious texts of Muslim patrons. If a librarian can stand up for the access rights of a group white supremacists, I think we can accomplish almost anything.
No matter how difficult it is to consider that I may one day be in the position where I am protecting the rights of someone who proliferates hate, it makes me feel so privileged to consider myself a warrior in the fight for intellectual freedom.
J. A. Lee