Every so often, something happens in Library Land that is important enough to bring attention to it. This is one of those times.
Two librarians, nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey, have had a civil suit brought against them by Joseph Murphy. Ms. de jesus and Ms. Rabey have called themselves #teamharpy. You can read their official statement here.
The issue is that Ms. de jesus and Ms. Rabey brought to light the behavior of Mr. Murphy at librarian conventions. Several women have reported his being a sexual predator, and reported being harassed and worse. He claims that such information was “false, libelous, and highly damaging.”
The issue of sexual harassment at library conferences is not new. Enough persons in the American Library Association (ALA) have reported disrespectful behavior towards them that the ALA enacted a Code of Conduct in Fall of 2013. This Statement of Appropriate Conduct is modeled after those in the information technology industry and in sci-fi, where women are often harassed.
Librarians are harassed in other situations. They are often the victims of unwanted sexual attraction while sitting at the Reference Desk. While librarians are big believers in intellectual freedom, this does not extend to harassment and come-ons while they work.
What makes this law suit so disturbing is that it seeks to punish those who want to speak out for the rights of victims of harassment and sexual abuse. Victims deserve to be heard. Those who speak for victims deserve to be heard. You’d think that Mr. Murphy, as a librarian, would understand that, as he is supposed to champion the ability for us to hear the voices of others. Yet this law suit demonstrates otherwise.