Maybe it was a trick instead of a treat?
On 31 October, 2016, Greta Von Susteren sent out the following tweet on Twitter:
Considering the legion of librarians and library patrons on Twitter, this tweet provoked quite a response. Some responded that the digital divide (in which some people have ready access to computers and technology, while others have little access to technology, due to finances, and the only computers they have access to, besides those in the library, are their smartphones) makes libraries indispensable. Others noted that the changes in teaching modes and tools could require a new building, as that picturesque library building built in 1910 doesn’t have the wiring, much less the outlets, for 65 new desktop computers. The president of the American Library Association noted that librarians are trained to be able to discern information from knowledge, something which Google cannot. And, of course, there were comments on the fact that not everything is online, that libraries were less “vanity projects” and more “centers for collaboration, study, and research.”
Von Susteren feels that the increase in college tuition and student debt is due to the construction on buildings such as libraries. Yet some pointed out that the culprits were more likely administrative bloat and athletics. (Interested in seeing the highest-paid public employees in each state? I can guarantee you that they aren’t librarians.)
While it’s laudable that Von Susteren is concerned about the high price of college, she is chasing after the wrong culprit. Libraries, and libraries that are well-equipped and meet recommended standards play a great role in helping to create the kind of citizens that everyone can be proud of. It’s a little hard to do that on an IBM386 with a 1200 baud modem buzzing in the background while students read encyclopedias from the 1950’s or, worse, gather information from a Wikipedia entry that was just “edited” by a spiteful ex-spouse.
Back to the drawing board, Ms. Von Susteren.
(Credit to https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/11/01/librarians-criticize-greta-van-susteren-after-vanity-projects-comments for many of the details)
So, “Captain America: Civil War” is due to come out in April. Some of you who are keenly interested in the Marvel Comics universe may be quite anxious for this movie to come out. Others may be wondering, “What’s the big whoop?”
The movie is based on a short run of Marvel comics called (you guessed it) “Civil War.” A superhero battle resulting in collateral damage makes the government wonder whether superheroes and mutants should register with the government in an effort to track and control them. This pending legislation pits hero against hero, as this question is raised: what is worth more, safety or freedom of privacy?
This argument is not unlike that which faces the United States on a regular basis. The bombings of 9/11 brought forth a flurry of legislation, intended to keep us safe, yet many felt that we were giving up our freedoms, that which made the United States unique, in the face of fear. The USA PATRIOT Act directly interferes with many of the beliefs that librarians hold dear. For example, we don’t believe in letting others know what books you’ve been checking out, or what you’ve been doing on the public computers. Yet the USA PATRIOT Act dictates that that information be made public, if necessary. I’m sure you can see the conflict here, and how it relates to Captain America.
We’re not asking you to think of libraries when you see this movie (well, librarians will, probably — that’s just the way our minds work). But definitely consider the different arguments that Iron Man and Captain America represent. Safety or freedom? (Oh, and another couple of questions: Tony Stark or Steve Rogers? Black Widow or Scarlet Witch?)
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.
While the Ventura College Library is closed until the 17th, your local library is open for business. Here is a little peak at the action going down at some of the local libraries:
- The Ventura County Library is open, but there will be some changes at the Simi Valley branch, with its decision to change its management. The E.P. Foster branch, which is located in downtown Ventura, will be having free music every second Sunday of the month. Many of the other local libraries are part of the Ventura County Library system; just check the “Locations” drop-down menu for a list of locations and addresses.
- The Oxnard Public Library is having summer reading programs for teens as well as adults. You can win prizes for reading books!
- The Blanchard Community Library in Santa Paula allows you to learn another language using the Mango software. Check it out!
- The Camarillo Public Library is having free movie nights on Thursdays.