Ask A Librarian: Dealing with haters?

A lesbian pride flag with a little picture of Marx in the upper corner and the caption "My president is a Marxist lesbian"

A friend writes in: What are you doing about the idiotic book bannings and attacks on Librarians and what can I do to help? 

It’s a mess and part of the mess is that it’s really state by state, so what might make sense for you where you are wouldn’t be the tactic in Pennsylvania or Iowa or Arkansas.

The usual advice is still good. Consider joining your local school board or library trustee board. You could even pony up some money to your state library association and join (even as a non-library person) which would help them do this work.

In New England we mostly haven’t seen the legislation issues that they’ve had other places. Familiarize yourself with the books (go read Gender Queer, some of the others) so you know what’s being talked about. Talk to your local public and school librarians about what would be helpful for them. Inquire if they have policies in place to manage some of the campaigns that have been launched. Be willing to come out, actively, and support gay and trans people and people of color and drag queens and any marginalized or under-represented folk with their desire for representation in library collections. Write letters to the editor. Familiarize yourself with the Freedom Caucus and Moms for Liberty and be very very skeptical of anyone who aligns with them or who forwards their talking points. I’ll forward you the letter we’re circulating among library folks [added below] which talks about ways of supporting ALA generally and also staying informed.

Above all, don’t just be angry about it on the internet. It’s too simple and especially if you’re in social spaces, you’re just taking up time and effort of people who could be doing some of the things I’ve suggested above. I’ve had some interactions especially with grouchy men who like yelling into the void about the topic–and they even agree with me!–but just take up my time (if they’re in my mentions) while they’re not being constructive. I mean, I know I’m sort of fortunate to have a pretty low affect about things like this, but think about whether the public statements you make are tactical for the struggle or just a way to express pain, fear, and rage. There are spaces for all kinds of expression, but being tactical is important. You can also send Emily a note of support because she is a wonderful person and I just think everyone should tell her how great she is. Here’s a few bullet points that we sent to the people who signed the letter of support (2100 signatures so far) for her, giving suggestions.


Are you on social media? Share positive comments on ALA and ALA divisions’ social media, especially when right-wing haters are the only voices. Check out this interview with Emily and share your favorite quotes online. Positive comments only! Emily is president of the American Library Association and cares deeply about strengthening the association. It is helpful to her when we publicly acknowledge and support ALA for what they’re doing well, like this message of support for Emily that ALA tweeted

Are you a member of your state’s library association? If not, join now and get connected to what’s happening in your area. Just as all politics is local, so are the attacks against intellectual freedom. Also consider joining ALA (or renewing your membership) to make the organization better. Already a member? Consider serving on a committee or running for ALA Council. ALA is only as strong as its members!

Anyone, whether an ALA member or not, can join ALA’s Advocacy List. Managed through ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy (PPA) office, this is one of the main ways that ALA communicates about issues at the federal level from library funding, censorship, broadband access, and net neutrality.

2 thoughts on “Ask A Librarian: Dealing with haters?

  1. I underscore the need to join state associations. The state libraries report to the state government.
    The state library associations do not.
    Consider sending a donation to a state library association that is hanging tough. If you know a student, they can join both ALA and their state association at a low price. Consider donating to help a student.

  2. We are also dealing with protestors in Irish public libraries. Luckily we have fairly okay political support, but it is tough on staff having to deal with these people appearing in their workplaces and verbally assaulting them. Plus obviously not helping to make the library a welcoming space. Tough to know exactly what to do about it

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