political, personal, professional

I’m still working on it but my talk in Australia is going to have something to do with the overlapping of the personal, the political and the professional arenas in a librarian’s life. We’ve all seen this issue popping up all over the place. Marylaine has written a very thoughtful piece about librarians taking sides in partisan politicking this week. It’s a sticky wicket issue. As you all know, I am a fairly politically active person. However, I also try to be scrupulously fair at my job within the boundaries of the standards we set in my library, boundaries that were in place well before I got there. Those boundaries include protecting patron privacy, sometimes to the inconvenience of law enforcement, and supporting free access to information (i.e. unfiltered internet in most places in the library), sometimes to the inconvenience of our more sensitive patrons. I’m not talking about law-breaking, I’m talking about someone who is uncomfortable seeing a teenager looking at pictures of women in bikinis, or someone who doesn’t think the library computers should be used for games or chat.

What to do? We respect and honor all of our patrons, but at the end of the day many of our professional rules are going to be seen as somehow politicized, and people are going to take that personally. I only speak for myself here, but I think that one of the things our new net-savvy networked society has shown us is that there’s no such thing as a public institution that exists in the absence of politics. People vote to fund us, how can we pretend to not have an opinion about how they vote?