(note: this idea is not mine, I am merely running with it after it was mentioned on a mailing list I am on)
In these weird times where people are very unsure who to trust and even less sure how to feel about the government, the Library Freedom Playbook should exist and doesn’t. We have a few directions where we should be highlighting the important role of libraries.
1. The library is authoritative
2. The library is safe
3. The library is also the government
The last message is tricky. Many if not most public libraries are municipal organizations. The library is for everyone in the good ways that government is supposed to be but increasingly is not. Blind hatred/fear of government can keep people from getting services they deserve. We need a nuanced message here. I am aware this is not simple.
It’s important to get things ranging from EFFs advice which is useful but not always practical for an average person, to stuff like “Hey print this zine and give it to kids!”
Things like Tor are a huge deal for libraries because the libraries can do the work one time but ALL the patrons benefit. Raising awareness for libraries why this is useful is part of it (like Library Freedom Project). Giving talks that outline practical approachable solutions that aren’t overwhelming. Building plug-ins for common software like Chrome, WordPress, Firefox and common ILSes.
I remember when there was some weird post-9/11 concerns about certain publications from govdocs organizations being possibly “dangerous” and tried to recall them and then-head of Boston Public Library Bernie Margolis basically “letter of the law” complied (took them out of govdocs) but “spirit of the law” did not (put them in circulating collections). That highlights what high profile librarian actions can also
do for morale in addition to access, both of which are important parts of this.
I’ve been scooting around a little bit lately and here are some things that have been crossing my virtual desk. I’ve also dealt with two wordpress issues [a hack! and an outdated sidebar navigation element] and I’ve upgraded to the latest version of WordPress. If you’re on a Summer schedule, I’d suggest upgrading before things get hectic.
Bernie Margolis, ousted former head of Boston Public Library is starting a new job as the New York State Librarian.
Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the 67,000-member American Library Association, said Margolis has earned “a great deal of respect throughout the profession” and called him one of ALA’s most active members in standing up to censorship. Margolis, who grew up in Queens and New Rochelle, credits his activism to his dad, who was a fundraiser for the Anti-Defamation League. He calls reading the New Yorker magazine “part of my religious practice.”
So after Bernie Margolis has his contract “un-renewed” the mayor of Boston is looking at seizing control of the moneys that make up the Boston Public Library’s trusts. This means that to spend money from the BPL trusts, the library has to get approval for each specific expenditure from City Hall. Margolis, still at work and annoyed at his ouster has ordered his staff to not send overdue fines collected to the city as was the usual procedure. It’s not totally clear from the article what the ordering of events is. At least one donor is thinking of asking for her money back.
Under current practice, the library trustees approve formation of the trust funds and transfer custody of the funds to City Hall. City Hall then forwards trust proceeds – dividends and other returns on investments – in a lump sum annually to the library.
Library trustees decide what to spend the money on, in accordance with donors’ instructions, and library staff members cut the checks. Library staff members also reconcile the books and file annual reports and tax returns for the board of trustees, which is operated as an independent, nonprofit corporation.
Signori, the city’s collector-treasurer, said her office will no longer be giving the library lump sums. Instead, she said, the trustees will now have to submit invoices to City Hall for processing and payment. If Signori or her staff members believe the expenses do not match donors’ intent or if there is another problem, she says she will raise an issue with trustees.
Bernie Margolis was on ALA Council with me and is one of my favorite library administrators. He’s taken some bold stances in favor of intellectual freedom, from resisting filtering to refusing to bow to government pressure to remove items from his libraries’ shelves. Now he’s being fired — or rather his contract isn’t being renewed — because, as near as I can tell from the Boston Phonix, the Mayor dislikes him. While I assume that Bernie will emerge from all of this unscathed because he’s that type of guy, I’m distressed to hear this. I always liked this photo I took of him during the Democratic National Convention, telling the TV crew to quit parking on the plaza in front of the library. [techtonics]
Now that Margolisâ€™s firing is about to be made official, the city is being treated to a campaign of disinformation suggesting that, while Margolis was good for the historic central library in Copley Square, his track record in the branches was lacking. This is rubbish, so out of line with reality that it approaches a big-lie strategy: tell a whopper with enough conviction and frequency and you can get the public to believe it. It will probably work. Also wrested out of context are recycled versions of Margolisâ€™s unwillingness to install Internet filters â€” except for children â€” on library computers. Free speech may be uncomfortable at times, but it should never be so in a library. It is the branch libraries, though, that are now center stage.