There is a close relationship between libraries (public libraries at the very least) and government. From funding to governing itself, libraries have their eyes on government, and vice-versa. The library community celebrated a big win earlier this year with the historic nomination of Carla Hayden, the first librarian—and first woman, and first African American—to the post of Librarian of Congress. And while Hayden’s appointment was almost universally celebrated by the library community, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency resulted in less universal—and generally less-celebrated—reactions.
Since Election Day, Foreword has reached out to a number of librarians—most of whom asked to remain anonymous—and the most common response to Trump? “Shock,” usually paired with a more overtly negative feeling, with one respondent going into further detail: “I had an intense physical reaction. I was physically shaking, I was nauseated, hours of sobbing. I couldn’t sleep for the next few nights and could barely bring myself to eat. I’m still fighting numbness, anger and a feeling that my fellow Americans have betrayed me in the worst way possible.” A minority of those polled had a neutral reaction, with one librarian saying “at least it isn’t Hillary.”
Personal opinions aside, all of our respondents admitted that the change of hands in the presidency was likely to lead to an impact on the library industry in general. While a majority of those polled cited potential budget cuts as a likely consequence, others saw the impact being more overtly community-driven, with responsibility falling to libraries to be “safe spaces,” and for librarians to “continue acting as social workers to their communities.” Said one respondent:, “I hope we all become more active in politics and vocal. This is not—forgive me—a time to be quiet.”
Being vocal happens in a lot of ways. Most of those polled recognized that the election results speak directly to a division in the country that, like a lot of more liberal-leaning voters, they didn’t necessarily recognize. One librarian admitted, “I am a little unsettled and concerned about how ‘out of touch’ I am with red America.” In an effort to bridge the divide, a majority said that they would focus their collection development on social issues, diversity, and “interesting books on both sides.” Several librarians noted that they’ll have to carry more books about the president-elect (said one respondent: “ugh”).
Ultimately, the librarians that we talked to all had one unified tone to their responses: they are public servants, and they hope to serve their communities in the best, most effective, and most inclusive way possible. “America needs us more than ever but might not realize it,” said one librarian. “We need to protect privacy and freedom of information. We need to stand up for education.”
Seth Dellon is the Associate Publisher of Foreword Reviews. You can meet him or hear him speak at most of the events Foreword attends, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.