So, after some serious consideration and thought, and talking to my mentor and other work friends, I finally decided to throw my hat in the ring to run for ALA Councilor-at-Large. Assuming I am selected by the nominating committee, I would be one of 18 candidates running for 12 council seats. Council is the governing body of the American Library Association, and sets policy for the entire organization. It consists of the elected officers (President, treasurer, etc) and 12 Councilors at Large who collectively make decisions. The Rainbow RoundTable, which I’ve been an active part of for about 2 years now, was asking members to run for council to increase representation on the governing body for LGBTQ librarians. And I decided to answer the call.
I have heretofore only served on a variety of committees for my roundtables and my Women and Gender Studies Section of ACRL 1. I have enjoyed my time on the committees, and have done important work there. But I don’t feel much like I’m making a difference. I am currently a pretty low-ranked employee at a major academic institution. The work I do there is important in the day to day keep-the-lights-on-and-books-circulating kind of way, but it’s not moving the needle any toward greater equity and justice in the world. Neither really is my committee work at the national level, although as I said before I have done important work there too. It’s simply been more of the keep-the-website-updated-and-the-organization-running sort. Which is good and important! But I have more to say at a national level than that.
I feel like Council could give me a way to talk nationally about the issues queer librarians AND queer patrons are facing. Especially now in this dark timeline. I do work around the erasure of queer people from the institution (in specific archives, but a lot of it is also applicable to libraries). But more than my personal research, I am also living it. I am living in a hostile state, where LGBTQ+ people are being pulled from the shelves all around me. And I live in a conservative part of that hostile state, working at an institution that DeathSantis is actively scrutinizing in an attempt to make it over into a conservative stronghold 2. I am talking to my coworkers, talking to our public library colleagues, seeing the local coverage of what exactly is happening to queer people in the library. And I have things to say about it. Council would give me space to say it, and be heard, and perhaps even do something about it.
I also feel like, now is not the time for the institution to remain neutral. ALA’s response to the current crisis has been rather more measured than not. But we are not in a measured and reasonable timeline. We are in a war for the soul of the library, and we need to be acting like it. But more importantly, we need to be doing more to specifically support the people in the crosshairs of the fascists. We need to be protecting and uplifting them, legally, financially, and socially. Queer librarians are losing their jobs, being driven out of towns, and even receiving death threats and the like. It is beyond time for ALA to use it’s institutional power to stand up to fascism and censorship effectively. Otherwise, what are we paying dues for?