At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, April 24, 2004


Some half-baked thoughts on what conservative librarianship would look like, arrived at through considering certain conservative principles and applying them to the profession:

  1. Quality should trump diversity, whether in employment or in collection development. Just because some people believe the Holocaust didn't happen doesn't mean their views should be represented in the library; just because blacks have been underrepresented in librarianship doesn't mean they should receive preferential treatment in hiring.
  2. Hannah Arendt, I think, drew the distinction between "negative rights" (protection against external interference, e.g. rights to life, free association, property, speech, etc.) and the leftist conception of "positive rights" (entitlement to benefits, e.g. a right to food, housing, medical care, etc.) From the conservative viewpoint, leftist librarians make a category mistake in crying "censorship" when a library refuses to purchase a book, or discards it once purchased, on the basis of its viewpoint. The First Amendment gives us only the negative right not to be prevented from promulgating our views; it doesn't give us a positive right that libraries help us do so.
  3. By necessity, any governmental project favors the values of some people over those of others, so there is nothing inherently wrong in a library emphasizing the dominant outlook of its community. As expected, the San Francisco Public Library has a lot more pro-gay than anti-gay books (as far as I could tell from skimming their OPAC, at least). When librarians cease to be responsive to community values, it is reasonable that community authorities bring them in line.
  4. Shushing people isn't anal, oppressive, uptight, etc. It's necessary for the proper functioning of the library as a place for absorbing information.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home