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'Library collections ... proliferate whiteness with their very existence': Library Journal tweet promotes 'feminist' librarian's perspective

'I'm not sure if this is more insane or more racist. It is a ton of each!'

PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images

Library Journal — the self-described " most trusted and respected publication for the library community" — promoted a "feminist" academic librarian's blog on Twitter earlier this week, using a direct quote from the blog: "Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries."

How did Twitter users react?

As you might expect, Library Journal's tweet got "ratioed," with replies (nearly 8,000) far outnumbering likes (just over 800) as of Thursday afternoon. Here's how some commenters reacted:

  • "And this is why I've started collecting hardbacks of classic literature. We're not far before the serious calls for book burnings start."
  • "In a few years you're going to have to bury fine literature in the garden and stuff currency in the mattress. I think liberals are confusing Progressive with Regressive."
  • "You are a complete embarrassment."
  • "I'm not sure if this is more insane or more racist. It is a ton of each! It is strange that a seemingly serious publication like Library Journal would want to be associated with such obvious trash."
  • "Is this a joke? Library Journal is coming out against the fact that, in libraries, there are library books?"

But not everyone saw it that way:

  • "As a library professional with 20+ years experience in collections, I'm grateful for this astute and helpful piece. Essential to have conversations that move our work forward, not shut it down like so many hateful comments here."
  • "A great article about the important balance that must be struck in modern library collections. Detractors appear not to understand the first thing about building literacy in children and communities."

Library Journal on Thursday didn't immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment on reactions to its tweet.

What did the blog post say?

Sofia Leung — whose Twitter bio indicates she's an academic librarian who likes "intersectional feminism" and "social justice" — penned a blog post Monday titled "Whiteness as Collections."

Leung noted that she spent some time with an "amazing librarian of color whose thinking continues to push me" and "one of the mind-blowing things she shared was this idea of how our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks."

She also wrote that "libraries and librarians have a long history of keeping People of Color out" and "continue to do so," adding that "legal and societal standards revolve around whiteness and libraries are no different."

More from Leung's blog post:

If you look at any United States library's collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things, or ideas, people, and things they stole from POC and then claimed as white property with all of the "rights to use and enjoyment of" that [Cheryl I.] Harris describes in her [1993 Harvard Law Review] article. When most of our collections filled with this so-called 'knowledge,' it continues to validate only white voices and perspectives and erases the voices of people of color. Collections are representations of what librarians (or faculty) deem to be authoritative knowledge and as we know, this field and educational institutions, historically, and currently, have been sites of whiteness.

"Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten and at the cost of black and brown lives via the prison industrial complex, the spoils of war, etc. Libraries filled with mostly white collections indicates that we don't care about what POC think, we don't care to hear from POC themselves, we don't consider POC to be scholars, we don't think POC are as valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people. To return to the Harris quote from above, library collections and spaces have historically kept out Black, Indigenous, People of Color as they were meant to do and continue to do. One only has to look at the most recent incident at the library of my alma mater, Barnard College, where several security guards tried to kick out a Black Columbia student for being Black."

What did the blog author have to say?

TheBlaze on Thursday attempted to contact Leung without immediate success. Her blog's "about" page cannot be found, and her Twitter page has been protected. It's unclear if those statuses were in effect before the Library Journal tweet came into focus.

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