Monday, September 26, 2005

Life as a Conservative Librarian

I was recently asked to write an article on life as a conservative librarian for the Chronicle of Higher Education. That essay is now available:

Much has been made of the left's domination of college and university faculties. Yet in terms of political composition, the library profession makes your typical Ivy League faculty look like the Heritage Foundation. Had the 2004 election been confined to librarians, I firmly believe that the presidential race would not have been between Kerry and Bush, but between Kerry and Nader.

When David Brooks did some research into political donations by profession for his September 11, 2004, column in The New York Times, he found that for librarians "the ratio of Kerry to Bush donations was a whopping 223 to 1." By contrast, the corresponding ratio for academics was 11 to 1. As one of those rarest of beasts, a conservative librarian, I can attest firsthand to the stifling left-wing orthodoxy of modern American librarianship.

The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian

I wish to publicly thank the Chronicle for the opportunity to do this piece. Hopefully, it will have a positive impact.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:15 PM  
Blogger drtdub said...


Thanks so much for your article in the Chronicle. I'm sure you are not alone, although I know you feel you are. Things are not a lot different in my field of Continuing Education.
You are right, so continue to stand firm.



9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a conservative paraprofessional in a library in a particularly liberal city, I feel that crushing disillusionment with the profession every day myself. Your blog, though, is one of the few things that gives me a little bit of hope. I've wanted to thank you for a long time, and now seems as appropriate a time as any.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I am at the opposite end of the political spectrum from you, I must concur that the ALA should be more politically balanced if not nonpolitical. The only time politics should come into play is when we're dealing with issues that directly impact libraries and the library profession. I don't know why more run-of-the-mill librarians, left-leaning or not, don't speak up on this issue. To me, it's just common sense.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howdy David!

As a prolife-treehugging- Independent, I thank you for your article in the Chronicle; but I want to let you know that all ALA members are not leftwing radicals. I don't think that the answer is to allow memberships to lapse--the answer is to get involved! Become active in your state or local chapter, attend the conferences, and let your voice be heard!

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to hear I'm not the only one who feels compelled to be silent in the staff office during the inevitable daily political harangue fueled by some article in the NY Times or Wash Post. It's often hostile and brooks no dissent.

I've also dropped my ALA membership because of unnecessary and always liberal political posturing.

P.S. Think there are enough of us out there to staff one public library?

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Sally Beesley said...

The article in the Chronicle has long been overdue. I think I will drop my ALA membership as well. Maybe if enough of us do, they will get the message. And, like you, I'm not saying we should go from left to right, but be willing to allow differing viewpoints. The intolerance is embarassing.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

It's inappropriate for professionals to wear their beliefs on their sleeves when they're working.

The low number of responses to your article suggests that the number of reasonable people in the field may be greater than you guess. A small group armed with the right techniques can easily manipulate a large group -- particularly if members of the latter are conflict avoidant.

If we wish to be treated like professionals, we need to act like them individually and collectively. That means that we all need to make appropriate distinctions between our personal and professional lives and help others do the same.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Adri said...

Just wanted to say I linked to your blog and CHE article yesterday from the blog I do.

Two things I want to say:
1) interesting read :)
2) yeah! a documents librarian stepping out of the documents stereotype

6:56 PM  
Anonymous klg said...

I enjoyed your article and stand behind your call for ALA to stop being political and increase their focus on bettering librarianship.
It would be interesting to know if they respond to your article.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous JF said...

David - I am one of those left wingers who wishes we were not in this war. I am also a library school student. Regardless of whether I agree with you politically, your articulate and thought provoking article reinforces for me why I am not a member of ALA. I could not agree more that it is inappropriate for ALA to take a stand on the war in Iraq, to cheer liberal speakers, yet as a group to openly belie within its membership what the organization stands for. Thank you for making me think...

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article in the Chronicle was correct on your major point: a professional organization should be concerned primarily with its profession, rather than with professing politics. You will get no argument from me there.

That said, anyone who thinks the US is actually fighting a war on terror or that the Iraq war is anything but a debacle needs is simply naive. Also, I find it curious that most conservatives of my acquaintance think that expressing conservative politics is the norm, and expressing liberal politics is a deviation from the norm, and therefore threatening. (Being outnumbered drastically in the workplace is another matter, and is uncomfortable for anyone; try being a pro-life liberal, for example.)

7:48 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Thank you for your article. I dropped my ALA membership pretty much right after Orlando. I was and am horrified that they behaved that way. I am on the conservative side (maybe not so much as you) but even if not, it's clearly inappropriate for ALA to do the anti-war stuff that they do. Not to mention the fact that Michael Moore is a complete moron and they should never have sponsored a showing of his work. They sure as xxxx don't speak for me!

9:18 AM  
Blogger Norma said...

"Also, I find it curious that most conservatives of my acquaintance think that expressing conservative politics is the norm, and expressing liberal politics is a deviation from the norm, and therefore threatening." Anon.

In my experience, it is the liberals who are threatened by other's ideas. My experience in academe is that it is a very unliberal place to work.

Also, I used to be a pro-life liberal, and you are right, it is a lonely position, but in my opinion, the only authentic, truly liberal one.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful essay.

I have a question for you and the conservative librarians who read this blog--is it worth it? I've been accepted to an MLS program and will start next semester, and the more I hear about the politicization of the profession the more I wonder if it is really the right place for me. It's not too late for me to change my mind--should I?

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I consider myself a moderate who is also disgusted with the ALA politics and conference speakers.
I wouldn't recommend you give up on becoming a librarian if that's what you really want to do. It's just good that you know that the ALA does not necessarily represent librarianship (or all librarians) as much as it represents a set of political views and objectives. My suggestion would be to find out more about your state's library association since it may be an entirely different animal. I have found state conferences to be more worthwhile(and much less expensive) than ALA. Also, the state level networking might be more valuable.

8:55 AM  
Blogger fatwalker said...

We need to stay in ALA to vote for Greg from SHUSH.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful invention it is, this thing we call the Internet!

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldnt everyone USE FREE Advertising and Marketing Resources?

12:24 AM  
Blogger mdoneil said...

I too am a conservative librarian. I dropped my ALA membership because of their politicization of the organization.

The AMA sticks to medicine, the APA sticks to Psychology, the NDC sticks to dairy issues why does the ALA not stick to library issues.

I have no problem with someone engaging in political activities or discussion but in the appropriate forum. Neither the library, nor the ALA is that forum.

To the person who wanted to know if they should continue in library school: I would have to say no. If you want to make a living wage, and work in an enviornment that values your talents I would suggest an MBA as opposed to the MLS.

If you want a $12-20/ hr job and be micromanaged then librarianship is your ticket.

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your article in CHE! I had a far rightish librarian blog but got too paranoid about repercussions so dropped it. I live in Orlando so naturally went to the Orlando ALA..I was the only one there with a Bush 04 buttone, believe me!
Mike the Libraryguy

7:39 PM  
Blogger disgruntled world citizen said...

I just started my classwork for my MLS. I lean to the right, I voted conservative the last election. As of right now, unless I'm forced to by the "program" I'm in I dont think I'll be joining the ALA any time soon. I searched out your article in CoHE after my prof made a snide comment about it. Thank you for writing it.

3:29 PM  

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