The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian Blogger
It is with sadness that I note that Walter Skold's Freadom blog is no more. The site was a valuable forum for keeping the Cuban libraries issue alive and will be missed.
The conservative librarian blogosphere, a tiny subset of an already esoteric part of the blogging world, seems to be disappearing. Jack Stephens walked away from his excellent blog Conservator almost a year ago. Greg McClay, the dean of conservative librarian bloggers, hasn't posted anything new at SHUSH since early January. In fact, the only currently active blog I know of that is maintained by a professed conservative librarian, besides this one, is Norma's Collecting my Thoughts.
Annoyed Librarian remains, but she isn't necessarily right of center politically, except in terms of the Larry Summers scale that governs librarianship as it does academia. Sure, she mocks the pretensions of the radical activist left in our profession and the sometimes overwrought national reactions to local book challenges. Still, you don't necessarily have to be conservative to hold such views.
Everyone has their own reasons for blogging and their own reasons for eventually giving it up. If you put any thought and effort into blogging, you will be amazed how much time it consumes. Sooner or later, work or other responsibilities start taking away that time, or you get burned out and decide there are better ways to spend it. Believe it or not, I was seriously ready to give up blogging in the spring of 2005, until the Chronicle of Higher Education came e-mailing. Still, there does seem to be a trend and I think I know what it might be.
As I reflect on matters, it becomes clear that the conservative librarian blogosphere was a product of a specific point in time, a small reflection of the broader political polarization of the post 9/11-George W. Bush era. The library profession has been vocally and numerically dominated by liberals and leftists for decades. The "social responsibility" movement, which conflates proper librarianship with radical left-wing activism, has been around since the 1960s. Issues such as Internet filtering in libraries and the Cuban question were sources of controversy. However, as I wrote about in the Chronicle, it was not until after September 11 that the politicization of American librarianship became truly blatant.
Within two weeks after 9/11 I had forwarded to me both an e-mail message asking me to support Barbara Lee (the lone representative who opposed striking back against Al Qa'ida and the Taliban) and a missive from one Mr. Mark Rosenzweig laying down the party line that bin Laden and company were mere criminals and notions of radical Islam were nothing but government propaganda. These anecdotal incidents were merely the harbinger of a process that accelerated with the Iraq war and approach of the 2004 elections. The culmination was ALA's infamous 2004 annual conference in Orlando, which was really little more than a Moveon.org rally.
When I started this blog in June 2004, it was as much a form of catharsis as anything else. Sites like this one, Conservator and SHUSH (both of which preceded this blog), were a reaction not just to leftist politics, but to having such politics regularly thrown in our faces in professional settings. The Chronicle essay also fulfilled that role. However, the partisan passions of the last few years have begun to cool. Frankly I think that many are simply tired of the same arguments being made over and over (yes, I do it too). In my view, the decline in the already tiny number of conservative librarian blogs is one reflection of this trend. (It isn't just conservatives: John Berry, whom I had an interesting "dialogue" with just a year ago, abandoned his blog several months later.)
The simple truth is that not much has really changed in the last four years. At ALA Annual last year, a 35 minute discussion of whether ALA should take stands on non-library issues was followed up by a 75 minute keynote address from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. In addition, while the context has changed somewhat, the essential debate between the "social responsibility" vision of politicized librarianship and the idea that the profession should be politically neutral dates back to the 1970s and the work of David Berninghausen. This debate seems to have played itself out, at least for now.
You can only get angry so many times over topics such as ALA's heavy bias towards left of center speakers, ridiculous political resolutions and selective indignation on issues of intellectual freedom. Eventually, you begin to regard such phenomena as being akin to the Sun rising in the east. Also, you soon come to the realization that, as infuriating as such things are to some of us, the politics of the library profession are basically irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. If the best the radical left can do is conquer the American Library Association, something they have yet to fully achieve, then the "revolution" is indeed a long way off.
Probably the most amusing part of Mark Rosenzweig's gloriously over the top response to the Chronicle essay is when he accused me of of trying to create "a whole cottage industry of paid testimonials of right wing librarians
suffering the martyrdom of Tom Dooley at the hands of godless Communist librarians. A second career for a 'lonely conservative librarian"." Unfortunately, even had I wanted to pursue such an option, there was no market for it. I think my article was cited by Michelle Malkin when Laura Bush came to ALA in June 2006, but that was it. The great wave of conservative outrage over the politics of American librarians that so haunted Rosenzweig's fevered imagination failed to manifest itself, for the simple reason that almost no one cares about the politics of American librarians.
So, to end on a practical note, where does that leave this blog and its dozens (I hope) of loyal readers? For now, regular programming will continue. However, I too will be getting on the bandwagon and giving up blogging within the next several months. I have an upcoming commitment next year that is far more important and will require my full efforts. The disclaimer in the upper right corner should provide a clue.