On Changes and Looking Forward

Over the course of the semester, as we’ve explored and reflected on Information and Library Science education, we’ve voiced criticisms, questions, anxieties, lessons learned, and ideas for the future. Preparing for any profession comes with uncertainty: am I learning what I need to know? Am I going to actually want to work in this profession? Am I as qualified to work in the profession as my peers? Am I going to be able to find a job? Have I made the right choice? Sometimes the ILS educational experience brings answers to these questions and sometimes it brings doubt and more questions.

Now, we have the added uncertainty of life under the upcoming Trump administration, an administration which the American Library Association may or may not be willing to work with (depending on the day and who you ask), an administration which seems to be against the Core Values of Librarianship stated and adopted by the American Library Association, an administration that will be comprised of people who have made threats to many of the communities libraries serve and seek to empower by providing them with access to information and resources. For example: Jeff Sessions, the Trump nominee for Attorney General, who “has made tougher immigration policies a central priority” (Lichtblau par.12) and who has said he is open to a ban on Muslim immigration (Lichtblau par.13). Then there’s the perceived threat to public education. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, has, over the past 30 years “pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence” (Zernike par.2). With the strong tie between public education and libraries, what could this mean for libraries and librarians, especially those involved directly with public schools?

We’re still in the early stages of the upcoming administration, so there’s no way to know for sure what will happen in the next few months or in the next four to eight years. But all the policy proposals, talking points, and views of nominees seem to make one message very clear: if the wealthiest Americans can’t make money off of you, you are expendable. And if you get in the way of the wealthiest Americans and their money, they will try to remove you and whatever law allowed you to get in the way in the first place. I find this concerning and alarming for a number of reasons, not least of which being that libraries, as they currently exist, do not produce the sort of profit that the wealthiest Americans seem so invested in. Perhaps the services libraries provide as well as the people who depend on those services will be seen as expendable.

Libraries, however, as a whole, have managed to survive difficult times. During the last recession, for example, libraries experienced increased use and provided important and meaningful services to their communities (Beck 2009). And in the climate of the upcoming administration, I think libraries will be just as important, if not more so.

I’ve experienced a lot of emotions since Trump’s election: disbelief, betrayal, despair, fear, horror, but also: determination. I don’t know what will happen to me or to libraries, which is terrifying, but I know that libraries are needed and that libraries are the place where I can do the most good and a space from which I can try to effect change, which I am determined to do. If there’s a course offered to teach the sort of skills I’ll need to do this, that will help me as a future librarian to survive the coming changes, I don’t know what that course looks like. I think we’re going to have to rely on each other and teach each other, which is an area where I think librarians excel.

-Kristin McWilliams


American Library Association. “Core Values of Librarianship.” Accessed online at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/corevalues

Beck, S. J. (2009). This is Our Time to Shine: Opportunities in a Recession. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49(1), 8-17.

Lichtblau, E. (11/18/16). Jeff Sessions, As Attorney General, Could Overhaul Department He’s Skewered. The New York Times. Accessed online at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/19/us/politics/jeff-sessions-donald-trump-attorney-general.html

Smith, D. (12/2/2016). Trump’s Billionaire Cabinet Could Be the Wealthiest Administration Ever. The Guardian. Accessed online at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/02/trumps-rich-pickings-president-elects-team-could-be-wealthiest-ever

Zernike, K. (11/23/16). Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Has Steered Money from Public Schools. The New York Times. Accessed online at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-has-steered-money-from-public-schools.html