Which Side Are You On?

Seven Social Responsibility Debates in American Librarianship, 1990–2015


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About the Book

Shattering any idea that librarianship is a politically neutral realm, this insider’s account of seven debates from the floor of the American Library Association Council illustrates the mechanisms the governing body used to maintain the status quo on issues like racism, government surveillance and climate change.
At play in each debate are rules of parliamentary procedure, appeals to authority, denial, and chastisement of librarians who pushed the ALA to make real its commitments to human rights and social justice.
Providing a fascinating look at the Council’s inner workings, the author parses debates concerning anti-apartheid boycotts; partnerships between ALA, McDonald’s and the Boy Scouts of America; spying by the National Security Agency; censorship in Israel and the Occupied Territories; fossil fuel industry divestment; and the recent revival by ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom of the infamous film The Speaker.

About the Author(s)

Elaine Harger is retired, living in Spokane, Washington, following a 30+ year career as a student worker, clerical employee, paraprofessional, and MLS-degreed librarian in academic, special and public school libraries. She served nine years as a Councilor-at-Large on the governing body of the American Library Association, has been very active in ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table, and is a co-founder of the Progressive Librarians Guild. In 2022, SRRT awarded her with the Herb Biblo Outstanding Leadership Award for Social Justice and Equality.

Bibliographic Details

Elaine Harger
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: 8 illustrations, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9455-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2471-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Introduction 1
1. In Denial—Speaking about The Speaker 15
2. Singing (and Silencing) Solidarity—Interrupting Legacies of Racism
and the ­Anti-Apartheid “Book Boycott” 41
3. Censuring a Censor—The Debate on Censorship in Israel and the
Occupied Territories 75
4. Speaking with One Voice, Strangling Others?—McDonald’s and the
Boy Scouts of America 111
5. Abandoning Snowden…and Privacy?—Hegemony at Play in ALA 141
6. Charting a New Course—ALA and Climate Crisis 175
Works Cited 203
Index 215

Book Reviews & Awards

“Harger presents both sides of each debate and includes a detailed and well-cited narrative. Although at times an indictment of ALA’s actions and policies, overall this account is an education and call to action for librarians to uphold their principles…engaging and surprisingly frank…suitable for all”—Library Journal; “each selection is illustrative of [Harger’s] commitment to inform the generations of library professionals who have followed her that there is no progress if actions do not follow words and demonstrate the power dynamics that are frequently in play inside organizations. A fiery call to arms.”—Booklist.