The progress made by women – and minorities – in the last 100 years clearly shows the important role speech and protest play in our country. Without those marches and those protests, would we have a female Vice President today? I suspect not.
We should consider whether tech companies are taking personalization too far, but we should also resist the urge to embrace that customization to an extent that might inhibit personal growth and evolving perspectives. And we need to continue to make sure the next generation understands the importance of looking at multiple perspectives, especially if it is going to be harder to do so organically as we absorb information.
When it became clear that masks and online education would be a part of fall teaching this year, I know many of us in academia (and education more broadly) discussed potential challenges for accessibility when teaching with a mask. But as an academic librarian who is childless, I didn’t think about the broader potential impacts of mask wearing, or online learning, on children trying to learn early literacy skills.
We want students to become well rounded individuals who can reflect on and learn from their own mistakes; how can we ask them to do that if we cannot/will not do that as a country? It is not a weakness to admit past mistakes and problems. Being able to admit them and learn from them is a strength.
It’s frustrating to see a Library Trustee – presumably someone who loves libraries – making these statements because they seem so antithetical to what libraries do. It’s not entirely clear what he wants as a solution, but at the very least it seems like he’s asking the library to ignore current events and to hide collections on controversial subjects. I’m also saddened by the implication that by including something on the library website the library is “promoting” it. Librarians buy and check out materials every day we disagree with; that’s our job.
A ban seems a bit like using a meat cleaver where a scalpel might be more appropriate. I’m also troubled by the potential message a TikTok ban sends; we want to encourage China to be more protective of and open to free speech, especially in light of the troubling shift toward censorship in Hong Kong. Can we really do that if we are banning their apps? By banning their apps, are we taking steps in that same direction?
I personally really enjoy (if “enjoy” can be considered the right word) the exploration of tough social justice issues through the lens of fantasy or science-fiction – often through the vehicle of anti-magic prejudice. I feel the fantasy context allows the reader to take a step back from the real world, while allowing the reader to think critically about equality and justice in a less personally challenging way.
Reporters without Borders recently released the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, which attempts to measure press freedoms worldwide. This year, they ranked the United States 45th out of 180 countries; up 3 spots from 48th in 2019.
Ultimately, while there may be arguments about the wisdom of these stay-at-home orders, and perhaps other constitutional arguments to be made, I don’t think the argument that they violate the right to assembly or the right to religion is particularly persuasive. Let’s cross our fingers that these social distancing measures work, and we can all go back to “normal” soon, making this debate a distant memory.
As librarians, we can help during this current outbreak by curating lists of reliable sources and, as much as possible, being available (in many cases remotely) to provide reference services and point our users to reliable sources. We can continue to do what we always do – serve as touchstones for patrons looking for reliable information in a time of stress. We can do our best to help them sort through the bad and misleading information and promote the more reliable information.