Crisis, real or imaginary, allows for rapid and sometimes drastic changes. Governor Daniels signed an order on his first day on the job that ended collective bargaining with public employee unions and later, Governor Walker of Wisconsin launched his own version of public union-busting. These changes were all possible because of the need to balance state budgets and the economic downturn meant cuts needed to be made. While eating your young and your seed corn to fight off immediate starvation, there are long term effects.
Chelton looks at these changes and wonders of the effects it will have on school librarians. If you feel your job is under threat from both the state house and your local school district, how willing would you be to buy material that is controversial? Might you just duck and cover and wait for the economic storm to pass? Chelton feels that courage is needed and if the librarian is not going to champion intellectual freedom, then who is? While I agree with this idea, I don’t think in a tolerate society we should expect our librarian to gird their loins to do their job. When a librarian is asking the “Should I get this book?” and the motivation is that they want to keep their job then I think we about to take a strange journey down mediocre lane.
We are duplicitous in our desires. We want to have students that are innovative, creative and can think critically and solve big problems but we want them to do this in a prescribed manner. So we come up with code words like “appropriate” for material that is ok and “inappropriate” for work that might get us fired. Why not follow the lead of the Chinese and produce one little red book and have done with it. Economically is seems to be working wonderfully for them and since fiscal responsibility (another code word for I only spend money on things that will get me re-elected”) this is the only thing Governor Daniels and Walker appear to interest in I see this as a workable solution. After all one billion Chinese cannot be wrong.
As a result of this new environment school libraries are becoming more dependent on public libraries to provide a wide range of ideas and thoughts and to be the place where children and young adults can explore and discover. Chelton points out a couple of problems. The first is access. Not all children are able to get to their local library. The second is that many rural communities don’t have a public library. The third issue that Chelton doesn’t state but is the thousand pound gorilla in the room, is that if your kids have to go to a public library to get an education then you have a problem.
On the upside, every day I see the library profession fight against a very vocal minority and win. I see librarians respect the viewpoints of others and listen to their concerns but not waver from providing material that will meet every person in the community’s needs, whether that community is a school system, city or county.