EDITOR, LIBRARY JOURNAL
In 2020, Library Journal editor-in-chief, Meredith Schwartz, facing her own problems with Cancel Culture activism, framed “intellectual freedom” like this, as if that issue isn’t a pure one. Rather, for her, one must weigh freedom of speech in the context of political activism towards versions of “equity and inclusion”:
“The important debate about what to do when intellectual freedom and equity and inclusion collide is far from settled in the field.”
In other words, intellectual freedom is a malleable concept, depending upon the subject at-hand. In the context of “equity and inclusion” (and how exactly is that defined?) she suggests that there may not be “intellectual freedom” at all. And implied, of course, is that once there’s a suspended “intellectual freedom” for one issue, the grounds are set for suspending such freedom for any subject and in any other context.
Shortly after my firing as a librarian, I wrote an article about the situation and considered media places to send it. Librarians with views like mine have no voice in the field, so the first place I thought of was the influential Library Journal. I could speak for that genre of library worker that was suffocated and had no forum. Would a Left-wing editor at a Left-wing periodical want this perspective? Of course not, but I thought I’d try anyway. The rejection would add further evidence to my own arguments here. (The editor-in-chief, Meredith Schwartz, personally rejected my emailed article so quickly that I received her dismissal eight minutes after the moment of submission! In other words, she read my brief cover letter about the content of the piece and that was enough to bail). But the censorial, totalitarian situation at the Library Journal was even worse than I imagined. As I researched to whom I would have to send my piece, I discovered that the main editor there, Schwartz, demonstrably Left wing, was – at that very moment — undergoing a cancel culture siege of her own, wherein “progressives” were eating their own.
It didn’t matter that Schwartz writes stuff like this during today’s anti-police hysteria:
“In many towns across the United States, seeing members of the police in the public library is common-place. Off-duty officers moonlight as library security guards … But as the past weeks of protest after the police killing of George Floyd, among others, make plain, for a substantial portion of patrons and staff, the presence of the police is itself a threat. No matter how many Black Lives Matter displays or reading lists we create and share, if we want Black patrons and staff to feel safe in the library, the police must not be a daily presence.”
I’ve worked in a library that had two security guards stationed at the entrance, and they’re there for a reason. And it didn’t look like this editor would read more than a sentence of my own article, per my assessment that the public needs variant perspectives about Black Lives Matter – or any other subject – to make up their own mind about controversial subjects. (Meanwhile, at about the same time, the other big library periodical, the ALA’s American Libraries, featured a similar article entitled “When Not to Call the Cops. A Plea to Protect Black Patrons,” wherein the author argues for a kind of extraordinary Black Privilege, arguing that “every time library staffers call the police, we put the lives of our Black patrons in danger … By keeping our libraries as police-free as we can, we communicate to our patrons that Black Lives Matter.” Short of the likes of “shootings,” “fistfights,” and “kidnappings,” declares the author, a library worker is morally bankrupt in calling cops if a Black individual causes a lesser disturbance.)
Schwartz, the Library Journal editor, also wrote this, reviewing an American Library Association “virtual conference”:
“The urgent need for antiracism work, and fighting anti-Blackness in particular, inside the culture of librarianship as well as in our communities, was an important strand of content throughout the American Library Association (ALA) Virtual Conference last week. It echoed through new Executive Director Tracie Hall’s message to Monday’s Membership Meeting and to Council—a strong call to diversify the profession—ALA president Wanda Brown’s message, and the keynote presented by Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams, as well as granular programming on how to operationalize antiracism work in libraries.”
How could providing a broad range of views and perspectives about Black Live Matter possibly find air here? (Stacey Brown, of course, was the Democratic politician from Georgia who had been actively seeking the vice-presidential role under Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy).
But here is the Whopper I ran across with the top editor at Library Journal, and the issue was on-going. For Schwartz, in what could possibly cost her the journal editorship, she confessed a mistake in the Library Journal’s awarding of its “2020 LJ/Gale Library of the Year Award” to the Seattle Public Library, which won because of all sorts of programs in service to “progressive” causes and activism. (LJ had awarded the Seattle library its “highest five-star rating … for ten years in a row.” Central was its delight that the library “explicitly identified ‘Race and Social Justice’ as part of its strategic plan,” using the “RJI Racial Equity Toolkit.”) For ardent social justice warriors, the Seattle Public Library was a model organization.
Cancel Culture still found an avenue to be up in arms. The Seattle library’s sole failing to Thought Police dictate was to have rented out space to something called the “Women’s Liberation Front,” a “self-proclaimed radical feminist organization,” whose PC crime, in turn, was to be deemed by vocal critics as an “anti-trans group and “transphobic hate speakers.” (Why the smears? It “refuses to recognize transgender women.” “A man who says he is a woman is still a man,” said the organization’s leader. This traditional position about men and women even elicited an opinion piece in American Libraries magazine wherein the “radical feminist” group was decried as – routinely used by the political Left to smear alternative views — a “hate” group which, of course, wasn’t thereby entitled to rent a room in a public library. (The title of the event was “Fighting the New Misogyny. A Feminist Critique of Gender Identity.” “Our speakers,” notes the WOLF web site, “have received death threats and hate mail simply for voicing their beliefs.”)
The feminist event drew bomb threats, the Seattle police, physical threats, arrests, and as many as 200 protesters. A women’s journal, Feminist Current, noted that “women should not require bodyguards and police escorts in order to speak in public.” Meanwhile, a letter was drafted with over 1,700 cancel culture signatures from across the country, to “the editors of the Library Journal.” (Over 2,200 had signed a petition by the “Gender Justice League” demanding that the event be forcibly cancelled). Here the political Left continued to devour its own: the Women’s Liberation Front was declared to be a “hate group,” wherein “a dogmatic view of intellectual freedom was the higher principle [the Seattle Public Library] would stand for.” A better serving for all, apparently, would be the principle of censorship of alternative views, including the Neanderthal conviction – relentlessly under attack today — that the gender you’re born with is really what you are.
Because of the Library Journal’s coolest library award to the Seattle library, its top editor, Meredith Schwartz, was under intense siege and, certainly to save her own ass, she desperately ran for cover. Her groveling before the Censorial Mob is noteworthy:
“Last week we announced that The Seattle Public Library is the 2020 LJ/Gale Library of the Year in recognition of its work on racial equity. Since then, we have received numerous messages from librarians, library workers, and past award-winners. Many expressed outrage and disappointment in our selection of SPL because it allowed a trans-exclusionary group to rent a library meeting room.”
LJ was wrong not to describe this event and its impact in our coverage of the award. Our subsequent statement reaffirming the award did not reckon with the pain felt by members of the library community, particularly trans librarians and patrons. Our actions left many people feeling hurt, unheard, and unsafe. For that, we are truly sorry. And as editor in chief, I personally apologize.”
For editor Schwartz, begging for mercy to a barrage of outraged Snowflakes, it was time to make amends. To patch the Cancel Culture dam break, she quickly announced a new regular LJ column focused on “queer issues in libraries,” a future LJ issue devoted to “queer and trans issues,” a “forum for queer and trans people in the field to share their voices and perspectives with us,” an examin[ing] and refin[ing] our judging and selection process for Library of the Year,” and “train[ing] LJ staff on anti-trans discrimination and bias.” She would also literally try to buy off her aggressors with a $10,000 Library Journal “donation” to Seattle’s Gender Justice League.” (This bribe was actually one of the “demands” of the 1,700 cancel culture aficionados).
Perhaps all this might save Schwartz her job. In turn, the Seattle Public Library’s director, Marcellus Turner, who is Black, was also on the hot seat with his dangerous commitment to the Women’s Liberation Front’s right to voice their views as a foundation of true “intellectual freedom.” Within a few months, Turner resigned – after 10 years — as director of the Seattle Public Library “for a new career opportunity” as director of a public library in North Carolina.
Hero in this fiasco: Marcellus Turner.
Candidate for Nightcrawler of the Decade, largely based on cowardice and pandering to a censorial mob: Library Journal editor Meredith Schwartz.