Libraries are the greatest thing in the world, even with the advent of electronic reading devices.
Tell you why. When I was younger I lived in a small town and there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do, even in the summer. My parents, while they went to work during the day, that I would likely be at one of three or four places. One of them was a library.
The reason that place was so sacred to me and many others is that it was a place where you could learn something at your own pace and at your own interest. You didn’t have to worry about anything other than the pages in front of you. Libraries are supposed to be sacred buildings, not unlike a church if I do say so. The fact that the guardians of these precious buildings want to dispose of their books is sickening.
As a librarian at one of the nation’s most prestigious college institutions, Sofia Leung takes her role very seriously.
She wants to expose her students to a broad spectrum of knowledge gathered from all corners of the globe. However, while attending a library conference in 2017 that featured a predominantly white crowd, she realized the fact that most libraries in the United States are filled with books written by straight white men.
Because of her commitment to sharing the diverse voices of people across the world – including women, third-world people, and people of color – she decided to write a blog post about how most libraries are “a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks.”
Because of her controversial ideas, her remarks were picked up on Twitter and shared far and wide. The quote that has gotten the most attention is:
“Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries.”
Not only did the predominately white library conference inform her insight on this issue, but she also attributes inspiration from Marie Kondo, the Still Processing podcast, Cheryl I. Harris’s theory from the 1993 Harvard Law Review, and a book that she is currently writing about Critical Race Theory in Library and Information Studies.
The reason that she has drawn inspiration from Marie Kondo is that the famous tidying-up persona talks about our spiritual connection to physical objects. Because books are physical objects, Leung argues that their presence in our libraries talks about the ideas that are held to the highest standard.
And are the books truly representations of a diverse plethora of human minds from across the globes? Or are they mostly Euro-centric books written by white men?
In her controversial blog article titled “Whiteness as Collections,” Leung wrote:
“If you look at any United States library’s collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things, or ideas, people, and things they stole from POC and then claimed as white property with all of the “rights to use and enjoyment of” that Harris describes in her article. When most of our collections filled with this so-called “knowledge,” it continues to validate only white voices and perspectives and erases the voices of people of color. Collections are representations of what librarians (or faculty) deem to be authoritative knowledge and as we know, this field and educational institutions, historically, and currently, have been sites of whiteness.”