Code4Lib Journal has published an editorial by Ruth Kitchin Tillman (University of Notre Dame), “Introspection as Activism, or, Getting Our Houses in Order,” in the latest issue.
But I see in this last year and these last few weeks the material for a call which I intend to make here, a call for action by every library worker and in more countries than the United States. The action I am asking for is not taking to the streets, although that is a worthy effort. It is not taking to the phones, although that is a worthy action. It is something any library worker of any political persuasion can do, or at least can try. It is getting our own houses in order. It is assessing how well we live up to the fundamental principles of our profession.
The editorial encourages practitioners to delve deeply into the questions of why we do what we do, including why and how we maintain records. Patron privacy has long been a key tenet of librarian work, but Tillman describes several instances of data collection that ought to make librarians “feel uncomfortable about accumulating patron information”:
And so we must ask ourselves as we do our work, whether we really need that cool map which uses IP addresses to show downloads occurring in real time and historically. Times may come when we must ask whether we should even build the system. Times may come when we need to undertake the act of destroying records, because not to do so would bring even greater harm.
Tillman reminds readers of the precarity of labor in our profession, and the ways in which library labor models and siloed job titles and descriptions can work against the ultimate purpose of GLAMs. She closes her editorial by describing the incalculable cultural and personal value of GLAM institutions, and delivers a call to continue the complicated work that underpins those fundamental principles of the profession.