Principles, Values, and the College Library in the Age of Trump

Never has the value of our academic libraries been more essential than in the days of Trump.

Never have our academic librarians been more essential to the core mission of education, discovery and service of our institutions than in the current political climate.

It has never been more important for those of us outside the library, and especially those of us in higher education technology, to do all we can to support our academic libraries. and our university librarians.

This all became clear and urgent to me after reading Barbara Fister’s article, The media has always been the opposition party.

It makes sense for an academic librarian to uphold the values ​​of freedom of the press and freedom of expression, because the profession and discipline of academic librarians are built around a core set of values.

I have long thought that those of us in the world of higher education technology can learn much from our fellow librarians in their insistence on articulating, and then stubbornly following, a set of clearly stated principles.

The values ​​espoused by academic librarians that seem particularly central to guiding all of our actions and behaviors in higher education during the Trump presidency can be found in the Association of College & Research Libraries statement on Principles of intellectual freedom. There is a wonderful pdf of these principles which is suitable for hanging on an office door.

The 3 principles of ACRL that I believe are most relevant to all of us in higher education in the Trump era include:

  • The privacy of library users is and must be inviolable.
  • In the interests of research and learning, it is essential that collections contain material representing a variety of viewpoints on topics that may be considered controversial.
  • A service philosophy should be promoted that provides equal access to information for all in the University community without discrimination based on race, values, gender, sexual orientation, cultural or ethnic origin, physical disability or learning, economic status, religious beliefs, or views.

As a specialist in higher education technology (and a former professor), I think I’m on pretty solid ground in saying that the moral center of gravity of higher education is in our academic libraries.

In the weeks and months ahead, we in higher education will be called upon to take a series of policy positions. We would do well to learn from our colleagues in university libraries how they resisted the unreasonable demands of government and the pressures of popular opinion. We would do well to understand how academic librarians have put values ​​at the center of all their policies and actions.

Those of us who work at the intersection of technology and education would especially benefit from any opportunities we might have to learn from our colleagues in academic libraries. This is a time when we can clearly articulate a set of values ​​in academic computing, and then enact policies that align with those values.

If we are to follow our library colleagues, these values ​​will go beyond a narrow conception of the role of higher education computing and encompass the broader societal values ​​that are so well captured in the ACRL Statement of Principles.

How can those of us in higher education in computer science and digital education most effectively learn from and support our colleagues in academic libraries?

How can we all follow the example of our university libraries, and put our values ​​at the center of all our work?

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