Introduction to Library and Information Science/Annotation of Blanke, Henry T. "Librarianship and Political Values: Neutrality or Commitment?"

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Blanke, Henry T. "Librarianship and Political Values: Neutrality or Commitment?" Library Journal (1989): 39-43.

Librarians have often taken a politically neutral stance as a way to gain professional status. In this literature review, the author argues that by not defining their political values, librarians will be influenced by those with economic and political power. This will threaten the public’s access to information while corporations profit. The author disagrees with a prediction by Thomas Suprenant and Claudia Perry-Holmes that libraries can enhance their “institutional status” by charging patrons and offering “information stamps” to those who cannot pay. They believe the profession can stay alive if librarians focus on “efficiency, productivity, and quality control” and compete with the private sector. Librarians must lose their neutral viewpoints and publicly fight for equal access to information.

The author’s argument is made stronger with examples of how information traditionally handled by the government was turned over to private vendors during the Reagan administration. Library services based on ability to pay, which the author compares to this country’s health care system, would greatly accelerate the digital divide. Since this article was written, librarians have become more outspoken. Legislation following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted the ALA to adopt resolutions opposing attempts to restrict access to government information on the basis of national security issues. Librarians’ concerns about the Patriot Act led to proposed legislation and several ALA policies urging user privacy and open access. Librarians are fighting the government for the public’s sake, but they must act before access is threatened, not after it is denied.