I want to reblog Lisa Hoover’s wonderful post from the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Blog without too much ado. Hoover’s post, “Librarians as Cultural Warriors & Protectors,” delves into Rebecca Knuth’s recent book Libricide to discuss the ways that librarians, archivists, curators, and other information professionals have both resisted and supported censorship. Knuth argues that “libricide” is part of a calculated effort by extremists to destroy a peoples’ culture by undermining its written heritage.
One quick rumination: I was thinking about Pierre Bourdieu while reading the post and it made me agree even more wholeheartedly as I read. In Outline of a Theory of Practice, Bourdieu argued that culture is best understood as habitus: the set of strategies, or the “rulebook,” by which people live. If x occurs, our habitus instructs us, do y. For its participants, the habitus is true. This is what troubles so many people about postmodernism. It acknowledges that what is true within one habitus is not true within another. Librarians may or may not choose to worry about truth, but a culture’s texts, in whatever form they take, are critical building blocks of habitus; and, for the culture within which they are embedded, libraries are regarded as repositories of truth. Extremism seeks to undermine truth by attacking existing authorities as well as free thought. If truth and culture are intertwined at the library—and if you’re the kind of person inclined to read the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Blog, I’m willing to bet you agree that they are—it is no wonder that libraries are often the first target of extremists. Information professionals occupy the vanguard of the fight against extremism.
Here’s a link to the post, once again.