August 1, 2008

Librarian as Patriot

I am patriotic. I am liberal. I am anti-war. And in what I feel is in no way contradictory, and in every way a natural outgrowth of these traits, I am a librarian. Libraries and librarians are two of the most enduring manifestations of American values and the American dream: inclusion, opportunity, free enterprise, freedom of information, education, free speech. Some things in life are free. Be one of those.

Sixty-six years ago, in a letter to SLA president Laura Woodward, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt heralded the work of special librarians as being "on America's front line." We can be. Are you? An oft-quoted part of that letter says special librarians do their work "anonymously and unsung." While this is a fitting tribute to many, there is no reason the anonymity has to continue. Express your librarianship, and your patriotism, with pride.

To those who know me it comes as no surprise that in my library office I have a large American flag, on the North wall, to its own right, as specified in flag code. Not only am I a patriot, I am a patriot who is not afraid to show it, and not afraid of those who think the flag, particularly since 9-11, belongs to the right or to those who openly support the current war(s). I have flown my flag since long before it was commonplace, and I will continue to do so even when the contemporary yet precarious popularity of flying it fades.

FDR's tribute is as timely as it is timeless, even if it means different things to different people.

Access to a transcription of FDR's letter appears in "Selective Publication of Information" by John Sherrod, on page 387 of the 55th Anniversary issue of Special Libraries, July-August 1964, volume 55, number 6.

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