Library Matters / Libraries Matter: #MeToo Posted on November 17th, 2017 by

As major allegations of sexual assault and harassment conducted by politicians, entertainers, CEOs and others have unfolded over the past weeks, the #MeToo movement has spread across social media. Using the #MeToo hashtag, women and men are speaking up about their experiences of sexual assault. Some shared specific stories. Others said, “It happened to me, but I don’t owe you any details.”

Library science is a female-dominated profession that has never been free of sexual politics (although what is?). Melvil Dewey, a founder of modern library systems, and yep, of the decimal system you might know, sexually harassed his co-workers and believed women would make excellent librarians because they could tolerate repetitive work and didn’t cause trouble. (Library work is anything but repetitive – and librarians are great at causing good kinds of trouble – but more on this in a future post.)

It’s vital that we examine sexual harassment in the world of libraries – and everywhere else. A few weeks ago, Kelly Jensen at Book Riot put an informal survey in the field, inviting library workers to share their thoughts and experiences of sexual harassment and assault in libraries. Within two weeks she had over 250 responses, detailing violating and traumatic encounters workers have experienced from co-workers and patrons alike.

Her article contains a call to action and reflection for the library community: Why do most libraries have active shooter training but not training in how to deal with a patron (or co-worker) making unwanted sexual advances? How well do our policies protect those who have experienced sexual assault and harassment? To what degree are the perpetrators prosecuted?

The #MeToo movement calls on all of us to examine our workplaces and practices. It’s also a reminder that as democratic institutions, libraries play an essential role in connecting our communities with information to support those affected and to help end a culture of sexual harassment and assault.

This post is part of the Library Matters/Libraries Matter blog series



One Comment

  1. Martin says:

    >…and librarians are great at causing good kinds of trouble – but more on this in a future post.