Why these librarians are protesting Trump’s executive orders

“Libraries Are For Everyone.” That’s the message of a series of images created by Rebecca McCorkindale in the days after President Donald Trump announced the temporary travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. She never expected her signs of inclusion to go further than a handful of libraries. 

But by the time she’d woken up the following day, she had received messages from librarians across the world wanting their languages represented. And libraries across the country — in Illinois, Minnesota, California, Virginia — had begun putting up the images as posters, along with displays about books on Islam, empathy and being a good neighbor. 

McCorkindale, who is assistant library director and creative director at the Gretna, Nebraska, public library, said she created the images because she believes librarians can and should be activists. 

“Libraries are the heart of a community, for anyone and everyone that lives there, regardless of their background,” she said. “And so we strongly believe that libraries are not neutral. We stand up for human rights.”

She is not the only one. Since Mr. Trump took office a little more than three weeks ago, a vocal and growing number of librarians across the country have begun to take a more politically active stance.

But it began before that, after the revelation of the role so-called “fake news” had played in the election. Librarians, sometimes considered an antiquated breed, were swiftly deemed essential in the fight against disinformation. And libraries across the country responded, promoting researcher-vetted content, hosting community discussions on fake news and sharing libguides to help people think critically about what they were reading.

Post-inauguration, reports that the new administration was quick to clamp down on the flow of information from some federal agencies prompted additional anxiety among librarians. The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, for one, immediately condemned what it saw as government censorship. “ALA opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information,” wrote the association, which typically fights for privacy and against banned books in schools, such as “Brave New World” or “Twilight.” (Librarians and scientists had also preemptively begun preserving what they saw as vulnerable government information online, including climate data.)

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Chris Alexakiswomen, art, government