Sofia Leung: “Library Collections Continue to Promote and Proliferate Whiteness With Their Very Existence”
The Library Journal and Sofia Leung claimed that "library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence."
The Library Journal claimed that “library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence.”
The Library Journal took to Twitter to promote an article by Sofia Leung claiming library collections promote “whiteness” and “they are physically taking up space in our libraries.”
Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. Via @sofiayleung https://t.co/iKEk0462Mh pic.twitter.com/ov8hZ5Zt2J
— Library Journal (@LibraryJournal) April 16, 2019
In her six-point article, Leung claims to be inspired by Netflix phenomenon Marie Kondo, the Still Processing podcast, an experience at a “white AF conference” where she shared an AirBnB with librarian Vani Natarajan, Cheryl I. Harris’ “whiteness as property” theory from the 1993 Harvard Law Review, and a book she is working on about Critical Race Theory in Library and Information Studies with her co-editor Jorge and Shaundra Walker. She focuses on Ms. Kondo’s “spiritual approach” to objects and how their relationships with those objects explain our own attachments to them.
During her conference experience, Leung indicates she was introduced to “one of the mind-blowing things [Vani Natarajan] shared.” She writes, “this idea of how our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks.”
After detailing all of her influences, Leung tries to connect the dots.
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“If you look at any United States library’s collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things, or ideas, people, and things they stole from POC and then claimed as white property with all of the ‘rights to use and enjoyment of.'”
She would add:
“When most of our collections filled with this so-called “knowledge,” it continues to validate only white voices and perspectives and erases the voices of people of color.”
“Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten and at the cost of black and brown lives via the prison industrial complex, the spoils of war, etc.”
“Libraries filled with mostly white collections indicates that we don’t care about what POC think, we don’t care to hear from POC themselves, we don’t consider POC to be scholars, we don’t think POC are as valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people.”
Sofia Leung faced quite a bit of pushback with many referencing that Leung’s ideas were excuses for book burning.
And this is why I’ve started collecting hardbacks of classic literature. We’re not far before the serious calls for book burnings start.
— Jason (@jcstauff) April 16, 2019
In a few years you’re going to have to bury fine literature in the garden and stuff currency in the mattress. I think liberals are confusing Progressive with Regressive.
— B. Houseman (@babyhou49254220) April 16, 2019
I predicted this day was coming, I just thought it’d be 200-300 years after I was safely dead
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 16, 2019
Others pointed out the ridiculousness of the The Library Journal promoting the article:
Surprised to find that this was just somebody’s blog post. Library Journal went out of its way to promote it. And of course, the blog post is not particularly coherent. What does “really smart folx” mean?
— Arne Christensen (@ArneChristensen) April 17, 2019
Perhaps we should all read Farenheit 451 again?
— Joseph Hamrick (@HB_JHamrick) April 16, 2019
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) April 16, 2019
The function of the library is to maintain the books entrusted to its care. Please feel free to depart at your leisure and write your own work. I am certain tens of readers will anxiously await publication.
— DJGOLDEN (@FREE_REMARKS) April 16, 2019
Have you considered the opportunities offered by code learning?
— Gray Connolly (@GrayConnolly) April 16, 2019
The Twitter Handle didn’t take it sitting down. They retweeted a tweet mocking people for their concern and issue with the article:
What are your thoughts on Sofia Leung’s ideas on collections within the library system. Does she make any fine points? Do you think this is racism? Please share your thoughts!