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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.”

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.

She writes:

“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.”

She continued:

“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.”

She concludes:

“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.

Others pointed out the ridiculousness of the The Library Journal promoting the article:

The Twitter Handle didn’t take it sitting down. They retweeted a tweet mocking people for their concern and issue with the article:

Library Journal

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!

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