Narratives of (Dis)Enfranchisement: Reckoning with the History of Libraries and the Black and African American Experience

ALA Editions. Aug. 2022. 88p. ISBN 9780838937372. pap. $24.99. PRO MEDIA
It’s a myth that libraries are race-neutral spaces that provide equal service to all users, according to the extensive, eye-opening research conducted by Overbey (assistant professor and social sciences librarian) and Folk (associate professor and Teaching and Learning Department head), who both work at the Ohio State Univ. Libraries. Their unflinching report emphasizes there’s a naïve perception that everything automatically improves for BIPOC users, who battle discrimination daily, when they enter the library. The authors acknowledge that individual libraries and librarians are working hard to affect change, but their findings indicate that the library system is among the American institutions that were never built for users of color—especially Black people—to thrive. To change that, the authors present several calls to action: avoid color-evasiveness, an ideology that insinuates that race is irrelevant and that even acknowledging it creates tension and conflict; explore the role the lives of BIPOC individuals and their library experiences play in their perceptions about service, a perspective the authors found is rarely addressed; and prioritize that research and distribute it through the ALA.
VERDICT Essential reading, discussion, and action for everyone who works within the library industry.
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