Face the Music – Being Honest about the History of School Librarianship

How would you react to history that goes directly against what you thought to be true? While obtaining my master’s in library science, I have come to consider the library as a beacon of truth, and a place that fights injustice and promotes equity and equality. My idea of the library has been a romanticized by my experiences and knowledge. Weigand’s keynote address, and follow up comments and reactions from other library professionals challenged some of my preexisting views on the library, its history and its role in the school.

Image 1
Carrie Coleman Robinson
(Weigand, 2020)

Weigand points out that there has not yet been a comprehensive history of school libraries in the United States. One big finding in his research for his book, American Public School Librarianship: A History, is that, “most of our history shows our professional discourse to be very positive, to be cautious of addressing issues that perplex us” (Weigand, 2021). He tells the story of a black library supervisor, Carrie Coleman Robinson, who was in charge of black segregated libraries in the South and later filed a discrimination suit (See Image 1). Weigand points out that up until this point, the library associations had not dealt with the issue of segregated schools. Then, when the Black Caucus asked the ALA to make a statement about Robinson’s case, they refused. In my mind, this casts a dark shadow on what I believed about the school library as an organization. In one of my first blogposts, I commented on how impressed I was about the comprehensiveness of the ALA and AASL resources and statements. When George Floyd was murdered, organizations, such as the ALA issued statements supporting social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. They offer statements, definitions of terms, and links to resources to take action, from police reform to racial equity in the library. In addition, the ALA admits that in terms of diversity, “the librarian profession suffers from a persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity that shows few signs of improving” (“Libraries Respond,” 2021). This, now to my understanding, is a transparency that is necessary to uphold the so called values of the library. However, this is history about which librarians and future librarians should be knowledgeable. It makes our work even more necessary and should us proud of how far the establishment has come, while considering how much more it needs to improve.

Image by un-perfekt from Pixabay


Libraries respond: Black lives matter. (2020, June 3). American Library Association. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/librariesrespond/black-lives-matter

Weigand, W. (2021, July 12-16). Conference opening ceremony and keynote address by Wayne Weigand and panel. [Conference session]. IASL 2021 Annual Conference, Denton, TX, United States. https://iasl-online.org/event-3667867

Weigand, W. (2020, October 6). Separate – and unequal.  American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2020/10/06/separate-and-unequal-carrie-c-robinson-librarian-challenging-racism/

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