I read Richard Tomlinson's recent letter in the Chronicle captioned "Pushing an Agenda" with keen interest. I offer a different perspective on the issues he raised.
Firstly, it's important to acknowledge our mutual support for LGBTQIA+ rights and distinguish between books intended for adults versus those for children. I share his concern that age-appropriate content in public libraries shall be maintained.
Secondly, I respectfully disagree with the writer's assessment of the American Library Association (ALA) as well its motives. The ALA's commitment to diverse literature, including LGBTQIA+ and racial themes, does NOT equate to pushing a particular agenda, lifestyle or philosophy. Public libraries aim to provide a wide range of perspectives and voices to serve the diverse needs of every community it serves.
While ALA President Emily Drabinski's personal beliefs and sexual preferences are public knowledge at this point, it is essential to remember that individuals' personal beliefs do not always dictate the actions of the entire organization. The ALA's mission is to promote intellectual freedom, equitable access to information, and the right of all individuals to express their viewpoints, regardless of their personal beliefs.
Thirdly, regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, the goal is not to replace merit, fairness, or equality but to address historical disparities and create a more inclusive society. DEI recognizes that systemic biases have affected opportunities. It aims to level the playing field so that everyone, regardless of their background, has a fair chance to succeed in their endeavors.
It's crucial to clarify that advocating for DEI does not mean undermining merit-based systems. Rather, it seeks to ensure that systemic biases do not stay entrenched that disadvantage certain groups, including individuals who may identify with them.
Lastly, while it's valid to express concern about any organization's actions, it's equally important to remember that libraries and the ALA aim to serve the diverse needs and interests of communities. Public libraries exist to provide a wide array of ideas, allowing individuals to make informed choices.
In a democratic republic like the United States, open dialogue and differing opinions are keys to appreciating our intersectionality. The decision-making process involves community input to elected representatives, a vital component of ensuring fairness to every person. Public policy may not discriminate against anybody, yet still reflect progress and moving forward, not backwards. For the good of every American, having healthy debates and discussion lead to a continuous, thriving democracy.
Linda Sue Varonich