Monday, May 10, 2010

Librarians and the New Arizona Laws

The new anti-immigration laws have made headlines all over the news. This controversial attempt to solve the immigration problem has put many Hispanic and other organization on edge. Boycotts and protests have been organized declaring the law discriminatory and unconstitutional.
In view of this recent events, what is the role of the librarian?
As we have seen in recent months, when the economy is in crisis, libraries and the services they provide increase in use and importance. Libraries provide access to job postings for those without Internet access. We help find information on how to write resumes and cover letters, as well as books and activities for children and families who don't have resources at home. It is clear that the library is an essential source for those economically disadvantaged during tough times.
Having said that, these new anti-immigration laws (Oklahoma wants to pass a similar law, unsurprisingly) make our job of trying to reach the Immigrant population in general and the Hispanic population in particular difficult. We must understand that the library is viewed as a government agency. If these populations feel persecuted by the police and other government agencies, it is only logical for them to think that the library would question their legal status as well.
This could not be further from the truth. We don't care about any of our patron's legal status. We only consider their status as a taxpayer to receive a library card. Even though most public libraries are government agencies, we will not call the authorities on anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. It is not within the scope of our profession. We are bound by a code of ethics to serve any and all patrons regardless of gender, race, religious views of, for that matter, citizenship status.
For the librarians: keep in mind that Hispanics and Latinos are currently experiencing feelings of persecution, and don't be surprised if they stop showing up to the library or avoid staff help. The only thing we can do is to reassure them that we as professionals guard their privacy and would not disclose any personal information to authorities.

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