Sexual Harassment In Libraries, Post-#MeToo: What Has and Hasn’t Changed?

In October 2017, #MeToo became a viral movement. Started nearly a decade prior by Tarana Burke, #MeToo shined a spotlighted on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault. People from all walks of life, from all career, educational, racial, cultural, gender, and faith backgrounds shared their experiences.

This includes those who work in libraries. Sexual harassment in libraries, as seen, was routinely downplayed, ignored, or outright rejected as a reality of the job. That harassment, prevalent in part because of the interaction those who work in these institutions have with the public and in part because of the workplace cultures themselves, surprised many while also not surprising others.

But what has come of sexual harassment, professional discourse, education, and change in the year and a half since?

No matter how powerful a revelation the #MeToo movement had across industries, nothing can change unless dialog begins and methods of implementing change begin. This means not only ensuring that professional associations have these conversations and provide tools for beginning change, but it also means ensuring that on the individual level, organizations are making adjustments that protect their individual employees. For libraries, this might mean the American Library Association or various state-level organizations provide blueprints for change and offer forums at not only their in-person meetings but also through easily-accessible webinars and white paper reports. These provide tools for library systems and individual libraries to use for crafting their own responses and policies, building their own staff development programs, and responding in ways that protect their employees and their patrons.

Sexual harassment in libraries, post-#MeToo. What has and hasn't changed in the library world about sexual harassment has and has not changed? sexual harassment | sexual harassment in libraries | libraries | working in libraries | library jobs | librarians | library life | librarian life

How Libraries Responded Post-#MeToo

On January 17, 2019, a survey was distributed via social media to ascertain where and how libraries have implemented changes relating to sexual harassment and their employees. Any library employee—self-defined—was welcome to respond to the series of questions, answering as many or as few as felt appropriate.

Although the response rate was lower than the initial survey from 2017, the responses to this survey reflected a wide range of voices, institutions, and experiences. As before, responses were anonymous and included ample opportunity to provide as much input as desired. An email address was included on top of the survey for those with questions or comments, with the knowledge that some library employees desired a space to air their stories without it being included more formally. Most respondents filled in the survey to completion, though a handful reached out privately to share their stories and experiences. Those, considered separate from the survey itself, are not included in this piece, but they’re a startling reminder of the sensitivity of this conversation and how challenging many find it to put their traumatic experiences into words.

Responses were almost entirely from those working in public libraries. A few responses came from those working in school libraries. The vast majority of responses were from those working in the same library they’d been working in Fall of 2017. Knowing that this is the case, responses to additional questions related to changes seen highlight a more longitudinal look at the implementation of training, discourse, and protections against sexual harassment for library workers.

 

Training on Sexual Harassment in Libraries

 

Keeping in mind the majority of those who responded work in the same facility where they worked when #MeToo emerged, it was refreshing to see that half of the respondents have seen new sexual harassment training and policies implemented in their own library. Unfortunately, most responses indicated that the sexual harassment training was underwhelming or useless altogether. They were county- or city-mandated and were often done through video. Many noted, too, that those trainings did a disservice to the realities of working with the public, instead focusing on how to handle sexual harassment among coworkers.

The town has implemented procedures and policy for every town service (libraries, rec center, town hall etc) in regards to harassment by fellow employees and supervisors. NOT the public,” said one.

This sentiment was echoed elsewhere. “[S]exual harassment occurring between staff members and or their supervisors has been discussed. Training and procedures for reporting it have been implemented. No discussion or training or procedures have been implemented regarding sexual harassment of library employees by members of the public or between members of the public.”  

Another response noted that the training was not focused on the library employees at all, but rather, on what happens if something happens to a patron. “They’ve talked a little bit about it at our ‘Staff Training Day’ which is system-wide but since we only have a few men on staff in our system, they haven’t had any real discussion of staff harassment (or same-sex harassment either). Just what to do if a patron is being harassed.”

Sometimes, it comes down to simply having no idea what to do and not having a leader step forward to discuss or craft a policy. “It’s funny (and by funny I mean really, really sad) how much the library system seems to struggle with sexual harassment training. We’ve had multiple meetings on who to talk to and what to do when the harassment happens because it all boils down to the fact that they don’t even know who you should talk to. I work at a library where almost all of the employees get along and is pretty much female dominated, so there’s very little to no employee-employee harassment. The issue is ALWAYS when it’s coming from a patron, and no one really ever knows where to go from there. We all feel helpless because the issues never really get resolved, they just get lost in the limbo of time and patron incident reports.”

Many responses suggested that even in cases where training was more than a video or module as part of regularly mandated training, it wasn’t taken seriously. In more than one comment, it was noted that that training was for management—a valuable step, of course, but one that further suggests the lack of consideration for sexual harassment coming from the patron-to-library-employee side.

In some cases, though, the training was seen as a box to check, rather than an opportunity to dig into the challenges. “[W]e had a staff-wide training session on sexual harassment, which I did not attend because I was on vacation. However, from what I heard, the presentation did not go well. Admin took up most of the presentation time talking about sexual harassment from a corporate perspective (not helpful in a library setting) and my coworker who was going to present on responses & in-the-moment techniques and patron-based harassment only got a few minutes squeezed in at the end.”

Training may not have occurred at all. Instead, responses to sexual harassment incidents may simply be a reiteration of current policy, rather than an opportunity to have a staff discussion. “We have discussed procedures but have not had any formal training. The discussion occurred after one of our staff members (me) was harassed at work. Our discussion was about leaving the situation as soon as it is uncomfortable, always telling a manager so that they may address it immediately, and looking out for coworkers and pulling them out of harmful patron interactions.”

For those who have implemented new training and policies since Fall 2017, though, not everything has been underwhelming. In libraries where discussions occurred, either at staff days or during regular staff meetings, more work was put into craft workshops, trainings, and policies to protect employees not only from inter-employee harassment, but also sexual harassment from those they serve.

My current director developed training on sexual harassment/harassment from patrons and how to respond. She has given the training once to staff and will be repeating it later this year. She also made the powerpoints of the slide available to all staff. The city I work for does annual sexual harassment in the workplace training, but my director thought we needed something more tailored to our roles,” said one.

Another said, “Our library had not had any form of harassment training in several years. We had the HR director for our county conduct (general) harassment training at our staff training day. The presentation was abysmal, making light of several forms of harassment. In response, our staff training unit is creating a harassment course on our LMS, including a sexual harassment unit.”

#MeToo and the discussion of sexual harassment in libraries more broadly wasn’t the only impetus for change, though. In some cases, it was a rise in incidents on the local level. “We have discussed it multiple times due to a rise of incidents in our library, not because of #metoo. We now make sure to check in on our staff members and back them up or “rescue” them if need be, or the library staff member being harassed will excuse themselves (sometimes just walking away, not even being polite about it). If we’re able to confront the patron about their behavior then we inform them they’ve violated Patron Code of Conduct by harassing library staff members and always take the side of the staff member (e.g. no “I didn’t mean that” or “I was just being nice!” allowed). If they protest too much we will ask them to leave for the day. Basically, sexually harassment or even making a staff member uncomfortable (we have lots of folks who may not be directly “harassing” the staff member but staff member feels uncomfortable by patron’s behavior/words) is not tolerated whatsoever.”  

While there’s been progress in some libraries, there’s been no progress in others. Again, half of the responses indicated there’d been no sexual harassment discussion or training in their libraries in the last eighteen months.

My system has a systemwide inservice/training day every year. It would be the perfect time to discuss this issue, but it hasn’t happened,” said one. “Not more than to say we already address ‘inappropriate or disruptive behavior’ in our current code of conduct, so no new policies were discussed,” another noted.

 

Does Sexual Harassment Still Happen?

I told the patron to compliment my job not my physical attributes and he proceeded to ‘compliment’ another part of my anatomy. Myself and  coworker both sent e-mail documentation of the incident to my direct supervisor and the library director. The patron was banned for one week and I no longer had to assist him when he came into the library. 2 years later and that patron is still blaming me for what I was wearing in comments to staff who help him. He had a screaming meltdown when told not to discuss me. The director declared him unstable and I was told to go to the office and remain there until he leaves whenever he comes in.”

The rate of responses in the prior survey suggested not only that sexual harassment in libraries was rampant, but that those who’ve experienced it first hand, had seen it, or had heard about it, were ready to talk about it. Too often, as seen across all fields, talking about sexual harassment is not easy; however, when the cultural dialog makes space for sharing, many are eager to finally have their voices heard.

Unfortunately, despite how much the #MeToo movement made space for these stories, it hasn’t made them stop. It has, however, given more language for those to speak up. This was evident in not only the number of stories of sexual harassment shared in the survey, but also in how they were described and framed as abusive. As one respondent noted, “Sometimes it feels like it’s on the rise, but perhaps we just have staff members more willing to bring it to a supervisor or other staff member’s attention, or more folks unwilling to let things pass.”

What’s interesting, though, is that despite what many have noted as a lack of solid sexual harassment training, discussion, or policy creation, these incidents note actions taken both on the part of the victim and by those with the power. Perhaps this ties into what others noted about management receiving more training, even if it hasn’t necessarily trickled down to discussion and policy crafting with those working on the front lines.

An older gentleman told me that I ‘filled out my jeans well’ that day. I told my direct boss, who shared the incident with the other managers. The next time the patron came in, two supervisors took him aside and communicated that his commentary was not acceptable (without naming me) and that if it continued, they would get the police involved. This man has continued to come to the library and has not spoken to me since,” said one.

Another response said, “A patron ran his hands down my body as I was trying to maneuver around him. He went from my shoulders all the way down to my waist. In the moment I left the situation immediately, and I ended up emailing my manager as soon as I got home. He believed me without question, talked to the patron and asked him not to come back to the library. He has not returned since. We also had a discussion privately where my manager apologized that he did not notice it sooner (he was in the room when it happened but was working on something and had his head down) and checked up on me multiple times to make sure I was ok and said he was there to talk.”

The lack of training, discussion, and policy change, though, also means many are forced to make decisions on their own or worse, they feel that reporting incidents or problems will not lead to any change. “I’m a femme working in a major downtown library, so it happens just about every day from male patrons. I don’t even bother reporting it because I feel like I’m overdoing it even though each individual situation does make me uncomfortable. It’s just like, what are they going to do, ban all these men from the library? And actually enforce that? It’s a lot. So my actions are more preventive, not using the elevator alone with men and trying not to let answering basic library questions ‘escalate,’ as it were, into anything personal. I also have had an ongoing issue with our security guard, who has made harassing comments toward me. I brought it up with my (woman) boss once, but I was so upset that I asked if we could continue the conversation later. When I realized that everyone else seems to like this guy, including the women, I never brought it up again.”

Unfortunately, as noted above, incident reports are still a primary tool used by most libraries for patron problems, often without followup or change. “I started out as a page and just recently got bumped up to an Library Assistant. I work at a fairly large library, with an additional children’s floor and adult floor. As a page your work is mainly independent, so you’re not only alone, but also vulnerable. People would rather approach you than approach the help desk. I’m also a 5’2, young college student, so I don’t come off as unapproachable. Most of my sexual harassment incidents have been with male patrons, mostly grown men who could be my father’s age. I was once waiting for the elevator when a older male patron came up to me and started talking to me. He was boasting about how he worked with Jim Henson on The Muppets and so on, so of course, I humored him and engaged in what I believed would just be small talk, until he followed me to the Youth floor. At the time I was younger and not comfortable speaking up and telling him I needed to get back to work. I tried to start shelving to get the point across that I needed to end the conversation, but he either didn’t notice or just didn’t care. He eventually started to make small comments about me during his talk, first about how my glasses looked nice, and then escalated to how my outfit looked really nice on my body. I felt disgusted with him just looking at me after that. When the conversation seemed like it was reaching its end, he asked, ‘May I shake the hand of a lady?’ ????? Who says that! Hoping he would leave me alone, I took his hand only for him to grab it and try to kiss it. I yelled and shouted ‘No!’ He finally left, I went down to my supervisor and told her what happened and was very shaken up. Then I had to file a report, only to be told, ‘Yeah, we know him. He does that. Just let us know if he does anything like that again.’ Nothing ever came out of it because of how we do our incident reports and he still comes to the library from time to time.”

There are times the problem is not addressed at all and instead, staff are made to change their schedules. “Countless incidents of disrespectful sexually loaded remarks have resulting in patrons being trespassed from the building, One incident of a patron groping a library staff member have resulted in a 1 year trespass. One incident of a patron forcibly kissing a library staff member has resulted in a 1 year trespass.  Disturbingly we have had an ongoing problem with 1 library patron who was operating several fantasy social media personas. on these accounts the patron seems to have an elaborate fantasy about being the manager of our library and being married to one of my co-workers. The social media accounts are filled with obsessive sexually charged content. Many cell phone photographs of my co-worker taken covertly have been posted. Library management is aware of the issue. This patron comes to the library every day, but has never interacted in anyway with a member of library staff.  Library management has chosen to monitor the content of profiles and only report the profiles as fake, no trespass has been issued. Staff member who was the object of this patron’s fixation simply was given choice to transfer to a different branch. Staff member chose to transfer. This patron still comes to the library every day.”

Worse, sometimes the blame for the harassment is placed on the victims themselves. “Yes. From patrons. We had to call the police because someone hugged me when I told him not to and made comments about my body, etc. The comment started about me gaining weight – which he liked. After he hugged me without my permission he stated that someone might congratulate him for ‘finally getting some.’ I have had patrons say ‘that ass!’ or that they like me on my knees while I am helping them find books, etc. We have also had multiple incidents at this library where males have exposed themselves to female patrons or library workers. Not every incident ended with the patron being banned. Some of us were told we were ‘too friendly’ to these patrons and thus shouldn’t be surprised when they commented inappropriately to us or touched us without consent.”

It is never the fault of the victim.  This is crucial to reiterate, especially in situations where women make up the majority of a profession and where, as noted in nearly every response, it’s not women who are making the inappropriate comments or advances. Despite the role disparity between library worker and patron, gender may play a role in flipping the script, and, as seen in cases like the one above, can send mixed messages about responsibility.

There is hope, though, as more management models how they handle these situations when on the front public service line themselves. “As a manager it is important for me to model appropriate behaviors for my staff. I had to tell a customer not to ask personal questions of staff recently. I had a customer tell me to smile, which I did not do, but confirmed he did not need any library help and then left the desk. I talk with staff a lot about this topic- these kinds of behaviors come up very regularly in the public library.”

Working with the public means just that: working with the public. Unfortunately, even as cultural discussions around sexual harassment and #MeToo continue, they haven’t changed the behaviors unilaterally. They also haven’t changed policies or training, either, as those still focus on situations within the office environment, rather than when dealing with the general public. But, as more managers find means of educating themselves and modeling the ways that they deal with the unwanted advances and inappropriate behaviors they receive from the public, the more they can not only offer tools for their staff, but they can help crack open the dialog and ensure the safety of both staff and patrons.

 

Speaking About Harassment With Administration

Even if the changes on the library level haven’t been significant, perhaps the cracking open of the conversation about sexual harassment in the library has made employees more comfortable talking with administration about their experiences. Having the language to use, as well as evidence that others have experienced similar situations and named them as inappropriate, can help to make fostering the dialog one-on-one easier.

Many responses noted that they’d feel more comfortable speaking up now than they did prior to Fall 2017. They’re optimistic and realistic about why: some noted that they believe administration would be more sympathetic, and others noted that they feel obligated to speak up, as others may not have the capacity to or privilege afforded to be able to do so. That said, the majority of those who did note they’d feel more comfortable approaching administration felt their comments would not see a response or resolution. This was particularly evident in situations where harassment came from patrons, as opposed to coworkers.

I would feel comfortable reporting to security and my supervisor, but I wouldn’t hold out hope that admin would actually do anything serious about it,” said one comment.

Another noted “If it is different from Fall 2017, it is because of my own development as a person and self-advocate. I did report instances of harassment to a supervisor or manager and nothing was done about them. It goes to show how well that lack of response worked, though: I left my job.”

“I know more that I need to report it now, but I don’t want it to be dismissed or someone think I’m being too sensitive so I probably wouldn’t report it unless it was over the top and made me super uncomfortable,” said another library employee.

Fortunately, a handful of responses noted that they have seen a change in their administration’s receptiveness to discussing sexual harassment. These responses tended to come from those who have also seen a change in the workplace ethos more broadly in regards to sexual harassment—either training has been implemented or updated via means noted above.

Gender was specifically noted, too, as part of why many felt more comfortable in approaching administration about sexual harassment. In spaces where higher ups were female—especially in situations where the female administrator was put in place after Fall 2017—many felt more comfortable.

As of April 2018, my direct supervisor is a woman whom I trust, and I know that she would take any allegations of sexual harassment seriously. Also, our head of safety and security has given us the tools necessary to protect ourselves in the workplace should sexual harassment arise, and know that we would not come under any form of persecution regardless of the outcome of the situation. This was not always the case in our library system, but as of right now, I feel quite comfortable knowing that my administration and supervisors have my back.”

Depends on the extent of the harassment, the patron involved, etc. If I felt my safety was threatened, yes I would probably tell my manager. I’m more likely to tell my manager now than I was in fall of 2017, because my previous branch manager was a man who had a reputation throughout the system for misogyny. While he never harassed anyone and didn’t do anything super wrong, there was always this paternalism about him, and a sense that he liked his male employees better than his female ones and felt threatened when we showed authority. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking to him about these issues. In fact, one time, when our security guard did step in and stop a guy who was talking to me, my manager was nearby and said something like ‘if that happens, you can just pretend you’re busy with something else.’ Which is a nice thought, but it’s not that easy, and I got the sense he didn’t understand why I can’t always just ignore the person.”

“I would feel comfortable, since the library dean and associate dean are both female. I can’t speak to a different response since I was not working here in Fall of 2017 with previous administration.”

“As I noted above, if I felt something was ‘bad enough’ to report, I would feel comfortable telling my boss —mainly because she’s a woman. But the bar for ‘bad enough’ seems to be rising, as if I have to be violently assaulted for it to be worth discussing, since ‘basic harassment’ — mostly in the realm of disgusting, unwanted, sexual comments — happens so often.”

“Yes, now. I did not report to previous administration due to old-boys’-network administrative staff, but turnover has resulted in a much more positive administrative team who I could feel confident would take action.”

Despite how positive the responses here were and how many indicated that there was more comfort in speaking up, in addition to the lack of response some felt would come from administration, there were a number of responses indicating that they didn’t feel more comfortable speaking up now. As one survey respondent commented, “[N]othing is ever done. We’re ‘too sensitive’ or ‘they didn’t mean it that way.’”

Structural hierarchy may also impact whether or not someone speaks up. “I feel that if it were someone else I had been witnessed to, I would. If it were myself, I’m not sure if I would or not. Being a new employee in a system that has high turnover and strict seniority rules makes it hard to put yourself in a vulnerable position without feeling like it will look poorly on my work or employment.” Another library employee noted, “I know more that I need to report it now, but I don’t want it to be dismissed or someone think I’m being too sensitive so I probably wouldn’t report it unless it was over the top and made me super uncomfortable. “

 

How Library Professional Organizations Responded Post-#MeToo

Have library professional organizations, whether on the local level, the state level, or national level, offered up any resources helpful to librarians in the wake of #MeToo? There’s not a solid answer on this, as the vast majority of survey responses indicate they haven’t seen anything or they’ve read a few articles but have not seen tools or resources presented on a grander level. One noted that articles have been overviews of the state of sexual harassment—like this one—as opposed to providing practical tools and help for navigating these complex waters. Another response noted that, even if such resources exist, they haven’t been shown or offered them, suggesting that dissemination of information on such a challenging reality might itself be a challenge.

Resources are out there, though not as widely accessible to make useful to all library workers. The American Library Association published a piece in November 2017 offering up ways to stop sexual harassment in your library, while various librarians have offered up presentations at the local, state, and national levels and across various library professional organizations. Some states, like Illinois, have implemented policies that require a sexual harassment prohibition policy that impacts libraries. One commenter noted the popularity of a program developed in Florida that takes on sexual harassment: “Florida has offered an in-person training about security in the library (which included a section on sexual harassment), and that class was so popular, a few months later they condensed it and offered it as a free webinar.

Urban Librarians Unite, state library conferences, and more local library professional development meetings have incorporated sexual harassment discussions and panels in their programming as well. As valuable as these are, they reach a limited audience, often of those with privilege enough to attend these events.

Unfortunately, given that the vast majority of responses suggest they’ve seen no response from various professional organizations, more information should be made available and, as importantly, be prominently discussed, disseminated, and implemented. More, those working on the front lines desire information and tools for better advocating for themselves in situations where they’re made uncomfortable. They’re especially interested in articles, in webinars, and in other modes of information that they can access at no cost—if given these tools, either through a larger organization or colleagues who are finding success in changing their own policies or procedures, they’ll be able to then consider how to continue advocating for change in their own libraries.

Eighteen months of dialog, though, can’t completely change the history and cultural realities about libraries. As one librarian noted, “I think librarians are advocates for patrons and themselves more than employees in other settings, but the history of librarianship is fraught with racism, sexism, and classism that still resonates today. While young librarians are becoming more and more radical, we are fighting against a system that has long existed to elevate white men and keep women and POC in the bottom ranks. Like in other industries, the people on the ground are the ones affected and we are the ones calling for change, but those at the top have little investment in listening. We are expendable. This is especially true in academic libraries, where we answer to directors, deans, provosts, and presidents above us who may not know or interact with us. Libraries have a generally positive perception from outside observers, and so our internal struggles are less known. People know Hollywood is corrupt and abusive, but people don’t know that Melvil Dewey hired women into his libraries based on height, weight, and headshots. Few outsiders know what librarians DO, and they certainly don’t know about any of the struggles within the industry. Not to mention that the concerns of women and POC are often simply dismissed by insiders and outsiders alike. Just look at the ALA racism fiasco from last year—the voices of POC were not respected by those at the top because the ALA wanted to be people pleasers. I’ve stopped renewing my ALA membership because the investment in the real struggles of the profession are dismissed in favor of people-pleasing trends.”

 

An Outline For Making Change

Change has happened, but more change is vital to protect librarians from sexual harassment. Below are a list of avenues that can help further the discourse and provide the tools necessary to help librarians do their job to provide information to their patrons while also staying safe.

This is not comprehensive nor linear, but instead, a means for where the profession can begin to make change. These suggestions come from a synthesis of this survey, as well as the survey in Fall 2017. Not all will be easy to implement, and not all will be relevant for all library types. Likewise, some of these suggestions come with the caveat that institutional change is exceptionally difficult and comes with a host of its own complications in terms of patron response. More than one library employee noted that, despite having the power to ban a patron for breaking library rules, Amber Clark was killed when her library shift ended.

  • Library professional organizations need to acknowledge sexual harassment of library workers is a real problem and that they’re committed to finding solutions. This commitment needs to come in the form of money, time, energy, and resources for every space within the library organization (i.e. administrators, desk employees, support staff, volunteers, Friends of the Library, etc.).

 

  • Library organizations should develop centralized spaces for the professional articles, conference notes, white papers, webinars, and other development opportunities relating to sexual harassment. These should be freely available to access, as well as offer a way to submit new insight and work. These resources deserve a home, and they should be given promotion.

 

  • The American Library Association should update and enforce their Code of Conduct to include sexual harassment. One librarian said, “I’d love to see the ALA take any action with regards to the librarian code of ethics. As it stands now, there’s no inclusion about sexual harassment, and the code of ethics is not a code of conduct. Doctors lose their jobs if they break a code of ethics. Lawyers get disbarred. Coaches get fired. Librarians get a shrug. There is no consequence to the librarian code of ethics, and therefore, no reason to comply. Abusers fall through the cracks because librarians are ‘quirky.’ Removal from professional organizations or bans from conferences are few and far between. Pretty much ANY enforcement of ethics or codes of conduct would be an improvement as it currently stands. Hiring more women and POC at the top of the chain would help, which is more common now, but librarianship has a system problem that perpetuates rich white librarians and few others. Creating a more inclusive profession across the board would absolutely help for the complaints of harassment to be heard; people targeted for harassment are often those in the margins, and we must create an inclusive profession for those voices to be heard.”

 

  • Libraries should implement a code of conduct that includes specific language about sexual harassment.

 

  • Libraries need to discuss sexual harassment and provide an open forum for employees to express their challenges, particularly about their experiences with patrons.

 

  • Patron incident reports need a makeover to be clearer about sexual harassment. There needs to be stronger procedures for when a patron sexually harasses an employee, and those procedures need not only be explained to those working the service desks, but also to those working in other areas of the library, including custodians, performers, shelvers, and volunteers.

 

  • Sensitivity training, in addition to sexual harassment training, should be required for administration and anyone in a supervisory role. Those brought in to provide such trainings need to be those from marginalized backgrounds.

 

  • Librarians should have access to lawyers, Title IX officers, and others who track the legalities of employment and libraries via professional development days, wherein they are given the opportunity to talk openly about what sexual harassment is.

 

  • Bystander training for all library employees would provide the tools for coworkers to know where and how to help out in situations where an individual is being harassed. Additionally, training that focuses on helping librarians at all levels develop and discuss boundaries, particularly as it applies to the pressure they feel to provide for their patrons as a public service, would bring necessary conversation about the lines between doing one’s job well and becoming a victim of unreasonable demands, insults, and more.

 

  • Libraries and library organizations should provide resources—be they in-person, digital, or otherwise—for supporting victims.

 

  • Continued work from the top-level organizations and down to better educate the general public about what libraries do, who they are for, and about the folks who make them run. This will require a cultural shift, but that shift and continued public education about the library will help better spread the message about the humans who make these facilities run on a day-to-day basis. Rather than dream about things like a Night Library or continue to evoke vocational awe, it’s time to get real about the challenges and realities of what libraries are and are not. The how of this is impossible to describe, but it’s vital. Librarian lives are at stake.

 

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