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Literary Activism

Librarians Provide the Tools for Readers to Rise Up

Steph Auteri

Senior Contributor

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more creative work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, under the gum tree, Poets & Writers, and other publications, and she is the Essays Editor for Hippocampus Magazine. Her essay, "The Fear That Lives Next to My Heart," published in Southwest Review, was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. She also writes bookish stuff here and at the Feminist Book Club, is the author of A Dirty Word, and is the founder of Guerrilla Sex Ed. When not working, she enjoys yoga, embroidery, singing, cat snuggling, and staring at the birds in her backyard feeder. You can learn more at and follow her on Insta/Threads at @stephauteri.

Last week, in their regular e-newsletter, my local independent bookstore shared a New York Times story on how bookstores are resisting Trump with postcard writing events, informational pamphlets, pussy hat craft circles, and other forms of advocacy. The piece made me squee. At a time when I often feel helpless and overwhelmed, it’s inspiring to see my fellow word nerds using the skills they’ve got to make a difference.

But bookstores aren’t the only bookish community centers getting involved in advocacy. Libraries, too, are acting as flash points of resistance, putting together special book displays, hosting timely exhibits, collaborating on art projects, and more.

And then there are the libguides.

Libguides—or research guides—are web pages created to assist users with their research. There are many that contain helpful resources, compiled by your trusty librarians, on a specific topic. And there are many (especially these days) that have as their focus issues of social justice.

A kick-ass librarian friend of mine at the University of San Francisco started me off by pointing me to her library’s guides on such topics as refugees, gender and politics, voting and elections, community advocacy, restorative justice, and white privilege.

My general reaction: 

Then I went down the internet rabbit hole in my search for more libguides. First I found the #LibrariesResist website, which includes links to such libguides as the University of Minnesota’s Immigration Syllabus, John Jay College’s Trump LibGuide, and other reading lists. Then I did a more general search and found (on just the first results page):

And then I had to stop because there was an Amazon server outage and everything was taking forever to load, and also because my TBR list was growing so fast it was getting out of control.

At a time of great upheaval in our country, and at a time when I have felt too small and insignificant to make a difference, I have turned to writing (even going so far as to develop an ongoing Writing as Advocacy class) and I have turned to reading. In educating myself further on social justice issues and advocacy, libguides have been an invaluable resource.

Before, I thought of my local library as the place where I could plow through my teetering TBR list. The place where I could go to escape the chaos of home—if only for a couple hours—and meet up with other writers from the area. The place where I could bring my 2-year-old daughter every week for story time so she could interact with other toddlers and listen to stories and sing songs and dabble in finger painting and not be as reclusive as me.

Now, I see libraries as being at the center of the revolution.

Now, I know they always have been.

If you notice that your local library doesn’t seem to have their own set of libguides, ask your librarians about it. And see what else you can do to help out and get involved.