Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh distributing right wing voter guides
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh District Services has sent an email to branch heads offering to distribute to interested branches 50 copies of the 2006 Voter Guide from the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which the email calls “a non-profit, non-partisan research and education organization that analyzes public policies and cultural trends for their impact on the family.”
The Pennsylvania Family Institute is in fact not formally affiliated with a political party and is a registered non-profit; however these facts alone don’t amount to a truthful description of the organization, which the sender of the email had to have known. Pennsylvania Family Institute is a political advocacy group focusing on conservative social issues, from a fundamentalist Christian point of view.
It is not possible for me to believe that the person at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s District Services who sent out this offer to branches is unaware of the Pennsylvania Family Institute’s political nature – it is too obvious.
According to my contact in this library system, offers for other voter guides have not been sent out.
Library systems routinely reject advocacy groups’ efforts to plant election-related materials in libraries. In this case, the library system’s headquarters is actively distributing materials that are designed to affect the outcome of Pennsylvania’s elections.
I acknowledge that there have been people in the library left who believe in using public libraries for political advocacy purposes. That point of view was especially strong in the 1960s and 1970s, and was part of the set of ideas behind the founding of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table. It is not, however, the outlook of most people in SRRT today, who are interested in advancing an awareness of social issues, within the liberal, social-science-grounded tradition, among librarians so that we can contribute to the profession and offer unbiased service in a way that is more inclusive, broader, fairer, and more cognizant of social and political structures. In many cases that can mean advocating for people in the community who are otherwise underserved. It does not mean attempting to change the results of an election, as the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s District Services is, ultimately, attempting to do.