Gavia Libraria

The librarian and the bully

The Loon was bullied when she was a loon-chick, as many loon-chicks are. Some of the precipitating characteristics (the Loon refuses to call them “reasons” as there is nothing reasonable about them) were common ones, some were not. The memories return at this particular juncture because of one thing the Loon-chick learned from the experience: authority will never help with certain kinds of interpersonal issues, not even to prevent abuse.

(Things have changed in at least some schools since the Loon was but a loon-chick. The Loon is very glad of that.)

This bedrock belief, combined with certain demographic factors, has colored the Loon’s approach to career communication, particularly when she has encountered difficulties. It has never, not once, seriously occurred to the Loon to complain to anyone’s supervisor about anything. It never even occurred to her to go up her chain when it became perfectly clear that not even a demigod could run a worthwhile institutional repository given the workplace environment.

Why would she do a thing like that? No one would help. No one in the Loon’s chain did help. Ever.

So the BAE took her analyses and frustrations online, where she discovered—absolutely without going looking for it; the reverse, if anything—another sort of power, the power of reaching an audience without the usual Swiftian flappers and other hindrances. A tenuous power, this, not useful in every circumstance, susceptible to abuse (and the BAE did in fact abuse it as her frustration mounted, something she regrets); still, a real and often subversive power.

This brings us, believe it or not, to Edwin Mellen Press, though by a somewhat circuitous route; the Loon begs reader indulgence. Those who have power through more usual channels—privilege, unearned power, particularly—naturally regard the parvenus with barely-concealed horror. Those worms, how dare they turn? Why doesn’t someone stop them? There must be some authority that stops them!

These people, you see, know beyond the least shadow of a doubt that authority will help them. Even when they’re in the wrong.

Typically they first try the private agreement among gentlebeings, asserting their own authority. The BAE got some powerfully bizarre email from a few such, back in the day, and the Loon has picked up one or two as well. She can’t be sure whether the senders felt the overture the same way she did: as an attempt at back-alley intimidation, not at all unlike children who drag other children where the teacher won’t see. Perhaps not.

Should that fail, or should the privileged aggressor consider the unprivileged opponent so low as to not even think private communication worth trying, the appeal to authority begins. At first, typically, the appeal is carried out in secrecy once more. The Loon has several librarian acquaintances whose supervisory chains have been troubled by vendors over unflattering (but in no way libelous or otherwise illegal) blog posts. McMaster’s statement about the Askey case indicates that Edwin Mellen pestered them behind the scenes for some time.

The Loon can’t manage to be surprised that Edwin Mellen has now gone to the courts. It’s the hallmark move of the privileged feeling self-righteous injury. That worm of a mere librarian, how dare he tell the truth about us in public? And how dare his administration ignore our complaint, given that we are important? More authority, stat!

They’ll lose; law isn’t purely a game of authority, yet. The Loon isn’t sure they care, considering they’ve lost before. Like other weasels who play the gentlebeings-behind-closed-doors game and then escalate it, they’re looking to destroy their opponent, and a winning court case is hardly the only way to do that. Any court case will generally do the job.

As for McMaster, the Loon supposes that given the steady devaluation of librarianship there under Trzeciak’s regime, it’s no surprise they’re not covering Askey’s legal expenses. They should, however, be bitterly ashamed that they’re not.

As for us, whatever we can do to support Askey, we should. It could be any of us next, for one thing—but even without that, it’s just the right thing to do. Askey should not feel alone; our entire profession should throw its authority behind him. Openly, in public, where such disagreements should be resolved.