Should children’s librarians care about defunding the police?

Imagine it. You're in charge at your branch. Someone is having a mental health crisis. Who do you call? [image of a person seeing a disturbance from behind a desk].
Social services departmens are underfunded. There is one department that has a big budget and can afford to come 24/7. [image of a hand holding a phone and a phone list]
A department that is trained in violence and punishment as solutions, yet is seen as providing safety. [image of handcuff and gun]

I believe the answer is yes.

We teach kids to be kind, to not use violence, and model creativity for the kids in our libraries. And then we call the police on other patrons – even though policing has been shown to be ineffective and violent for solving root issues in our communities. Seems hypocritical to me. Plus, if we really believe in the transformative power of librarianship, maybe we should be demanding some of that budget.

There are many dreams and solutions out there. Check out Mariame Kabe‘s work, or Movement for Black Lives, or MPD150, or Critical Resistance.

I’m not sure what that looks like yet, and am looking to learn more. What resources do you have?

Lisa Nowlain is currently a community college librarian in the California foothills. In the past, she was a youth librarian in Nevada City, CA; Darien, CT; and in the Bay Area.

One comment

  1. Cristina

    I think this depends on each city. My city has a great police force that hires and actively partners with social services and mental health, and which trains their officers in mental health crises and deescalation! As a mental health volunteer, I find this refreshing and have called the police/social service team to check in on my client in suicidal crisis, and this team has helped him access more services. As librarians, it is important to be critical and apply news to our own situation through a thoughtful lense.

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