Last Friday, August 22nd, the California State Senate voted unanimously to confirm Governor Brown’s nomination of Greg Lucas as California State Librarian.
When Lucas was nominated I had some things to say. I wrote letters to senators, reached out to CLA leadership, and talked extensively with other California librarians about the nomination.
Now that Lucas has been confirmed I have some more things to say.
I cannot overemphasize that I have no negative feelings toward Greg Lucas whatsoever. Although his lack of education and experience in libraries (or anything library-related, or large-organization-related) bothers me tremendously, ignorance is not a personal flaw. Libraries’ core mission is to help people learn more and combat ignorance. I have met Lucas twice and am convinced he is trying to learn.
That being said, as I pointed out in my original blog post, the California State Education Code clearly states:
19302. The division shall be in charge of a chief who shall be a technically trained librarian and shall be known as the “State Librarian.”
In his confirmation hearing with the Senate Rules Committee, Lucas stated that he had just begun, this month, taking a class (yes, that’s “a class” singular) from San Jose State University’s controversially newly renamed School of Information. A few weeks of one class does not a librarian make. Can you imagine a state attorney or physician being appointed with as little training? “Well, I’ve taken ‘Intro to Human Biology’ for a few weeks so I think I’m good to go leading up the State’s efforts on healthcare reform.” Never. That would never, ever happen.
Again, this isn’t Lucas’s fault–he’s trying. It’s the Governor’s and the Senate’s fault for not doing their job and appointing an actual librarian to be the State Librarian.
Let’s take a few facts from the hearings and look at what they tell us.
1) Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg said to Mr. Lucas, “We have all known you for a long time.”
Because knowing someone for a long time in your inner circles qualifies him for a trained, professional post. Oh no, that’s right–that’s cronyism.
2) Current President of the California Library Association, Deborah Doyle, said in the same breath that she’s impressed by Lucas’s performance and also that “It is a political appointment. He seems to have lots of connections that sometimes people who have been born and raised in the library system don’t normally have.” Following Doyle’s lead, CLA’s President-Elect, Robert Karatsu, said much the same thing.
Wow. So, yes, you’re right Ms. Doyle. It’s a political appointment. So why bother stand up for librarians’ professional values, your responsibility to communities across the state, and say what’s on the minds of the state’s librarians? Oh yeah, politics. Politics infiltrate the library world as much as anyplace else. That doesn’t mean that it’s moral or acceptable to not speak up and advocate for those you are tasked to represent.
3) Lobbyists from the California School Library Association, the California SEIU, and the California Student Aid Commission also testified in support of the nomination.
Really? These groups, especially the California SEIU who represents degree-holding librarians across the state, did not have a problem with this? Or is it again, at the risk of being cliche, politics as usual?
I am convinced that the State Senate did not question Lucas’s qualifications because of two factors: 1) They assumed that librarians, quiet little meek mice that we are, would not raise objections about the technical lack of qualifications of the nominee; and 2) They were right, at least in regard to the organizations tasked with advocating for libraries in California.
I will echo what I said in my first post: I sincerely hope Greg Lucas turns out to be a truly kick-ass State Librarian.
And yet I am hugely disappointed by the actions of the California Library Association’s leadership, by the actions of people who supported these actions, actively or implicitly, and by those who stood silently by as this unfolded. Shame on all of you. You failed. You let a bad thing happen without fighting it.
I’m a librarian, I’m proud of being a librarian, and I’m not going to stand idly by while our profession and the services we provide to our communities get stomped into the ground and devalued by politicians in Sacramento.