Nashville taxpayers shelled out nearly $9,000 this past year so library employees could hopscotch around the U.S. to learn about social justice and other left-wing causes.
Nashville Public Library employees traveled to American Library Association conferences in cities such as Denver, Orlando and New Orleans, where they learned about things that didn’t exactly involve the Dewey Decimal System.
At the Denver conference, held in April, librarians from Nashville and other cities learned about income inequality and how to contact politicians “to create sustainable change.”
Another seminar explained how rural librarians could best serve gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
Another seminar included a lecture about why black men don’t visit libraries often enough.
The folks who ran the Denver conference also taught librarians what to do when fear and agitation at work spreads like a contagious disease.
“Many of our customers experience trauma in their lives and bring their struggles with them to the library,” the agenda sheet read.
“This can put library staff at risk of experiencing issues that mirror those of our traumatized customers. In this program presenters will share techniques you can use to insulate yourself from vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, and compassion fatigue.”
At the Orlando conference, held in June, librarians assembled for a feminist task force meeting, according to that agenda sheet. Later on they attended seminars discussing the finer nuances of “queer zines” and Black Lives Matter. They later attended a seminar entitled “Not Your Granny’s Dinner Conversation” that chewed over issues of race, sex and gender.
Librarians discussed similar topics at an ALA conference in Boston this year.
Tennessee Watchdog reached out to officials with the Nashville Public Library on Wednesday to ask why their employees attended such highly politicized conferences at taxpayer expense.
Library spokeswoman Emily Waltenbaugh said she wouldn’t have answers before Thursday’s deadline.
Not all topics at the ALA conferences pertained to sensitivity, safe spaces and political correctness. One seminar was about creating a hospitable library environment; another was about early literacy awareness.
ALA spokeswoman Mary Ghikas said in an email the organization “prides itself on offering conference programs that offer broad subject coverage.”
“The goal of the profession and the ALA is to strive to empower patrons with resources that better lives through education and lifelong learning,” Ghikas said.
“As the heart of the community, libraries are transforming to reflect the diverse needs of their users. In response, ALA conference programs, sessions and speakers are as diverse as the thousands of communities that depend on library service.”
According to its website, the ALA lobbies the federal government for taxpayer money for library and literacy programs. The organization refers to itself as “the largest and most influential library association in the world.”
According to library records, Nashville taxpayers paid $8,523.44 for employees to attend these conferences.
The Nashville Public Library Foundation, a nonprofit that takes private funds, paid for library employees to attend other conferences, many within the state.
UPDATE: On Friday Waltenbaugh told Tennessee Watchdog the following:
“We like to have our employees build knowledge that they can use to better serve the library patrons and guests. Part of that is continuing education,” Waltenbaugh said.
Waltenbaugh said the library is guided by “the principles of customer service, love of reading, lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, excellence, and inclusiveness.”
“We abide by those principles but we do not lobby or advocate on matters related to socioeconomics, current events, race, or gender,” Waltenbaugh said.
“We don’t operate according to political lines.”
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