“Librarians are Swiss Army knives for the #Resistance,” tweeted musician and activist Neko Case on January 27, 2017, a characterization both fortifying and thought provoking for library workers everywhere. Like any tool, a knife is useless without an agent to wield it—and destructive if applied incorrectly or to the wrong material. If library workers are instruments to be plied to all manner of social ills, what are the potentialities and limits of our agency, and how can we best equip those who would put us to use? This essay works to unpack Case’s metaphor within the context of Oregon libraries, casting its gaze back to Mary Frances Isom’s early push to democratize libraries, ahead to librarian Angelica Novoa de Cordeiro’s efforts to serve immigrant populations in rural areas, and around at evolving political discourses and circumstances as well as their precursors. In many ways, the challenges Isom identified and addressed were akin to those that now confront libraries on a national scale as they contemplate means of resisting the multiphobic, and shortsighted rhetoric and policy that suffuse the contemporary political climate while adhering to the ALA’s core values of democracy, diversity, equitable access, intellectual freedom, privacy, and professionalism.

Author Biography

Lynne Stahl works as a bilingual access services assistant at Multnomah County Library’s Gregory Heights branch. She is pursuing her MLS through Emporia State University, where she also serves as a graduate research assistant. She earned her BA in English and Hispanic Studies from Colorado College and her PhD in English from Cornell University. Her writing has appeared in The Velvet Light Trap, Popular Culture Review, and the Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier, and she is particularly interested in open access digital humanities platforms as a means of amplifying marginalized voices. In her free time, she enjoys playing rugby, eating ice cream, and coveting strangers’ dogs.

Copyright statement

© 2017 Lynne Stahl



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