Publication Date


Document Type




This article examines libraries’ responsibility to engage with and support communities of color as they challenge systemic racism, engage in the political process, and exercise their right to free speech. Many libraries have ignored the Black Lives Matter movement, citing the need to maintain neutrality. Despite extensive scholarship questioning the validity of this concept, the framing of library neutrality as nonpartisanship continues. This article examines librarianship’s engagement with, and disengagement from Black communities through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also explores the implications of education, engagement, and activism for people of color and libraries today.


The authors have engaged the topic from a critical race perspective as a practice in exercising voice - telling stories, presenting counterstories, and practicing advocacy (Ladson-Billings, 1998).


The assertion that libraries have been socially and politically neutral organizations is ahistorical. When libraries decide not to address issues relevant to people of color, they are not embodying neutrality; they are actively electing not to support the information and service needs of a service population. In order for libraries to live up to their core values, they must engage actively with communities, especially when those communities are in crisis. Originality/value

As a service field, librarianship has an ethos, values, and history that parallel those of many other service fields. This paper has implications for developing understanding of questions about equitable service provision.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


This article was published as:

Amelia N. Gibson, Renate L. Chancellor, Nicole A. Cooke, Sarah Park Dahlen, Shari A. Lee, Yasmeen L. Shorish, "Libraries on the frontlines: neutrality and social justice", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal,



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.