The Libraries in a Time of Tension:
The Legion and Its Demands
Many of the American libraries that were harassed by the patriotic societies and local champions of 100-per-cent Americanism on the score of the “Communist propaganda” on their shelves did in fact, for various reasons, possess a considerable accumulation of books by Communist and pro-Communist authors, as we have seen in my article of last month (“The Attack on Our Libraries”). But did this mean the library profession had been subverted by Communist infiltration and propaganda? Scarcely. Compared to its success on other “sectors” of the “cultural front,” the party had rather little luck in recruiting members or fellow-travelers among librarians. In 1939 a Progressive Librarians Council was organized which for a time issued a quarterly bulletin full of rather muddled liberalism. But the publication soon folded, and the other activities of the Council were of little consequence. Its peak membership was less than two hundred and nothing has been heard of it since 1943.
It is reasonable to suppose that, like other professions, the librarians have included a few Communists and a larger number of sympathizers and fellow-travelers; it is even more probable that many librarians tended to share the illusions about Soviet Russia that prevailed during the 30′s and, again, during the wartime Grand Alliance. It is significant, however, that in challenging the book-selection policies of American libraries, the patriotic societies have rarely made public charges of Communist affiliation or sympathy against the librarians involved, and that to date no librarian has been shown to be trying to foist Communist propaganda upon his or her patrons. During the postwar decade, a half dozen librarians have taken refuge in the Fifth Amendment when questioned by Congressional Committees, but these cases have not involved the professional activities of the librarians in book selection, nor has this issue been raised in connection with the dismissal of a few librarians for “bad associations.”
About the Author