Activist Visions

The history of social justice activism within librarianship is well-studied, but few have looked at the role of librarians at CUNY as drivers of political and social change within the profession. Many know that the famed poet Audre Lorde worked as a librarian while an undergraduate at Hunter College in the 1950s before obtaining her library degree from Columbia University, but the history of CUNY libraries and the contributions of its librarians extend well beyond such icons. For example, CUNY librarians were especially active in the formation of the ALA’s groundbreaking Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) in 1969 and the Feminist Task Force in 1970, and several have been referenced in relation to national movements in librarianship, especially during the Vietnam era.1 While some individual profiles exist, there is no existing scholarship on the many activist librarians at CUNY as a group, nor is there any examination of the ways in which being at CUNY influenced their activism.

This history will situate the stories of individual librarians within the activist tradition of CUNY faculty and students as they responded to everything from the social upheaval of the Vietnam era to the tumultuous shifts occurring at their own institution with open admissions, and beyond.

  1. See discussion of Jackie Eubanks, Joan Marshall, and Pat Schuman in Samek, Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967-1974. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001.