Public libraries are supposed to be safe spaces where people can access information and resources without discrimination or bias. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and ethnic minority library users in New Zealand have reported experiencing microaggressions that make them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their own communities.
One recent incident involved an ethnic minority library user who returned a book with some stains on it. The user notified a librarian about the stains, explaining that she had not noticed them when she borrowed the book from the library, but found them when she opened it at home.
The librarian’s response to the user’s concern was problematic. Instead of acknowledging the issue and helping to find a solution, the librarian repeatedly said to the user and other librarians/staff members around her, “I’ll give you the benefit of doubt, I’ll give you the benefit of doubt…”, at least three times. This made the user feel as if she was being accused of lying or being dishonest.
The librarian then said there would be no charge for the stains, but made a note of it. This seemingly harmless action of making a note added to the user’s discomfort and unease. The user felt very uncomfortable and decided not to borrow books from the library any more.
The librarian’s behavior in this incident is an example of microaggression, which are subtle, often unintentional acts of discrimination that can cause harm to ethnic minority individuals. By repeatedly saying “I’ll give you the benefit of doubt,” the librarian implied that the user was not trustworthy and was lying about the stains. This can be seen as a form of gaslighting, which is a type of psychological abuse where a person manipulates others into questioning their own memory, perception, or sanity.
The user’s decision not to borrow books from the library any more highlights the negative impact of microaggressions on ethnic minority library users. It is essential that public libraries in New Zealand take steps to ensure that all users feel welcome and valued in their spaces. This can be achieved through cultural competency training for library staff, policies that promote diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to addressing and addressing microaggressions when they occur.
In conclusion, the incident involving the ethnic minority library user who returned a book with stains is an unfortunate example of microaggression against ethnic minority library users in New Zealand. It is essential that public libraries in New Zealand take steps to prevent and address microaggressions to create safe and welcoming spaces for all users.
Note: This post was written by ChatGPT and the POPINZ.org team.