Earlier this month, First Lady Melania Trump sent book donations to schools across the US to celebrate National Read a Book Day, but one librarian in Cambridge, MA wasn’t so appreciative of the gift. Liz Phipps Soeiro, a school librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School, rejected the Dr. Seuss titles Melania sent and replied to the First Lady with a not-so-nice open letter of response.
Soeiro states that her school doesn’t need the books because they are well funded, then suggests that the books should have been sent to school libraries in underprivileged communities ” that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”
She also claims that “Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature” and his stories and “illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”
Here’s a photo of Liz Phipps Soeiro from her now deleted Instagram account.
And you can find more pictures of her celebrating Dr. Suess’ birthday here: http://librarianphipps.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-we-celebrated.html
After Soeiro’s letter went viral, FLOTUS released a statement saying, “To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”
It’s troubling that a professional librarian let her own political views stand in the way of accepting a well intentioned gift from the First Lady. Librarians have a duty to offer a wide and diverse variety of information – even if it comes from a source they don’t agree with – to let their students or community learn and come to conclusions themselves.
Dr. Seuss may not be perfect due to the time era his works were published in but his books teach many valuable life lessons and it’s obvious by the photo from her social media page, Soeiro had no problem dressing up in character before. A bit hypocritical for someone so bothered by racist propaganda – if Dr. Suess upset her that much, she’d definitely NOT be happy to wear a Cat in the Hat costume.
Soeiro failed her profession and failed her students by letting bias creep in. She also probably violated some sort of work ethic by inadvertently representing the school in her comments against the First Lady. In fact, her school district is distancing themselves from her comments by stating “The opinions expressed in the Horn Book editorial were those of the writer, and not a statement on behalf of Cambridge Public Schools. This was not a formal acceptance or rejection of donated books, but a statement of opinion on the meaning of the donation.”
Liz Phipps Soeiro, we know you’re busy #RESISTING, but maybe it’s time to take a step back and remember how to separate personal politics from professional obligation to champion diverse thought and literature, even if you don’t agree with it.