A white librarian called the police on a black student, and the internet is debating whether it is another case of racism or if the woman was just doing her job.
Juán-Pabló Gonźalez, a black student at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., decided to study at the university’s law library on on October 10, 2018. Gonźalez claims that he had previously been told (by a school librarian, whose name he could not recall) that as a Master of Library and Information Sciences student he would be allowed in the law library, even though there is signage outside the facility that states the library is restricted to law students only.
Upon entering the facility he was confronted by the library desk clerk on duty, law student Brittany McNurlin, who says in the video that she isn’t aware of any exceptions to the rule.
After questioning Gonźalez, McNurlin tells campus police that she allowed him to study, but was still unsure of the exception and told him she would write a note about it for her superior.
Gonźalez was then released by McNurlin to study in the library but feeling he’d been treated unjustly, he soon returned to the clerk’s desk, asking for the name and number of her supervisor. McNurlin stated to campus police that she gave him the supervisor’s contact information but that she felt as though Gonźalez was being “argumentative” and decided to call the campus police.
It was at this point that Gonźalez started filming:
The video starts with Gonźalez explaining that:
“…this woman is going to call the police on me because I was questioning her.”
He reiterates what has transpired between the two, talking directly to McNurlin on the video:
“So, ma’am let me get this straight, you’ve decided to call the police because I’m asking you questions about the law library…and that warrants the police?”
At one point during their discussion, Gonźalez says that in addition to being a master of library information science student, he also works for the law library in the archives.
Throughout the video Gonźalez can be heard calmly refuting McNurlin’s characterization of him as “argumentative” to officers when they arrive.
Gonźalez says that he was:
“…simply asking questions about the law library.”
When a campus officer explains that school policy allows only law students to use the facility, Gonźalez asks:
“…then, why’d the dean of our school tell us we could us this library?”
Gonźalez told The Root:
“Because the entire transaction was so negative, I went back and said, ‘Can I have your supervisor’s information?’ I didn’t say anything else,” Gonźalez said, to which she refused. “I said: ‘I’m asking for the information of the managing librarian of this facility and you’re refusing? On what basis? Just because you don’t like the way I’m asking?’”
The Root notes that, after McNurlin refused Gonźalez’s second request, she “snatched” a business card from the desk and gave it to Gonźalez:
“I asked some more questions about why she took so long to give me the information … She said I was being argumentative and that she didn’t like my tone,” Gonźalez said, to which he replied: “I didn’t ask for your personal opinion. I just asked for information about this facility so that I can use it.”
That’s when McNurlin decided to make her call to campus police.
Many commenters on Twitter were outraged, seeing it as a clear-cut case of racism:
So studying while black is now a crime too ? Wtf!!!
— SonjaN50 (@SonjaNorman16) October 25, 2018
This is horrible; I am ashamed by the blatant racism that permeates our country. It’s beyond disgusting.
— Sherry Denise Naron (@naron495) October 24, 2018
this is absolutely infuriating — the LA’s behavior violates ALA ethics and is an object lesson in how NOT to conduct library services.@CatholicUniv library managers & supervisors should be ashamed.
— brian shapriro (@hugslife) October 24, 2018
— Athina (@PerfectOrdered) October 23, 2018
Many had questions about why any section of the library would be off limits to students:
and nevermind that the student is in an MLS program — why is @CatholicUniv restricting its students access to *any* of its libraries?
— brian shapriro (@hugslife) October 24, 2018
Britni definitely has an issue but why is the law library on lock down? is that a thing? I would think an educational institution would allow ALL their students access. Perhaps a LIBRARY science students should be working in the LIBRARY.
— Library Lioness (@isabel1lnoe) October 23, 2018
It’s fairly common for law libraries to do that—which is un-good. But it is equally common that law libraries who restrict access to the general student population open their doors to those studying law librarianship. It’s a sub-field that literally cannot be conducted elsewhere.
— Kate Boooooooers (@K8_Bowers) October 26, 2018
so disgusting. he had every right to be there.
as for the lockdown at law libraries, that is a thing. I think it’s for accreditation. I worked at a library system where it was only law students after 5pm. Still, as an LIS student, he had every right to be there.
— Joleen Westerdale McInnis (@lulumcinnis) October 24, 2018
— T. Dixon (@ninatravis) October 24, 2018
But there were also a number of people who didn’t think there was evidence of racism:
Michael Harriot of The Root, who reported Gonźalez’s story, clarified the rules:
Well actually… pic.twitter.com/oeDQ6AvVJs
— michaelharriot (@michaelharriot) October 24, 2018
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) had this to say:
If the manager/admin granted any particular student(s) outside of the law school access, this should have been communicated to the staff member who called the cops and all other public service staff. This access issue starts at the top; employees need to know who can be there
— Black Caucus ALA Inc (@BC_ALA) October 26, 2018