The Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore came under attack for tweeting faux mugshots of four black kids.
The picture shows young rebel readers, standing against a backdrop that mimics a police line-up, holding a sign that reads, “CAUGHT READING BANNED BOOKS.” Arrest numbers appear below the caption.
I don’t need to tell you why this was not a good photo-op.
The photo was deleted ten minutes post tweet.
An apology was issued shortly thereafter, but not before the tweeters caught wind of the unsettling post.
Twitter users called the post despicable and offensive.
Dr. Wendy O. Osefo, a political commentator and professor at John Hopkins University, said the tweet plays into the “school to prison pipeline” stereotype which the American Civil Liberties Union calls a “disturbing trend.” It refers to youth increasingly being incarcerated and removed from the public school system due to ‘zero-tolerance’ policies.
CBS Baltimore News reported how the mother of one of the boys pictured said she felt:
“As a black female, I see my black son in a picture that looks like a mugshot. It looks like a stereotype. It doesn’t look anything like a library picture, that anyone’s having fun or learning something out of it.”
According to library Communications Director Meghan McCorkell, there was no ill intent but rather “an isolated incident” that yielded “a bad judgement call.”
In a phone interview with AlltheMoms.com, McCorkell said librarians thought tweeting the image was strategic social media marketing.
She said the branch employees “were trying to find a creative way to engage library members” and raise awareness for Banned Books Week.
The annual event encourages people to read books like “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.
The initiative, started by the American Library Association, celebrates banned books that push social equality and the freedom to read.
Which makes the unfortunate tweet all the more ironic.
McCorkell would not comment on whether any employees had been reprimanded over the social media post.
But she did say the library has since shored up its social media procedures.
Employees from the branch level and upward will now need clearance before accessing the library’s social media profiles.
The communications director says the Enoch branch library is “a safe haven for the children” and the librarians are “heartbroken and very apologetic.”