(Update: Infidel753 was kind enough to include this in his weekly blog roundup this Sunday!)
It's something that pops up on Twitter every so often, ever since November 2016, essentially this one question most of the people I follow end up asking aloud: "Does this Shitgibbon donald trump actually get a Presidential Library?"
It will be a disaster, less a library or research facility and more a messy gift shop with merch. I can't imagine enough reputable librarians would want to work there.— Witty Librarian In a Mask (@PaulWartenberg) November 29, 2020
As a professional librarian this is a question that interests me and compels me to answer. Well, the simple honest answer is "Yes" the Shitgibbon will be granted the ability to form his own Presidential Library. The situation is a little more complicated than that.
We need to note what a Presidential Library actually is, what purpose it serves. If we go by the laws - like the Presidential Libraries Act of 1986 - set up by Congress, the primary purpose of the library is to serve as a depository for the National Archives and Records Administration (the agency responsible for storing, indexing, and sharing official documents so the government can keep track of what the hell it's doing and so historians will have something to argue over 100 years from now).
Every administration, especially trump's as
President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice), will have a stockpile of papers, memos, agendas, agreements, Executive Orders, and other tidbits required by law to remained stored and made available for future reference. Personal notes and papers - diaries and private correspondences - are also considered for collections to add context (this is optional, some Presidential private papers remain with family or were destroyed after death).
As the powers and responsibilities of the Executive branch grew, the need to store and archive grew with it. Sharing these responsibilities out to a library dedicated to that particular President (mutter grumble trump shouldn't fcking count but he does mutter mutter) is a way to keep things organized by era (and to keep it from being kept in one oversized warehouse constantly expanding to keep up with the storage. Look at your own closet, how stuffed is it with 10-20 years worth of books, utility bills, and winter holiday cards?).
To that end, the Presidential Library serves as an academic research facility, with study areas, meeting rooms, and workstations to allow visiting students/researchers to access the materials for their needs. This part will be most like a small college library with clerks, assistants, and full-time professional librarians overseeing access to the collection.
But in practice a Presidential Library is more akin to a museum (close cousin to the library). The facility will be open for tours, displaying memorabilia, artwork, and promoting themes and iconography prominently associated to that administration. A mock-up of the Oval Office will be built (it would likely be where the carpeting and furniture from that tenure ends up). Presentation halls for large gatherings to one side, gift shops on the other.
A perfect example is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. It's best known as a popular tourist attraction where every four years the Republicans would host a primary debate (so that the candidates can suck up to the ghost of Saint Ronnie to appeal to their party voters as Reagan's Heir to the Throne) in California.
The thing is, while NARA provides some funding, that funding is very limited. Every Presidential Library - and there are several NOT supported by the National Archives, usually the ones before FDR when the agency started managing presidential papers - has to fund itself in some form or another (hence the paid tours and gift shops).
Many a Presidential Library started through private funding and the setup of a non-profit organization to manage/oversee that library/museum. The non-profit is responsible for finding the land, planning the architecture, paying the construction, and hiring most staff at which point NARA signs off on the deal and shuffles the collected papers to that library's storage shelves. (Some libraries, serving more as memorials/museums, are overseen by National Parks instead. There's still a non-profit overseeing each of those)
This is where it gets tricky for trump himself. his track record with non-profits is... um... colorful at best, criminal (at the New York state level) at the least. trump's ability - or even the ability of his family and business associates - to start such a non-profit has been crippled at the moment (that and he's too busy grifting over the "fake votes" argument to set up emails begging for library funds). I haven't seen a foundation/non-profit set up for a Presidential Library for him, have you? (seriously if you did and it's a legit one not a parody site, add the link to the comment section please and thank you)
Another thing to consider is the overall mess trump's administration has been. Archivists, historians, and other observers have been complaining about the lack of effective record-keeping in his offices. A combination of understaffing and unqualified hires contributed to a disorganized management system. When you consider the possibility of half the things trump and his cohorts did in the White House - the way they broke the immigration policies and committed potential human rights abuses towards children, for God's sake - we're facing the possibility that half the documentation for trump's would-be library will be missing, destroyed, or redacted into solid pages of black lines.
It's not going to be much of a Presidential Library if the
President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice) shredded the entire paper trail.
Another big question about a trump Library will be "where the hell are they gonna put that thing?"
Insert flaming dumpster GIF here.
Okay, all joking aside, this is a serious question. Most Presidential Libraries place themselves in areas of most importance to the President it honors (usually birthplaces, colleges they attended, or their primary residence when they became President). Gerald Ford is unique among NARA-supported facilities by having a Library where he went to college (Ann Arbor) and a separate Museum where he grew up (Grand Rapids). U.S. Grant's Library is at Mississippi State University (!) rather than Illinois or other places he resided. Obama is setting up his Center (it won't be a library for some reason, more a museum and advocacy office) where he came to political power (Chicago) instead of birthplace (HAWAII, YOU BASTARDS) or college (Columbia or Harvard).
trump's Library placement situation has already been discussed, among the more serious punditry, although it's still a guessing game at this point. It seems unlikely trump will get an opportunity to use his college - UPenn and its Wharton College of Business have not bragged about their connection to trump since 2016 - and his unpopularity in New York (city and state) makes it unlikely he'll find a place in his birth-town of Queens.
One thing trump has advantage of is he already owns properties across the states - his trump Towers, his trump Resorts - that he could arguably turn into
tax write-offs um non-profit center(s) to build his Library. Mar-A-Lago has oft been cited as a likely spot: It's where he relocated his residency status in 2019 and more likely where he'll go into hiding from arrest warrants after January 20 until he can sneak a ride out to a nation that won't extradite him. Property laws in Florida are relatively protective for owners: Lawsuits that might otherwise wipe out every other source of revenue trump could have won't be able to touch his Florida properties. It is unlikely that NARA will approve it as an archives location, however: Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach is right between the Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal Waterway, extremely vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding. It would never be a library in any sense.
As a Presidential Museum, of course, it would make perfect sense. The museum won't need to answer to the demands of history or accuracy: the trump Museum would be a grand display of trump's narcissism. Every nook, room, and hallway filled with garish, gaudy tributes to trump's "greatness". A performance hall with a stage dedicated to any speaker offering praise and holiest-of-thous to a con artist, an assembly dedicated to the greed and graft of a corrupt overlord.
It's why I don't see a future trump Library as being anything more than an oversized gift store: Balanced between a Far Right bookstore selling trump ghost-written hagiographies at 100 bucks a cover, and a South Florida tourist trap shilling MAGA beach towels and trump-signed golf clubs.
Any honest, reputable librarian with a Masters degree in Information Sciences is going to steer clear of the place. I doubt there will be a need for a librarian at all: Only hucksters need apply.