Read the full opinion piece HAVE WE FORGOTTEN WHAT A PUBLIC LIBRARY IS FOR? by Deborah E. Mikula & Loren Khogali here
“Librarians are not trying to force your children to read material you don’t want them to read. They are fulfilling their role as information professionals tasked with upholding the constitutional promise of access to information for all.”
–Deborah E. Mikula & Loren Khogalifrom HAVE WE FORGOTTEN WHAT A PUBLIC LIBRARY IS FOR? by Deborah E. Mikula & Loren Khogali
I was very happy to read this piece in the Washington Post recently. I’m glad that someone from the library world is saying these things in a publication that has as much this many readers. I’ve never cared what anyone who comes through the doors of the library reads, watches, listens to, etc. That’s their thing and I totally respect it. I would expect to be treated the exact same way (although y’all can for sure judge me for liking Weezer as much as I do). All that I care about is that you’re coming through that door and that you’re taking full advantage of one of the best resources in the United States. Use and love your public library.
Public Libraries are there to provide information (you decide the format, I don’t care about that either) to community members. We have all different kinds of information. Mein Kampf by Hitler? It’s right over there. The Bible. You will find it in a nearby aisle. Everyone Poops? We have that too. We don’t care what you’re reading. We just care that you’re here and we want you to know what we’re there for you no matter what. We love providing a safe and welcoming space that allows everyone in our community the option to do what they need to do and find what they need to find*. It’s not my job to agree or disagree. It is just my job to keep this place alive & humming for everyone in the community.
When I was working in Titusville, PA at the Benson Memorial Library I bought so many books on Trump & Clinton during the 2016 election. It wasn’t about the library promoting one or the other. We don’t do that. It was about us helping those in our community get access to what they needed or wanted at that moment. I have this very distinct memory of a patron who asked for us to get The Art of the Deal for our collection so that he and his friends could read it. They were interested in whatever is in that book. I haven’t read it. They thanked me for it when they picked it up. After they read the book they came to visit me in my office to tell me how happy they were when their local librarian who they “totally know is a Democrat or a Green or something” didn’t turn them away because they didn’t agree with them politically.**
“My friend, why would I turn you away? This is a public library. This place is for everyone. Plus, I don’t care what you read, just like how I’d hope that you wouldn’t care about what I read,” was my response.***
He thought about what I said for a few seconds. It felt like one of the longest moments of my life. I had just come off of a “You know what Justin, you’re right. That’s what makes America so great,” said the library patron. And you know what? I know where he was pulling the “great” bit of his quote from but he’s right. When we respect each other, when we lead with kindness, and when we recognize that we’re all this together we actually move ahead and get somewhere. We learn and grow. Isn’t that the goal?****
*(within reason, of course)
**(listen folks at this point we all know where I stand politically)
***(but not exactly like that because who really talks like that? I sure don’t)
****(I mean I think that’s the goal, but I’ve been told that I’m way off base in the past that I just don’t know anymore. I just try to be kind and honest at all times and bugger off everything else)