Why Libraries Matter
We love books (obviously). We love all kinds of books, and we love that libraries provide a place where everyone can access books and materials. Recently, our libraries and librarians have come under fire, and we have no patience for that. Public libraries are the last bastions of democracy left in our nation. They are open to everyone to access freely, they provide valuable services and education for our communities, and they give us the world between the covers of a book. Libraries provide valuable access to information. They provide materials that each individual person can seek on their own terms for their own needs. The support that libraries (all libraries) provide is indispensable in an ever-changing world. The access to stories that are like ours and those that are vastly different provide us with a framework with which to move through the world. The fact that stories are available for and about all people makes the library a gift to the community in which it resides and the librarians, who live in those communities, curate books that make the community better and richer in so many ways.
The biggest joy of a library visit, whether one is 5 or 55, is the knowledge that the library staff has worked very hard to curate so many opportunities for us as readers. And the fact that they so willingly listen to our words and our hearts as they hand us our next "best read" is truly wondrous. I firmly believe that librarians and library staff are some of the most intuitive and generous people out there. The sheer effort that goes into curating a library's collection is unbelievable. While books are vetted through the entire writing and publication process, they are also vetted through librarians and library boards across the nation. Each year millions (YES, MILLIONS) of books are published. Each book is chosen with care and consideration for library patrons, their individual communities, and all readers benefit from their insight and understanding. Having freedom to access all books and the freedom to read is one of the most valuable things that we have as Idahoans and as Americans.
Recently libraries and librarians have come under fire from the Idaho Legislature and there are a number of people who seek to restrict access to books in community and public-school libraries and even are pursuing the dissolution of entire library districts. This is wrong headed and wrong hearted. Who decides whose stories are appropriate? Who decides whose life experiences are worthy of representation? Who decides what I get to access for myself and my family? As shadow bans and preemptive removals become more and more common under the threat of litigation, the Idaho legislature seeks to define what and whose experiences have merit, and this is simply not their place. All taxpayer dollars fund libraries and schools equally and every story deserves to occupy shelf space.
Now, more than ever, we need to support our libraries and librarians. We need to support our local library boards in whatever way possible. Get a library card if you do not already have one. Write a letter of support to your local library board. Be aware of what is happening to your local and school libraries. But most of all, use the library. Check out that book. Ask for that recommendation. And thank the person who helped you because they are the protectors of democracy, and they are the builders of tomorrow.