I come to this blog post with some concern in my heart.
Deep in my heart I have a profound love and respect for public libraries. They are an essential part of any democracy. Access to libraries has increased over the history of democracies, and some who might not have had access in the past are now welcome. The maturity of civilization always seems to reveal itself as we become more inclusive through the growth of acceptance, the growth of respect, and the increasing understanding of the value of all human beings. Everything I’ve learned recently supports my devotion to public libraries.
In my heart I am excited about the time we live in as the technological ability to access knowledge and information continues to grow at amazing speed. Zickuhr stated that a “major finding in our research into Americans’ use of public libraries is the extent to which libraries are synonymous not only with knowledge and information, but with the tools needed to acquire it in the digital age.” Many of us and our patrons have unlimited access to the internet through our own devices and Wi-Fi access. And libraries can fill in the gap for those who don’t, providing the best, most up-to-date devices and access.
In my heart I am grateful for the change in outlook and actual floor plans that are causing libraries to become community destinations and meeting places. Laerkes stated it this way: “It seems to me that there is an important shift going on from solely space planning for collections, equipment and associated physical infrastructure to a stronger focus on design for people, community outcomes, experience and innovation. We are seeing a shift…to designing much more flexible spaces that may be used for many different purposes by many different kinds of people at different times or even at the same time.”
In my heart I know this new idea of meeting space will be—should be—”an open, public space and a place between work and home where the citizens can meet other people, who are both like them and differ from them.” Everyone should be welcome.
In my heart I also know that our calling as librarians is very high, especially in public libraries. We are charged to be the keepers of information and the protectors of intellectual freedom. We are charged to provide access to all and any information, and remember the rights of free speech and thought. We are charged to teach anyone who wants to know how to access any information they want or need. We are teachers. We protect individual rights. We value everyone. We are friends.
And in my heart I know we are to be neutral. When I am in the library it is essential to remember that neutrality even in the light of recent events.
This brings me to my heartfelt concern.
The results of the recent election of a new president reveal a division of approximately one half of the population against the other half. I think the past several presidential elections have revealed this same division. Approximately half of the population wins, and the other half loses.
And so currently my heart is concerned because I’ve read quite a few posts on social media by librarians not only labeling the new president in very negative terms, but any who voted for him in the same manner. Do we really want to talk about half of our patrons that way? Do we realize that each voter has the right to make her own decision? Can we, as librarians, facilitate community meetings that help patrons see that regardless of their vote, we share community causes? Can we help our patrons, our friends, and our communities move forward and beyond their individual votes?
In my heart I know that we are all entitled to our opinions and our votes, but in the library, and as librarians on social media, we represent our profession. Yes, we are the facilitators of informational access for our users. But we are also to be the facilitators of comfortable space, of community, of learning, of sharing life. We have considered all of these things as we’ve studied all that the Hyperlinked Library means and represents.
Above all, the heart of the hyperlinked library is people and what connects them. Several of us in our class noted after the election the need to have a place to meet, to talk about the results, and to process the future. Would only those who did not vote for the current president-elect be welcome? Maybe we should strive to find connection between all of our patrons. Maybe the way forward is to revisit kindness and respect for everyone, and maybe as librarians we can be the models and facilitators of this behavior.
I have shared these thoughts as I am feeling that my heart and my hope for all that libraries stand for is being shaken because of the position some librarians have taken on social media. While I do understand the concerns they are expressing, all of us who work with the public in libraries, or who want to, have to remember that we serve all patrons who walk through the doors. If their political views are different from ours, we have to put that aside in the library. If we were to schedule a discussion forum regarding the election, then we would be tasked to neutrally facilitate the discussion, model good listening and speaking skills, and help to bring those in attendance into community and moving forward. The recent election provides us the opportunity to do this – with open hearts.
I hope I’m not being too idealistic. My hope remains placed in working towards the way things ought to be.
I’d love your heartfelt input about how we can move forward in our library communities. Can we provide information that is outside presidential campaign rhetoric to assuage the fear many are expressing? Can we facilitate bringing our communities together that are troubled by the election results? Can we serve ALL of our patrons regardless of their presidential choice?
I have nothing but heartfelt respect for all of you!
Marcia Brown is a student in the School of Information at San Jose State University, graduating in May 2017. Becoming a librarian means many things to Marcia: a new career, a dream career, giving back, making a difference, and serving her community. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and hopes to happily work for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Public Library.