Everyone loves libraries, right? I mean, who doesn’t love going to the library? Who doesn’t love being at the library? I do, you do, your neighbors do, your kids do, old folks do, young folks do, EVERYBODY DOES! You never know what you are going to find there. It’s full of wonderful things, books, movies, DVDs, magazines; activities, crafting events, lectures, musical events; and it’s full of peacefulness, quiet reflection, and helpful, informative staff. You know that it will be well worth your trip.
But apparently not everyone loves libraries or loves books. Nor, it seems, do some love the process of reading for that matter. I am so sick of all these self-serving, grandstanding, bloviating, know-nothing, hypocrite lawmakers and citizens inserting themselves in what and who folks read. They are attempting to pull books from library shelves, and petitioning local school boards, county, and state administrators to remove books and authors from libraries because they deem them inappropriate. It’s sickening; it’s frightening; and it’s wrong. Libraries and librarians are often the first defense in protecting our First Amendment rights.
Kurt Vonnegut, in “A Man Without a Country” (2005) praised their function: I want to congratulate librarians…who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles…the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives…The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
Annie Proulx in her novel “Barkskins,” (2016) [referring to the fictionalized Port Townsend’s Jefferson County Library]: “…The library is beloved…but Ms. Eisler’s personal commitment to libraries is more than her affection for the community. She believes and says, librarians live and die by First Amendment rights.”
Barbara Kingsolver in her novel, “Unsheltered” (2018): “…Everywhere I’ve gone since, I’ve found libraries…where the temple doors are thrown wide to all believers, regardless of pedigree…that every book I’ve written has some magic in it (that) I found in physical stacks or archives…”
We need to push back and get these folks out of our reading life. Apparently, ‘push-back’ is beginning to happen and beginning to be successful.
For example: According to a story on CNN (March 1) in Missouri in the Wentzville School District, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the local school district on the behalf of students over the removal of certain books from school libraries. The public outcry against these removals and the ACLU suit put pressure on the local school board and the ‘banned’ books were restored to library shelves.
KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas reported on March 8 that the Texas Library Association (TLA) formed a coalition against the effort to ban certain books by the Texas Legislature across the state. The coalition, Texans for the Right to Read, says it hopes the coalition will amplify the voices of its 5,000 members calling to keep the books on library shelves, stating:
TLA believes that individuals have the right to free inquiry and the equally important right to form their own opinions. Freedom in selecting materials is a necessary safeguard to the freedom to read and must be protected against irresponsible attempts by self-appointed censors to abridge.
TLA President, Daniel Burgard, said, “Possibly the most important skill students learn is how to develop a curious mind and think critically about a broad spectrum of subjects. Removing books based on the subjective opinions of elected officials has no place in our state or our democratic republic.”
Fans of music legend, Dolly Parton, including her younger sister, Stella, were outraged in early March when a Kentucky State GOP Senator, Stephen Meredith, in an attempt to insert restrictive language in a state book banning bill, insinuated that Dolly’s Imagination Library, which sends one million free books a month to children ages 1-5 said that Parton’s project “…possibly could be sending children age-inappropriate content…” The reaction on Twitter and other social media platforms was immediate and intense. Stella Parton told local TV station, WTVF:
For [Meredith] to hint or insinuate something sinister, inappropriate for children just upset me to no end. For him to cast a hint of aspersion against a program that is a nonprofit and has been doing great work since 1995, I have just been incensed by it . . . Here’s the thing, my father was illiterate. It plagued him his entire life because he was not afforded the opportunity to get an education. We all feel, all eleven of us (children), so gifted with being able to read.
Parton fans across the country chimed in with similar outrage. The reaction against Rep. Meredith was intense. So far, the bill has not become law.
So, what can we do? Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for any potential movement regarding ‘book-banning’ efforts in Sussex County, or in the state. Support your local libraries, support the American Library Association (ALA), support neighborhood school libraries and monitor local school board meetings and state legislative sessions where such book-banning efforts often arise. Stay alert to such shenanigans and be prepared to speak out and contest them if they occur.
Well, despite all this angst and uncertainty the good news continues. The South Coastal Library (SCL) is almost back to normal. Masks are off, library hours and access are increasing. Library Director, Sue Keefe, and her remarkable staff are busy as beavers keeping our wonderful library operating ‘full steam ahead’. In-person library programs, from crafting classes to cooking demonstrations, to lectures, to musical programs, have become available once again. Thanks to the diligent and very hard-working library staff, these Friends of the South Coastal Library (FOSCL) funded programs are almost fully back in business, popular as ever and extremely well attended. Hallelujah!
Our all-volunteer FOSCL group is thrilled to continue to support the SCL as it has been doing since forming in 1988. We provide on-going financial help beyond the funding provided by Sussex County to enhance library services and programs to make certain that the SCL is the best community resource possible for our patrons. Thanks to all our contributors, volunteers, sponsors, and library staff to make this so. And thanks to all our loyal library supporters for all you do to keep SCL the jewel and the outstanding community resource that it is.
All The Best,