Public libraries are one of America’s most egalitarian institutions. Libraries guarantee that everyone in our country has access to information and ideas regardless of income, age, language, physical limitations, race or gender. Libraries ensure the freedom to read, to view, to speak and to participate. They also help to establish a more literate and just society. Public libraries truly are a cornerstone of democracy.
Public libraries across the United States help protect the freedom to read guaranteed by the First Amendment. The very foundation of the library is rooted in the First Amendment. Libraries uphold the Library Bill of Rights adopted by the American Library Association. The Library Bill of Rights advocates that libraries resist censorship, and that library materials not be removed due to partisan or doctrinal disapproval. Public libraries are committed to providing books and resources for their entire community. From early literacy to lifelong learning, the library is a sanctuary of First Amendment freedoms. It must be protected from the acts of injustice and prejudice that would abolish those freedoms.
Library materials are selected by highly trained library professionals who choose a wide range of materials to serve everyone in our community. Librarians are trained to overcome their own personal biases in order to select items impartially. It’s a slippery slope when untrained, biased individuals try to tell our entire community what it can or cannot read. Public libraries absolutely support the right of every parent to control what their child reads and to select alternative reading or instructional materials for their child. Public libraries do not believe, however, that a parent’s right to guide their child’s reading includes the right to restrict what other children read, or to limit the books that are available to young people in the library. Each family is different — it is up to the parent or guardian to help choose what is best for their child. Everyone, including children, deserve to see themselves or their family members represented in library materials.
The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. Reading for education or enjoyment is a basic right for everyone. Public libraries are one of the most emphatic defenders of free choice for everyone. It is not the library’s job to provide agendas — moral or otherwise. It is the library’s job to provide access to information and ideas so that people can develop their own agendas. Libraries can have a transformational affect on individual lives and in turn the whole community. The library is a civic institution that welcomes anyone to learn and participate. To affect true transformation, libraries must not make moral judgments on materials. In addition to connecting people to information and ideas, libraries connect people to people. Public libraries help build community, provide access, promote literacy and protect your rights. Partisanship has no place in a library — the public library truly is for everyone.
Katie Blank, Community Library Network Chairperson
MY TURN Opinion-CDA/Post Falls Press