Director’s Desk – August 2022
As I watched the news and pondered what to write for this installment of the newsletter, I considered simply linking to my June 2020 newsletter article and saying “Yes, still. Start here.” However, that article only addresses the issue of race. The issues facing our democracy today are a “both, and” scenario. The inequities inherent in our laws, policies, and practices are based not only on race, but also on gender, sexuality, religion and other identities.
As I considered what, if anything, this has to do with library consortium and our membership, I asked myself “What is the role of a library in a democracy?” (we’ll come back to that) and quickly moved to the simpler, “What is a democracy?” Our friends at Oxford Languages have several definitions. I’ve shared two below:
· a system of government by the whole population
· the practice or principles of social equality
I share these to illustrate that while we technically live in a country founded on a democratic process, one could legitimately question whether the “whole” population is considered by our existing laws, policies, and practices. One could argue that social equality does not exist at this moment in time. A system of government by the whole population would, in fact, take into consideration the needs of the whole population. Full stop.
When I researched my original question, I discovered that libraries have a long relationship with democracy. One need only do a quick Google search or, easier yet, pick up a copy of Libraries & Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty to begin to understand their intertwined history. Libraries and democracy have long been partners, and both seem to need a reminder of their importance and role in this country. Unfortunately, libraries and librarians face incredible pressures from their communities, boards, lawmakers, and their users. Despite these pressures, some are able to take a stand for democracy. Others cannot publicly act in ways congruent with democracy due to a well-organized and vocal minority bent on shutting down the democratic process.
So, what do we do? Honestly, I don’t know. And admitting that I don’t know is uncomfortable. I often end with a list of contemplative questions. Today, I have just one. As you consider what is happening in the world around us – how much we have gained, what we’ve lost, and what we yet stand to lose – consider this. What is democracy worth to you?
Executive Director & CEO