The current political atmosphere has given rise to uncertainty and concern for our democracy and for the welfare of all who call America home. How can the library help the public understand these issues? What can the library do now? Does the library have permission? The answer to the latter is an emphatic yes.
Libraries throughout the country have displayed welcoming messages, created topical displays, and held civic events and talks on immigrant rights, fake news, and the principles of democracy. The Urban Libraries Council has compiled a comprehensive list of these endeavors.
Such actions are fundamental to the work of libraries, as outlined in the American Library Association’s (ALA) Bill of Rights (see below). That document states that it is absolutely the library’s duty to uphold the values of freedom, equality, safety, and access to information. This applies to all people, regardless of age, origin, economics, background, citizenship, or views.
More than ever, Saint Paul needs a strong public library. The library is a purveyor of truth in an era of “fake news.” It is a safe space for dialogue related to current events. It informs people about basic civics and human rights. It promotes literacy, digital inclusion, and access to information.
The library is the cornerstone of a thriving city: welcoming people of all ages and cultures; strengthening neighborhoods and learning networks; and inspiring all with the world of ideas.
The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.