Calling all Public Library Defenders!
Written by Dr. Katie Clark, Run for Something Alum and Altadena Library District Trustee
There’s one main requirement for my job: Love books and the people who read them.
I serve on the Altadena Library District Board of Trustees. That means my job as an elected official is making sure my local public libraries can do THEIR jobs: providing critical resources, books, programs, and opportunities to our community. So I get REALLY fired up when I see my Twitter feed filled with stories of efforts to ban books in schools and libraries.
Libraries are powerful centers of our democracy. It’s true! Just think about it: Where else can you go for free, anytime, no matter who you are or where you come from or where you live, and connect with some of the most powerful ideas in human history? Not only that, libraries (and librarians!) are devoted to protecting your privacy and to defending your rights to access information.
We know the far right is going after schools and books because their conspiracy theories and lies can’t stand up to the power of truth. It’s not a surprise that most of the books they are targeting are written by Black and LGBTQIA+ authors, books that tell the real and difficult stories of the lives of people who have lived oppressed in this country and others.
Imagine being a Black child who only sees books with white heroes. Imagine being a kid who knows they’re different but has never seen, heard, or read the story of another trans person. The power of representation in our collections is at the core of what libraries exist to do. What you can do, who you can be, and the grand scope of what’s possible can be found in the pages of books and graphic novels and comics, and in the hallways and stacks of our public libraries.
Ready for some good news? Run for Something is already in this fight. One of their top priorities this year is recruiting diverse young progressives to run for offices that touch education — like school boards, library boards, and city councils.
In my work as a Library Trustee, I protect libraries and librarians. I’m not selecting books for third-graders or planning events — that’s the job of professional, qualified, and highly-educated librarians! But I am making sure that those librarians have the tax dollars, the resources, the buildings, and the community support to do their hugely important jobs.
Whether I’m writing policy, working to keep our staff fully employed and safe through a pandemic, renovating our facilities, or building partnerships that include everyone in our community, my work has a real impact on my neighbors every day. I can’t think of a more powerful reason to keep stepping up!
And just like my fictional friends Lizzie Bennet (Pride & Prejudice) or Éowyn (The Lord of the Rings) or Claudia Kincaid (From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), I know I can’t do it alone. Nor do I want to! It takes a community of people to make the kind of big, widespread impact we’re talking about. That’s why Run for Something exists.
I can think of no better sign off than these words from the immortal James Baldwin:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Let’s get in this fight together.
P.S. Run for Something is hosting a panel for anyone interested in running for school board on Wednesday, March 9th. RSVP to join if you’re thinking about running.