Reading library news on a regular basis is enough to make a freedom-loving person crazy; every week I read about seemingly regular people attempting to ban books or protest library programs! Understand, it’s not these people’s right to speak out that gives me the willies, it’s that their solutions all too often involve trashing books I might want to read and cancelling programs I might want to see. It’s that they’re attempting to slash at the self-determination of entire communities to satisfy their own morals or, worse, their personal tastes, and it is wrong! Libraries are about giving people the freedom to read and think without interference. They’re about giving people choices!
The argument does exist that because tax dollars are used to fund libraries, the masses should dictate their operations. Of course, this logic is ridiculous if we follow it to its end. Should it also be taxpayers that decide what brand of concrete is used to re-pave roads? Should taxpayers accompany municipal maintenance when they upgrade sewage systems? Or maybe we should have Joe Public harangue the city’s tree trimmers as they do their work. Civilization wouldn’t collapse, to be sure, but I think it’s smarter if we let people do their jobs.
Librarians are experts at running libraries, they spend years and not a little bit of money earning a masters degree in Library and Information Science (LIS). One of the unwritten rules of library collections and services is that they’re not one-size-fits-all; communities are made up of diverse individuals with complex temperaments and tastes so it’s a given that no one will like every single one of the thousands of items in the library. Some of those individuals may even find a few of those items offensive! And that’s okay, because contrary to some of the dictatorships out there, we in the Unites States are able to choose what what we read, and what we don’t read.
Inherent in that is also all of our responsibility to protect choice. That means if you’re at the library and the slob in the chair beside you is reading a newspaper whose politics you detest, you walk on by and let him read. And if your friend wants to start a movement to ban that paper from the library, you tell them that in America, we live and let live. Whether it’s at the library or on the subway, as long as what others are doing isn’t hurting anybody, mind your own business!
Everyone’s pursuit of happiness is different. For some, it may mean dressing in drag and sashaying away, for others it could mean researching their family history, while for others it could be designing a robot. Libraries have space for all of these pursuits! And you know what else, I want the liberty to have a choice in how I find joy at the library without other people’s personal tastes butting in! NRA members may love their guns but for me, I say to those trying to ban my books: Keep your hands off my library!