Public libraries are known for their quiet settings. But during National Library Week, staff leaders in Minnesota and elsewhere are being vocal about the threat library systems around the country are facing in calls for book bans.
Monday was designated as “Right to Read Day” by the American Library Association. It marks the first anniversary of the group’s Unite Against Book Bans campaign.
Carla Powers—the manager of the Duluth Public Library—said the atmosphere of censorship is disturbing and alarming, and that it runs counter to the mission of these community resources in providing reading options. “As public libraries,” said Powers, “it’s part of our foundational values to provide access to a broad variety of information.”
The Library Association recently announced that 2022 saw a record number of demands to censor library books and materials.
Fueled by right-wing activists, most titles the groups targeted were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color. Powers said her location encountered pushback last year over a drag story time, but the event went on without incident.
Groups behind recent book-ban attempts often cite the need to protect children. But Powers said systems like hers have protocols in place that center around allowing families to decide for themselves whether to check out a book.
“I think that’s where the responsibility belongs,” said Powers, “that ‘I will decide for my child and my family what I think is best and you can decide for your child and your family what you think is best.’ “
Powers added that the attempt to undermine libraries comes as these facilities keep evolving into a vital source for the areas they serve.
“We have computer access, we have media in various formats, makerspaces,” said Powers. “Libraries are a key part of their community.”
As part of “Right to Read Day,” the Library Association suggested several actions for supporters, including borrowing a book at risk of being banned.
Mike Moen writes for Minnesota News Connection.
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