My earliest library memories are from when I was in early elementary school and our town’s library was on the same block. I was able to walk or bike there from my house. The first library books that I tended to check out were stories about fantastic creatures (including, I can recall, a book about the Fantastic Four, one of my earliest introductions to comic superheroes).
My relationship with libraries only deepened during my teenage years, as my father began his second career as a reference librarian. Meanwhile, I worked as a page at another branch during much of high school. Later on, I worked at my seminary’s library.
I make a few trips to our area library a month. For me, going to pick up a book on reserve always brings a tinge of excitement, as I’m on the brink of a new adventure. I still love fantasy and science fiction and horror stories, but I pepper in plenty of non-fiction these days.
It saddens me when I hear stories about communities attacking their libraries. This seems especially to have ramped up as the hysteria over certain titles or genres grows larger. Take, for instance, a Michigan library whose community voted against its funding over its refusal to remove an LGBTQ memoir:
A few months later, in March, an anonymous letter went to homes in the area. It criticized the “pornographic” memoir and the addition of “transgender” and “gay” books to the library, according to Lawrence. “That fired a lot of people up and got them to start coming to our board meetings to complain,” he said. “The concern from the public was that it’s going to confuse children.”
The library’s refusal to submit to the demands led to a campaign urging residents to vote against renewed funding for the library. A group calling itself Jamestown Conservatives handed out flyers condemning Gender Queer for showing “extremely graphic sexual illustrations of two people of the same gender”, criticizing a library director who “promoted the LGBTQ ideology” and calling for making the library “a safe and neutral place for our kids”.
Because people wanted one title removed, now a town might lose a haven of knowledge, a place to take classes, a voting precinct, a hub for children’s activities, a public space to gather, a place that offers free internet to those who need it for job applications or research, a space that can assist them in getting help with legal and financial documents such as passports, citizenship materials, and tax forms, and so much more.
Libraries offer so much, from important and needed assistance for adults and fantasy worlds for children. They are true gifts to their communities.