From Kate McCaffrey, President of the Maplewood Memorial Library Board of Trustees:
Ten years ago, hundreds of people gathered daily at the Maplewood Memorial Library for warmth, light, power, and information. Hurricane Sandy dramatically demonstrated the crucial role our library plays as a community hub and clearinghouse of accurate information. Indeed, the importance of the library as both an institution and a physical space galvanized our successful $22 million building campaign.
Yet as we break ground on a new building, a rising tide of intolerance across the US reinforces the importance of the library, not only as a physical gathering space, but as an institution devoted to free speech and free expression.
We celebrate and nurture the lively exchange of diverse ideas as a core principle of our democracy. We curate a wide collection of books, journals, magazines, and films that offer facts and fantasy, stories of sorrow and delight, and the opportunity to deepen understanding and consider new ideas.
This year the American Library Association (ALA) reports a sharp uptick in efforts to ban and censor books. Although book challenges have a long history in the US, evidence suggests that recent efforts are organized, coordinated, well-funded, and targeted in large part at books that consider racial justice and LGTBQ identity. Librarians themselves have become the targets of threats and intimidation, in some instances driven from their jobs.
We reject these divisive efforts to erase particular voices, restrict debate, and distort reality. We are committed to providing free access to a full range of ideas in order to strengthen literacy, anchor opinions in facts, and expand our understanding of the world we live in. We defend the professionalism and competence of our library staff to curate a wide range of material that serves the public interest, and we have adopted a robust and thoughtful collection development policy. Active citizenship requires a literate and informed public, free to read the material that they choose, and prepared to engage, discuss, and listen to ideas with their neighbors. This week, as the ALA draws our attention to banned books, we celebrate and affirm the right to read.
Kate McCaffrey, President of the Maplewood Memorial Library Board of Trustees