Librarians As “First Responders”

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

The recent election brings new attention to libraries in the form of an editorial in the LA Times, “How to weather the Trump administration: Head to the library.”

David Kipen, former literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts and the founder of the Boyle Heights-based nonprofit lending library Libros Schmibros, writes “librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.”

Kipen says “In small towns and large, in red states and blue, libraries poll better across the political spectrum than any public trust this side of the fire department” and urges “If Donald Trump is as smart as he insists he is, then he can prove it by strengthening our intellectual infrastructure. That means libraries.”

Ripen writes that his argument is based on facts:

“All the research out there — Census data, NEA reports, the Pew Research Center’s work on libraries and reading in low-income neighborhoods — all of it points toward reading enjoyment as the surest predictor of health, wealth and good citizenship. Readers volunteer more, vote more, even exercise more. And a recent Yale study categorically shows what most of us have long suspected: Readers live longer than nonreaders.”

And in a warning about the politicization of library funding he writes, “If your reelection depended on voter ignorance, you’d want to starve libraries too.”

The column also calls for moving the location of the inauguration:

“The absolute best place is … our great secular national cathedral, the Library of Congress. And Thomas Jefferson’s great gift to the country should stand in for every public library in the land — palatial or puny, hewn from marble or shoehorned into a mini-mall, with stone lions out front or mice in the stacks … I believe our next president should deliver the inaugural address from nowhere but the steps of our national library. And then, turning his back on the cameras, the polls, and even the electorate, he should step inside.”

One Response to “Librarians As “First Responders””

  1. B Willette Says:

    Love this idea.