Report: “Iowa’s Public Libraries ‘Next Grounds For the Oncoming Civil Rights Movement'”
From The Gazette:
Following this year’s vote for Senate File 496 to restrict school library offerings in Iowa and efforts in other states to bar books from public libraries, some Iowa public librarians worry they may be the next target for Iowa lawmakers.
“Whether the restrictions are coming from the (potential future) legislation, or whether they’re coming from people in the communities, it’s just adding pressure,” said Jennie Garner, president of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries and director of the North Liberty Public Library. “Those kinds of attacks are going to be a big struggle for libraries.”
Sam Helmick, president of the Iowa Library Association and community and access services coordinator at the Iowa City Public Library, said the importance of libraries as one of the last free public spaces has been growing amid such calls to limit access.
“I think that we’ve, in part, become the next grounds for the oncoming civil rights movement,” Helmick said. “It’s important to recognize that as the information sector for everybody — the great equalizer of democracy — libraries are going to always be a part of the civil rights conversation.”
Helmick said there is some “classic misdirection” about the role of public libraries in the political sphere. Unlike, for instance, assigned readings in classrooms, libraries are not compulsory. This means the information, events and books available there are not forced upon anyone.
“They’re simply there to serve as the community’s collection of resources so that everybody can be guided, and informed, and grow and be well-rounded,” Helmick said. “The library’s role, I think, is to continue to do the great work that we have been doing since the Founding Fathers funded public and free libraries.”
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.