fight for the library
March 30, 2023
As many Columbia County residents know by now, there is a petition circulating that proposes to put the dissolution of the Columbia County Rural Library District on the ballot. Dissolution of the district would result in the permanent shuttering of the library. All the books would be sent to the State Library to be redistributed or destroyed. All the computers and other equipment would be surplussed, along with the furnishings. The building itself would be returned to the city and would likely remain empty unless or until the city finds funds to reopen or reuse it.
Hundreds of us use the library regularly to find books, use the computers, print, copy, fax, attend free programs, and meet in the Delany Building. Kids use the library’s database subscriptions to do homework. Adults use them to read articles and news for free. People use the library to meet, hang out in a climate-controlled space, read, visit, research, etc. The library is an essential service. Having an adequately funded library in our community says that we care about literacy and education. It makes our area attractive to new residents and businesses and provides services to the community far in excess of its cost. It’s not perfect, but it’s ours. It belongs to all of us.
So why take the drastic step of shutting it down? For months a small, vocal group has attempted to force the librarian and board to censor library materials that they find objectionable. This type of action has been happening all over the country and has been in the news for months, so by now, I’m sure you’re aware of the types of books they find objectionable. All have featured stories by and about people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community. This group seems to believe that books about gender non-conforming people, in particular, “sexualize” children, and they are not above using lies, exaggeration, character assassination, and gaslighting to get these books censored.
None of those tactics worked, so now they want to shut the whole thing down. In the recent UB article about it, one of the petitioners is quoted, “I know that losing a service like the county library is not what everyone hoped the outcome would be. It would be nice if it was able to work for our community needs and not against it. But we have given the director, the board, and even the commissioners over (seven) months to get this library back on track.”
This petitioner does not speak for everyone in the community. Not even close. Even my young child knows that she doesn’t get to take her ball and go home just because she doesn’t get what she wants. It is my hope that those of us who value intellectual freedom and the democratization of information will speak out in support of the library. And then speak out again. Keep speaking until the entire community hears you. Use your voice, Columbia County. Don’t let our library go.