Library should represent the diversity of its community

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 10:15 AM

Welcome to the new monthly column dedicated to your local libraries! The directors of the Durango Public Library, Ignacio Community Library and the Pine River Library will be reintroducing you to libraries each month. We are excited to share our love for libraries, the challenges we face and the issues that are important to libraries.

A topic that is one of the basic tenets of librarianship is freedom of speech. The tragic events in Charlottesville challenge our belief and trust in the First Amendment. In 1939, the American Library Association wrote the Library Bill of Rights. It has gone through a few amendments, but it still stands as one of the adopted principles that libraries nationwide adhere to. A portion of the Library Bill of Rights says:

“The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

For libraries, freedom of speech is directly applicable to how we develop our collection. Let me tell you – it is tough when I purchase an item for the collection that goes against my personal beliefs. But that is my duty – to serve the community as a whole, not just the people or platforms with whom I agree. It is a duty that every librarian worth their salt takes seriously. We don’t purchase items on a whim; rather, we read professional reviews, examine the gaps in our collection, review best-seller lists and select items that are of high quality. We are important stewards of our community’s tax dollars, and curating a quality collection that showcases a variety of viewpoints is vital. A library’s collection should represent the diversity of its community.

Sept. 24-30 is designated “Banned Books Week” by ALA. It is an annual event that brings together the book community – libraries, bookstores, publishers and the like. It is a time to celebrate our freedom to read what we choose, a right that is not true in many nations across the world.

Visit your library and read something that challenges your viewpoints. If you read it and disagree with what was depicted, so be it. But remember – your views belong to you, and imposing them on others does not work in a free and open society that is opposed to censorship. That is the beauty of having access to knowledge – you can explore, educate and inform, and allow others to do the same.

Sandy Irwin is director of Durango Public Library. She can be reached at