As I unlocked the door to the library this morning, I was haunted by a statement made by Kevin Verbesey, Director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, as he addressed a group of my fellow directors in late March. “Nothing you do as a director,” he said, “will be more important than how you handle your library’s response to this pandemic.” Despite the challenges of John Jermain’s building project, and despite forty-five years of other jobs in other libraries, I believed him. We were, as it turned out, wrong.
Nothing in those years has been more difficult than trying to maintain a neutral position in the world where I now live. And nothing can let me feel it is right to continue to hold to the general premise that public libraries should remain neutral. In the past I have told new colleagues, “It is our mission to hold all biases in trust.” But today demands a different cry, for today we are a world in tatters.
Reading may not be a form of activism. But honoring the words of activists is a way to learn how to take action. The eight books listed below are from the shelves in my home. I have turned to them this week, but first discovered each at the library–on whose shelves there are 46 and many more to help us change this world.
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me
E. B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk
N. K. Jemison The City We Became
Ibram X. Kendi How to Be an Antiracist,
Audre Lorde Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Toni Morrison Beloved
Colson Whitehead The Nickel Boys
Catherine Creedon, Director firstname.lastname@example.org