The slide of a book off a shelf, the crack of its spine; the shushed shuffling, the silent studying, the click of keys on shared computers... public libraries house the subdued hums of entire communities at work. And yet, a library is not merely the sum of its stacks of books and rooms of computer screens. Libraries offer so much more than simple literary transactions: they are community hubs in which users can learn to navigate the world outside.
Anyone entering a library can access a world of knowledge: the non-fiction that equips us with the information we need and the fiction that feeds our imagination, helping us build empathy each time we walk through a world in someone else's shoes. Libraries are community centres that operate on principles of equality and civic duty; they are the natural home of intellectual freedom. And so, when four librarians founded Libraries 4 Black Lives, it made perfect sense: as they argue, "if we uphold intellectual freedom then we must also uphold freedom itself. As library workers, we must, then, grapple with the forces stripping communities of personal, religious and collective freedom."
The initiative was brought to life following two separate murders of black men by police officers within 24 hours last summer. The idea was to encourage fellow librarians to promote, support, and collaborate on the pursuit of social justice in their institutions and across the country. Alongside offering resources (including "Building Empathy Through Reading", "A Black Lives Matter Reading List", and "Helping Children Deal with Shootings and Other Bad News") and a pledge, Libraries 4 Black Lives examines the role libraries can play in addressing "systemic racial injustice and implicit personal bias" and enabling entire communities to transform.
Another great reason to make sure you have your library card.