Besides “read a book”
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Shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, assistant library director Rebecca McCorkindale created a sign to let immigrants and longtime residents alike know “Libraries Are For Everyone.” It was a simple message, but it quickly gained global momentum. After publishing a blog post about the sign on February 2, McCorkindale checked her email the next day to find messages from librarians around the world wanting to use the image in their respective languages.
Some might consider it a bold move for a librarian to take a political stance during such polarizing times. But McCorkindale sees it as a rather simple choice, telling PBS, “Libraries are the heart of a community, for anyone and everyone that lives there, regardless of their background. And so we strongly believe that libraries are not neutral. We stand up for human rights.”
McCorkindale isn’t alone in this belief. The American Library Association, which provides resources to libraries across the country, has a code of ethics to maintain values of inclusivity, intellectual freedom, and social responsibility. In that vein, the Davenport Library in Iowa hosted a discussion about spotting fake news, Indiana University East’s library released a fact sheet about fact-checking, and several school libraries in Seattle have doubled down on efforts to teach children how to seek out the truth.
When it comes to immigration, libraries have a special place in helping immigrants adjust to their new home and culture. A survey conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences estimates 55 percent of new American residents visit a local library at least once a week. Whether they’re offering citizenship-related resources, English language lessons, after-school homework help, or test prep, libraries serve as invaluable hubs of information for newcomers.
Placing “Libraries Are For Everyone” signs next to displays featuring books about immigrant and refugee experiences lets newcomers know they are just as welcome as anyone else. In this way, librarians continue a tradition of standing up for marginalized communities while also defining a sense of community on the whole. As McCorkindale tells GOOD,
“Librarians have always been champions for their communities. We have core ethics that we adhere to every single day. Regardless of who the president is or what party is in power, we will continue to be information professionals and champions of social justice. I feel that currently we may be proclaiming these values much louder than usual, but only because we are aware that these values are being both questioned and threatened in many ways.”