“My feeling has always been if our job was just to give people anything they ask for; they don’t need us…that’s what a bookstore does. What a library does is create broad access and balance over a wide array of topics, and not necessarily what is most popular.” – Steve Potter, former Director of Mid-Continent Library. I have been holding on to this quote since November 2021. Google Steve when you get a chance. His story is one of concern for us all, after 34 years with the district, 12 as Director, he chose retirement after “an ongoing battle over diversity and inclusion that has infiltrated the library governing body’s meetings during the last few years.” Similar to the same unrest we have witnessed in one of our local school districts, an outstanding director that led an amazing system, finally stepped down after suffering through the last few years of nonsense. A system so great that they have a link to all their awards, seriously, top notch like their former director.
Back to his quote, “broad access and balance.” Very much unlike Forest Hills School District Board (Cincinnati), which recently approved legislation that will ban “anti-racism training and teaching.” The member that wrote the legislation is recorded saying, “that both sides should always be being taught to students.” Both sides, as in racism and anti-racism? Really? I swear, one day they will find my bloody bashed head on my desk, a victim of repeated self-pounding.
Titled “Resolution to Create a Culture of Kindness and Equal Opportunity for All Students and Staff,” the resolution aims to have the FHSD “declare its official opposition to the use of race-based and/or identity-based training, curricula, and methodology in public education.” Google this too, some of the information seems acceptable (Schools may not use race, socioeconomic class, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, or culture as a consideration when hiring or administering academic programs or evaluation systems.), some not so much, (Schools shall not force individuals to admit privilege or oppression, or to “reflect,” “deconstruct,” or “confront” their identities based on race, socioeconomic class, religion, gender identity, sex, sexual preference, ethnicity, or culture.”). I am not sure where we are headed as a nation, but, man, 1984 by Orwell seems pretty accurate.
At the meeting, where the legislation was passed, one student expressed why knowing and studying the opposed theories is important. “It’s a chance to understand those harmful actions of the past and learn how to respect those who are different from us while working towards a more inclusive future.”
I watched Stephen Colbert interview Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Raise an Antiracist (available at our library) where he responded to the argument that teaching young children about the history of racism is going to make white kids feel bad. “Why can’t we let children identify with white abolitionist?” He went on to discuss the obvious concern folks have over curriculum affecting children, but he points out, “What about how black kids feel when they are not represented in the curriculum?” Yes, what about them? Seriously, folks we are not all white, we are not all Christians.
Broad access and balance, good for libraries, vital for public education. For all those other “Steves” out there, take care of yourself, we need you, but not as martyrs.
Upcoming Events: 8/3 Story Time at 10am, 8/6 Farmers’ Market from 9am-noon. STEM kits are ready for check out.