I love you. I wanted you to know that right away because today is a day when people should be reminded that they are loved. You are loved. I’ve sent a dozen texts this morning to friends and family that just say, “I love you.” But you, librarians, you–I love you for a lot of reasons.
I’ve loved librarians for a long time. I love you like Matilda loves Mrs. Phelps. When young Matilda wanted to read long, complicated novels, Mrs. Phelps said, “And don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.” I’ve loved you since I took home a Babysitters Club paperback from my local library when I was nine years old, just before we moved to California, and the book moved with me, and then we moved back to Portland, and I still had the book, and I was nearly in tears of thinking how awful my library fines would be, and you said, “It’s a bring-em-back-paperback. No fines!” I was so relieved. I’ve loved you since I was an awkward queer teenage witch, checking out stacks of books by Starhawk and Scott Cunningham and collections of gay erotica–and you let me have it all, never judging, never questioning. I’ve loved you since I was a volunteer at my local public library, since I was an assistant in my college’s library, and I loved when I was in grad school, working full-time in HR while earning my MLS, and I love you now.
We have the most incredible job in the world, but you already knew that. We are helpers. We help people make sense of the world, especially during confusing times. And no matter what has happened, through the long, wild history of the world, we have endured. There have always been libraries, even when wars have toppled our buildings or fascists have burned our books. We remain. We rebuild the buildings, we put back the books, and we fight for tomorrow.
For a long time, librarians stored and organized information, and people came to us to access it. This is still true in many ways, but people now have more access to information than ever before without us, and we have to help them sift, dig, sort, evaluate, and question it. We have to help them read. We have to help them think. These skills matter. Our work matters.
All across America today, librarians got up and went to work. Right now, librarians are helping students write research papers. They are helping unemployed people write resumes. They’re teaching someone who used to be incarcerated how to use a computer, and they’re leading story times full of songs and books for young children.
Librarians, I love you because of what we believe in. We believe in freedom of information, we value democracy, and we know that this country is a special place to be a librarian. We fight censorship and we protect our patrons’ right to privacy, even when doing so is unpopular. We are fiercely loyal to the people we serve, and we keep our doors open when the world seems to be ending around us.
Today, many people feel like the world has ended. The world they thought they knew has faded away, and a new world is here. People are afraid of what tomorrow, next year, the next four years will bring. They may lose their jobs, their healthcare, their right to marry the person they love. We don’t know. But I know that there will be libraries. There will be librarians to help people make sense of senseless things. And when I think of that, I am less afraid.
Featured image is a bookplate from Zaluski Library, which was burned down in World War II during the destruction of Warsaw.