Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On radical hospitality

For me, the Unified Library Scene means a lot of things. It means collaboration across functional areas in libraries. It means putting library users squarely in the center of any decision you make about how your library runs. It means leaving Librarianship better than you found it.

But mostly, the Unified Library Scene means being the change you wish to see in both Librarianship and in the world.

Today, in the wake of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the Ferguson-Florissant School District is closed. But the Ferguson Municipal Public Library is open. And from 9-3, they're inviting teachers and volunteers into the library to work with kids.
The Ferguson Municipal Public Library also opened its doors to kids, teachers, and volunteers back in August after the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests delayed the start of school in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

This. This is what a library does. A library opens its doors to the community and meets its needs. Maybe that means building collections. Maybe this means building a makerspace so that users can dream and build and create. Maybe this means teaching classes on any number of topics relevant to the needs of the community. Maybe that means opening your library so that children in your community have a place to go and process their feelings and where teachers can continue the work of helping the children in your community grow.

The how looks different for every library in every community. But the why? The why is always the same. It is the job of a library and its staff to be hospitable in the most radical way possible to the community it serves.

It's possible that you didn't go into Librarianship to practice this kind of radical hospitality. Too bad. This is your job now, in a world that is increasingly and unequally unsafe for members of your community. It's possible that you think that Libraries are only for collections. Too bad. As R. David Lankes put it in this blog post, great libraries build communities.

Being the change means standing up and meeting the needs of your community. It means putting yourself at risk to ensure that your library is a safe space for the most vulnerable in your community. It means thinking critically about the collections you build and the services you offer. It means putting the needs of your users ahead of your own comfort.

So, here's the question: What is one thing that you can do today to practice radical hospitality to the community you serve?

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