Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ALA Post 6: Librarians are My Superheroes

When I heard about the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, just before ALA, I wanted to do something to show my grief and concern. I bought a bunch of rainbow ribbon and planned to hand it out at the Penguin Random House booth. Turns out I wasn't even remotely the only person with that idea: ALA itself had bowls full of rainbow memorial ribbons set out at registration and all over the conference.

I went to the memorial service on Friday morning, an hour before the exhibit hall opened. It was packed. Members of ALA's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Roundtable spoke. Members of Reforma, the Latino ALA affliate group, spoke. Congressman John Lewis spoke. A full theatre of people listened.

After the service I went to the Banned Books Read-Aloud Booth. They were filming anyone who wanted to stop by and read a passage from their favorite banned book; the videos will be shown online during Banned Book Week in September. I read from TWTSML. I haven't heard of its being banned yet, but I've gotten some one-star reviews solely because the character Susan is gay and honestly? children are going to grow up knowing gay people exist. My daughter read the opening page of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

I've always considered librarians my personal superheroes because books have always been a refuge for me. Only recently have I started to see that librarians are superheroes for us all. They're supporting banned books. They're supporting all books. They're filling public buildings with books and information, free to anyone, everywhere. They're running teen programs in inner cities. They're creating safe spaces for their patrons.

In my own home town, when they rebuilt the library, they added a row of computers that can access the internet, for people who don't have computers at home. They expanded the room they provide for the Adult Literacy Lab. They built a lovely children's department and just expanded the teen section because our teen program is the third-largest in the entire state of Tennessee.

My hometown library has a circular atrium with gas fireplaces in its center, facing out, so that you can sit in comfortable chairs in a circle around the fires. In cool weather the fireplaces are always lit. Homeless people come in every day and read the newspapers in those chairs. I once fell asleep in one of them, sound asleep for an hour, a book open on my lap and drool running down my chin.

The librarians saw me, but they didn't wake me. They figured I needed to sleep, and they're in the business of giving.