TO THE EDITOR:
Who would want to destroy a library? Right? I mean a library is a staple to community life like pb&j is to a child’s lunch box.
However, it was three years ago when a tsunami of destruction was unleashed at a Farmington Hills Council meeting. Initially, almost imperceptibly, this storm of demise unfolded relentlessly. Soon the entire 8-member Farmington Community Library Board disappeared, the director was vanquished, and then the pandemic allowed this wave of ruin to pick up speed.
As HR and IT departments were toppled and a wide swath of librarians and staff were taken off their feet, many disappearing for good, this former jewel of the community is now mostly devoid of the life and vitality it once had. Granted, a portion of this is COVID-19 related.
Why would anyone want to destroy a library? Some have suggested it was greed – the desire to divert public funds to other projects. Many, however, are convinced it is retribution for a perceived slight to a friend. But whatever the reason, is it worth it to demoralize a dedicated staff, deny library services to the public, pay exorbitant fees to outside consultants under the guise of “improving” the library? Not to mention undermining the most important example of the social infrastructure in Farmington/Farmington Hills?
How can anyone want to destroy a library? This is the one place in our society where EVERYONE can walk through the doors, at no cost, to look for materials of their own choosing to inform or entertain.
Anyone can receive professional guidance from willing and highly trained individuals. All can use modern technology to further their own study or interest. It is one of the few places in our society where you are shoulder to shoulder with others seeking the same thing as you; even though their country of origin, style of clothing, socio-economic background, skin color, culture, language, age, or gender may be different. This is the one best place to implicitly learn we are all one community. This is where we cement our sense of community that will keep us strong in troubled times. When we don’t have places such as libraries, to gather, mingle and learn to get along with each other than the future of our community is in jeopardy.
What can we do when someone wants to destroy your library? Be vigilant. Learn how your library board is appointed. Attend board meetings. Ask questions. Support your library. Support your Friends of the Library. Know that short-sighted politicians may not be thinking of long-term ramifications.
Understand that a strong, cohesive community depends on a well-functioning, professionally run library that knows and values their patrons. This is where your community begins. We need to move past the fault line of our society that is threatening the important social institutions and understand that our strength relies on our sense of shared purpose in protecting these beloved gems.
Whatever community you reside in, please be watchful and aware. I recommend all people holding public office to read the book: Palaces for the People: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life by Eric Klineberg. And take it to heart; because who would want to see their library destroyed?