Opinion:  Five Reasons Libraries are Dangerous and Need to Remain That Way

By Carla Charter

“ Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous – they contain ideas.” ― Pete Hautman

Ken Ham, of Ark Encounter recently wrote an article warning “families of all ages” that public libraries are becoming dangerous places, according to Ham because of their acceptance of LGBTQ characters in books.

I hate to break it to you Mr. Ham, but libraries have always been dangerous places but not for the reasons he thinks.  So below I have listed for your edification five reasons Libraries have always been dangerous and why they should remain that way.

 

Libraries Promote Literacy

                           “Once you learn to read, you will be ever free.”— Frederick Douglass

When you open the doors to a library, shelves of books are the first items you see. From children’s story hours to the shelf of the newest bestsellers, it is clear, literacy for every citizen is strongly promoted. Even for those who cannot read the library offers literacy classes. For they know that a literate population is a population that cannot be controlled.

Libraries are dangerous to Despots.

 

Libraries Promote Quiet

                                     “The world is quiet here” —- Lemony Snicket

In a world where the phones are always ringing and the latest news is constantly bombarding us  from the television or computer, a library is an oasis of quiet. A place here we can just be with our thoughts, wandering the stacks of books, clearing our mind, figuring out our next step.  Quiet brings solace, solace brings new ideas. Ideas which often begin at the library.

Libraries are dangerous to all the daily drumbeat of life’s noise that take us away from our authentic selves.

 

                                                          Libraries Promote Differences

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin

Walk into a library and you will meet humanity in al it’s amazing sizes, shapes and identities.  Not only in fellow readers but among the words on the shelves.  Open a book and are soon travelling the world to places you have never been meeting people you have never met. Yes Mr. Ham this includes people who are LGBQT.

Libraries do not have an agenda, other than to educate and expand a citizen’s world view. For libraries understand that by promoting differences, they are promoting tolerance and understanding in the larger world as well.  Those library books are beacons, showings u that we are more alike than different and as Roald Dahl once wrote so perfectly, “sending out the comforting message, you are not alone.”  At the least it’s a message that our world desperately needs these days and at the most it’s a message that could potentially save a life.

Libraries are dangerous to ignorance and hate.

 

Libraries Promote Discussion

   Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities — R. David Lankes

The constitution guarantees us the right to free speech.  Libraries is the shrine of that right. From reading groups to community meetings, the library houses a place for lively discussion where we can share our viewpoint with others. There are also access to computers for those wishing to share their opinions in a written forum.  Libraries understand that discussion aids in understanding another’s point of view which leads to citizens working together to solve the bigger problems of the world.

Libraries are a danger to those who believe that their ideas are the only ones that are worthy.

 

Libraries Promote Change

     A public library is the most democratic thing in the world. What can be found there has undone dictators and tyrants. —Doris Lessing

Libraries house all of the great thinkers of the world. Thinkers whose words and actions have led to rebellion.  Martin Luther, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Jefferson among others.  Their revolutionary writings including the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther’s Theses and Letters from A Birmingham Jail can all be found on their shelves.  They all send the same message, if things are not well in society, citizens are the ones to make change.

Libraries are dangerous to the status quo, despite the unfairness that status quo may hold for others.

 

I agree Mr. Ham, libraries are dangerous. Those books that quietly sit on the shelves in the right hands can change hearts and minds, attack ignorance and hate and in some cases foment a rebellion.

Here’s where we disagree though. I believe that the danger those books can bring to a person’s life may not actually be a danger. maybe instead those words serve as an enlightenment, a spark, an idea that will push our country forward as a whole and make it a better place.

Libraries are and have always been dangerous places. May they always remain so.