Are libraries the last standing spaces of democracy?

Last week, I wrote about how American libraries are working on strengthening its work with the homeless for AssociationsNow.

The American Library Association has a history in addressing the issue of homelessness and has issued policies, standards, programs and more on the population in need. They’ve done strong work in helping libraries across the country welcome them into their spaces.

But, perhaps it means much more.

This quote, as told by the nation’s first social worker stationed at a library, struck me and my backing of public space + democratic standards:

“Libraries are the last bastion of democracy.”

Think of it that way. Think of libraries as the last few public spaces in this country. (Especially with city spaces now posting rules post-Occupy.) What else do we have? The street? Parks? I’m not saying some should put on an occupation or protest in a library but think about the diminishing spaces for the first amendment, AKA democracy. (That’s for another post.)

They’re the kind of public space that is organized, educated, helpful and resourceful. It is a respectful, accepting, equal, and hospitable community space accessible for all.

Think of it this way. Think of libraries as the standing local spot that brags of its democratic standards. (Churches of democracy?) Everyone can access it and everyone is welcome. Everyone can learn from the sources hosted in the stacks and on the screens.

It is a refuge for the homeless, as I found in my reporting, but it can be a refuge for many other Americans. A friend texted me this:


It made me think about what I learned in reporting for this piece. Libraries have gone unrecognized as an undeniably resourceful public space for many in today’s electronic and mobile age.

And imagine if these “bastions of democracy” were to disappear since we don’t recognize them for what they are? We do, after all, live in an e-book world and Google search world. (“Let me Google that for you…”)

What would be the next true public space? What would be the next standing ground of democracy? Live on, libraries. Live on.


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