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The warriors at our libraries

True confession: I've been hanging out with people I don't regularly associate with, at least not in these numbers.

I thought I knew a lot about them and their environs, which are ubiquitous but somehow not top of mind. I saw them as part of the community “wallpaper” – always there, mainly in the background.

No more. As a 2023 Michigan Notable Books author, the Library of Michigan sent me on a tour of libraries across the state. I now know librarians Nicole in Owosso, Bobbi in Three Rivers, Matt in Dowagiac, Chelsey in Adrian, Micki in Hudson, Faith in Wayland, and more.

My first encounter was with Scott, at Capital Area District Libraries (CADL) in Lansing, who invited me to be on the CADL podcast. (Who knew the library had podcasts?)

This was when my book was first published, so I figured he had no idea he was asking a person who stutters severely to talk. But he knew! And he invited me anyway. (Click here for my podcast debut.)

I've since done book talks all around the state. My deepest hope is that listeners see that people who struggle to speak can have something worthwhile to say. People need to hear that message, and providing needed messages is what libraries do.

I know that now in a way a didn't before my Michigan Notable Books journey. Mainly, I didn't understand how librarians are on the front lines of the First Amendment. When I was a journalist, I saw that work as my job. Now I see that librarians are right there, too.

Nearly every librarian I've met has acknowledged the growing number of challenges to the books they provide. But in the same breath they say they're confident in their community's commitment to ensuring access to information.

Still, the threatened closing of the Patmos Library in west Michigan haunts me. Local residents turned down two separate millage proposals to keep the library funded and open. Millage opponents object to LGBYQ books and others with sexual content in the library's young adult section.

The Patmos Library board has valiantly denied requests to remove the books. And board members voted to add content descriptions to the inside covers of 90,000 books, in hopes of convincing voters to approve an upcoming November millage request.

Taking a cue from my librarian friends, I’m counting on voters to fund their library. When that happens, I’d love to visit.


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