Imagine walking into a grocery store to find that the only vegetable available is canned peas, the only soup, beef-flavored Top Ramen, and the only protein, frozen fish sticks. Now, imagine visiting a library with such limited choices. Both dystopian scenarios would be boring in the short run, and both mentally and physically unhealthy in the long run.
In contrast to the aforementioned bland, monolithic outlets, La Plata County embodies diversity. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s easy to find people who think and feel as you do, just as it is easy to find people whose views differ slightly or drastically from your own. Consequently, our communities are enticing, interesting places. As a representative of our county’s library directors, I am here to say: Your libraries love you! We don’t care about your politics; we are unconcerned with your life philosophy. We don’t judge your family makeup, past or present, and we are completely unruffled by your socioeconomic position. We love the variety of humanity that surrounds us and we are delighted when you choose to join us at our libraries.
If our libraries catered to only one particular philosophy, despite its popularity, our offerings would be like the aforementioned, poorly stocked market. The opportunity to expand horizons and to experience something yet unknown wouldn’t exist. The delicious variety that adds interest, excitement and diversity to life would be lost. Instead, the best we could offer would be an unstimulating environment that diminishes one’s capacity to think, learn and experience the unknown.
In order to meet the eclectic needs of all our unique patrons, each library strives to maintain a diverse collection of materials. Additionally, each library has a Collection Development Policy in place that helps selectors build a collection that represents a variety of viewpoints and interests while being good stewards of the community’s tax dollars.
Believe it or not, every single item in our libraries may be seen as controversial and could offend someone. While it may seem obvious, it is actually profound to realize that all people must define for themselves what materials are consistent with their personal or family values. When you make that decision for yourself, you have freedom of choice.
As librarians, we trust you as individuals, as community members and as parents to make judgments about what you and your families read, watch and hear. We uphold the right of all our patrons to make those same judgments. Never will we tell you what to think, how to feel or why to believe something.
In return, we ask you to trust us. While we provide a wide variety of materials reflecting myriad viewpoints, we will never force a patron, young or old, to read, watch or listen to anything. Furthermore, we pledge to continue to provide access to a world of information and ideas so that everyone will find something that delights, inspires and in some way strengthens them. Thank you for allowing us that opportunity.
Rebecca Benally is with Southwest La Plata Library District.