The past few months have been unlike any others in my time as Library Director. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted everything and was all-consuming for the system and staff. The events of the last few days, however, were a terrible reminder that for far too many of us, a virus is simply one of the many dangers lurking in everyday life. The horrific death of George Floyd was only the latest in a long line of terrors faced by our African American community, and it rightfully appalled people of all backgrounds across our country and world.
This kind of tragedy is not only an affront to our common humanity, but also a direct challenge to much of what libraries value. It creates questions that have no easy answers.
How do we advance knowledge when people are fearful?
How do we bring people together where there is discrimination?
How do we build community where there is inequality?
How do we help change a system that so many agree is broken?
These are some of the questions we will all grapple with today, this week, next week, and for months and years to come. Sadly, they aren’t new questions. But the fact that we haven’t answered them yet is no excuse not to do everything we can to find answers now.
Providing great library service has always been our primary mission and our focus. That mission guides us in how we can help. We must provide information, both comfortable and uncomfortable. We must create a venue for citizens to safely meet and discuss. We must continue to welcome all, and we must go into the community to serve those who can’t reach us. We must remember the challenges faced by many we serve and deliver our service accordingly. Most of all, we must believe in compassion, understanding, and unity.
In 2017, Mid-Continent Public Library joined 161 other library systems in signing the Urban Library Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity. Signing on was the easy part. Now we must progress. We all have a role to play in creating a more equal and just society. This Library will do its part.
Thanks for reading and please be safe,
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director & CEO