March 23, 2021
Remembering the past year and a half, I feel that we’ve all been exposed to unexpected tragedy, sometimes unimaginable tragedy, and certainly more than our share of tragedy. When tragedies unfold one on top of another, it is understandable why people may feel numb to the latest heartbreak. I thought about the recent tragedy in Atlanta, heaped atop of everything else, and it is very clear to me that we cannot be numb. We must find words to comfort our Asian American and Pacific Islander friends and family members. It is sad to think that a librarian, surrounded by books full of words cannot find the right ones to utter. I fear that is the case.
Although I’m struggling to find the right words, I think I can clearly say this: so many tragedies of the past year and beyond seem to come from a failure to appreciate that knowledge should be weighed as more important than unsubstantiated speech or the latest social media post. Libraries have a role to play by helping everyone access quality information. In fact, helping people discern quality information is one of our primary missions. My staff and I believe in open and equal access to the information we all need to participate in our community. Access to quality data, information, knowledge, and wisdom can help us all to better understand those with whom we share our home.
Last summer, in the midst of another tragedy, I shared that I had signed the Urban Library Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity. Doing so created a path for our Library staff to follow when it comes to how we want to treat each other and how we want to serve our community. I’d like to remind everyone that we will always be committed to providing the best library experience for everyone in our community.
Everyone is welcome at Mid-Continent Public Library. I believe in radical hospitality. At the same time, I believe that you cannot make some feel welcome while exhibiting inhospitality to others. Additionally, we will not welcome people that target and practice violence against people in our community simply for who those people are. My staff and I view inclusion as a positive trait. We want to include and to serve everyone in our community. However, I do not believe that one can practice inclusivity by excluding others.
I said this in June, and I will say this again with added emphasis: We all have a role to play in creating a more equal, more just, more inclusive, and more welcoming society. Please know, this Library will do its part.
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director and CEO