As part of a homeschool civics class comprised of students in the 7th through 10th grade levels, students were asked to write opinion editorials on topics of their own choosing which reflect current themes in governance and policy-making.
Over the course of the next few weeks the class will be tracking the views of and commentary on their op-eds with the goal of generating as much meaningful community engagement as possible.
A prize will be awarded to the student who is most successful at generating meaningful community engagement with their op-ed.
Thanks so much for partnering with us to create this experience for the children and teaching them to be actively involved in the governance of their community!
What’s going on at the Sandpoint library?
Libraries are public spaces designed to serve the patrons who live in the community. Rumors are floating around that the Sandpoint Library is, perhaps, overlooking the needs of some of its constituents. There are two ends of the spectrum. On one end, some believe that the library is pushing a woke political agenda. On the other end, some praise the library, its resources, staff, and the range of library events and media. The question becomes, is either side justified in these divergent lines of thinking?
A recent reviewer on Yelp stated, rather pointedly, “It’s heartbreaking to see how libraries are being used to perpetrate a political agenda. Immediately upon walking in, you see two bookshelves loaded with political books that lean heavily to the left. We’ve seen kid’s books with the ideological leanings of the far left as well….”
When taking a look at where the Library stood during Covid-19, I found that during May of 2019-2021, the library continued to enforce wearing masks. This requirement continued after county mandates were lifted. Community response was highly negative and several protests took place. Even now, in 2023, there are still mask boxes throughout the building. In fact, there are multiple staff who still wear gloves and double masks.
When you enter the library, first thing you see is book displays. These displays are important because they create a first impression and an environment about what the library has to offer, seasonal trends and other types of cultural commentary. On a recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised that a broad range of interests seemed to be reflected on the shelves. Books ranging from The New Testament Christian Bible to an autobiography of a transgender person. One wonders if public complaint may, in some way, steer the toning-down of leftist media that has been a frequent fixture on the entry displays.
When talking with the Human Resource Director, she says, “The ongoing and number one goal is to make sure that everything is being represented.” She also made it clear the library is against all censorship. She continued, “We will not remove materials off of the shelves because somebody finds it offensive.”
When questioned how displays are rotated I was told it is completely up to the staff. It is also noted that they are picking books at “random” to put on display. However, it doesn’t seem likely, and it especially does not seem like a fair way of balancing the selections if books are arbitrarily picked. Mainly, what if the majority of the staff tends to select books based on personal biases and tastes that are not necessarily reflective of a wide readership?
For example, when reviewing the children’s area, I gravitated towards the historical section. I pulled 30 books at random from the shelves. Astonishingly, 21 of those were books on the history of African Americans and themes revolving around the Civil Rights Movement and oppression. While it is vital to learn about Black Americans and their history, it is likewise important that every ethnicity has a voice and receives equal representation. I find it odd that so much space seems dedicated to marginalized groups without proportionately celebrating other ethnic groups. It does not require special information to see that the main demographic of Sandpoint and the outlying areas are predominately white. So why are twice as many African-American books than all other ethnicities?
In our discussion, I asked about tailoring books to the main demographic of constituents. The Human Resource Director reported that only one person, the Principal Librarian, makes purchasing decisions for library materials. For example, if she believes a book will sit on the shelf for 10 years she will opt to not purchase it or sift it through an interlibrary loan process to be placed in another library.
Every human has a bias. So leaving all purchasing decisions to one person seems unwise. Perhaps this has to do with funding. Even so, such exclusivity may have an undue influence that impacts every library patron. However, when it comes to executive decisions there is a board of directors. The board may get involved to address complaints or issues that need governance beyond the principal librarian’s job description. Such as the prolonged mask mandates.
All things considered, there is evidence to support the idea that the library leans woke and, at the same time, that its more conservative patrons are also well served. What else can one expect in a town, even as small as Sandpoint, where news of the larger world has an impact on how we live and consume media? It’s no overstatement to say that some library staff have openly embraced the woke narrative. Consequently, this influences the overall environment of the library. As citizens, it is our civic duty and right to use our voice when we are faced with issues and concerns. We can take action by voting, voicing concerns to library staff, filling out forms for the board of directors, or even contacting local politicians. We can also talk with local friends and community members to become more influential and have an impact on public policy regarding libraries. Citizens can also engage in local government to advocate for changes representing public interest. This is the beauty of being a citizen of a community, using your voice to protect, guide, and build a better future for everyone.
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