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October 18, 2019

9/18/2019 12:50:00 PM
Libraries light our way

Sunday starts one of the most important weeks of the year: Banned Books Week, celebrated the fourth week of September annually since 1982.
Each of us can impersonate a newspaper editor – or be our normal citizen selves – and celebrate our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the press. That fits this year’s theme: “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark.” We are all urged to “Keep the Light On” during this year’s Banned Books Week.
Every parent has the right at home or in private gatherings to keep books from their kids. Anyone can proselytize to their fellow citizens about not reading any book or absorbing information through any media. But no one has the right to shape the policy of a public institution – libraries and school districts, primarily – to ban books or any media.
We are fortunate to have strong communities in our region supporting their libraries and school districts and staffs. Our librarians and educators help our children – all of us – develop one of the greatest gifts of all: the freedom to explore and ask “why” and “what.” Children at every age are best served by mentors and elders who trust themselves, their values and the learning mind. It is not the answers that we teach that are important. It is in the learning to ask questions and challenge what is known and accepted that we best prepare for the unknown and certainly uncertain future.
This year’s theme of “Keep the lights on” fits La Conner’s future exactly. The commitment made to our community in fully funding the new library by the State of Washington, Skagit County, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and many of the people reading this editorial surrounds our children and everyone who will walk into the new library in 2022 with light.
That light, in the 21st century is about knowledge, not just books, as the library will help plug people in to whatever device and mode they will use to pursue whatever interest they have. Our institutions and leaders – and we, the people who made the largest percentage share of the donations – are providing a new open door and a welcome mat so anyone can explore, or just relax and enjoy themselves, in a building that will anchor Morris Street and will be foundational to all of us.
A key feature of the new library is the community meeting room. What a great phrase and needed place: inviting the community in to hold whatever discussion they choose, providing space for democracy to grow, whether that room fills with Republicans or radicals.
The lights will be on in La Conner’s library and future. It is up to all of us to champion that they stay on if challenged.

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Published every Wednesday in La Conner Washington
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