Photograph by Don Shall
Dear Mr. President,
You never needed libraries, I gather. Perhaps it pains some to admit it, but it’s true. Anything libraries had that you might have wanted, you already had. Perhaps you could have been somewhat more proactive about acquiring well-sourced, documented information, but the fact is, had you made its acquisition a priority, you would have been able to obtain it at any point in your life.
This is not true for many Americans. Yes, even and especially those waiting (and waiting…and waiting…) for you to make America great again. Some of these Americans, like you, may never make acquiring knowledge a priority. But neither you nor your cronies have the right to deny them the chance at doing so. That’s where the Institute for Museums and Library Services (IMLS) comes in.
This is probably not an acronym familiar to you. You probably think of pinched-faced women with gray buns (no doubt accompanied by a sordid critique of their physical appearance) when you think of librarians. But these people – and they are rather more varied than your vision of them, I assure you – are responsible for making America accessible to those for whom access is a constant barrier. They help people acquire tax forms, apply to jobs, learn to code…all these things you never had to do, but which your voters do. The people who granted you the power you so dearly covet? They need these services. They may not like it or admit to it, but they do. Their children do. For many, it’s their only way out and up, to the America you keep saying is there waiting for them.
That bad taste you felt in your mouth at the idea of people needing public services? That’s the reaction of most people with money. That’s why libraries are so dependent on money from places like IMLS. Because so few others care. About libraries, yes, but especially about those who need them most. Like you, those rolling in dough don’t much fancy enabling other people to pursue even the dream of economic stability, if not mobility.
Libraries do. Libraries have been making America greater, and better, long before you made your hat. Don’t gut the funding of one of the few places left that funds libraries. The people who gave you the presidency will fight back. That, at least, I know you care about.