What comes to mind with this theme?

Fake news? Lifelong learners? Critical thinking skills? Library advocacy? Casinos? Slot machines? Something else?

All of the above comes to my mind. I came to the culmination of this theme much the same way we do most of our work in the world of libraries: by collaborating and working together to make change happen. Collaboration is a part of our DNA. We cooperate at the departmental, library, community, state, and national levels. We decide what new services to provide. We plan programs and set goals. We visit our elected officials to advocate for our libraries and share our stories. We work on committees to create a great conference and contact our state legislators to advocate for funding. We fight for our libraries and ensure our elected representatives know how important libraries are for communities. We share information on social media and make it known that libraries change lives. And now, more than ever, it is also critical that we let our communities and elected officials know that libraries are critical partners in fighting fake news.

We have always helped our communities find legitimate information, but with social media and the proliferation of fake news, this process has become a more significant role for many of us. As library professionals, it is our responsibility to support a citizenry that can discern reliable facts from inaccurate, dishonest, and damaging information.

Libraries are more than the information they curate. They are spaces for unity, meditation, yoga, resume writing, sewing, knitting, playing, studying, researching, cooking, gardening, language learning, music playing, reading, writing, dreaming, traveling, meeting, coding, geo-mapping, gaming, tango dancing, job hunting, tool lending, book borrowing, technology -  I could go on. Without libraries and all of us who work in them, these opportunities for engagement and education would be lost. Without libraries, misinformation and disregard for the truth threaten to become the norm.

It is more important than ever that we serve as advocates. If we do not share the immeasurable value of libraries, who will? We cannot gamble with misinformation. We need to let our elected officials know that libraries stand for democracy. In the era of fake news, it is more important than ever to collaborate and advocate for library funding. Let’s work together to tell our story and defend libraries.

Put a quarter in a slot machine or roll the dice, but don’t lose sight that gambling with library funding puts the fundamental ideal of democracy at risk. As you continue the great work you do, remember: don’t gamble with the facts, advocate for your library, and let others know the important work we do as library professionals. It is time to tell the library story. Go into your communities, visit your representatives, invite elected officials to your library, and remind them that funding libraries is the best bet they can make.

We each have different jobs with various titles and we work in different types of libraries, but we are all working towards a common purpose. Our collective goal is to distinguish fact from fiction and provide learning opportunities in the process.  We are one. We are library professionals.

In honor of our friend and colleague, Debbie Robinson, let’s have some fun! Spin the roulette wheel, keep the facts real, and advocate for libraries throughout this year!

Sarah J. Hammill

2018-2019 President,
Florida Library Association