‘A Revolutionary Act’: The Power Of A 21st Century Library Card

From WBEZ Chicago: ‘A Revolutionary Act’: The Power Of A 21st Century Library Card

According to a new Gallup poll, Americans visited the library more often than they did the movie theater in 2019. Perhaps more than any other institution, the American Library Association understands why. Since 1876, the world’s oldest and largest library association has been working to provide leadership for the improvement of libraries across the country. Now, it’s getting a new executive director.

Tracie Hall, who will be the first African American woman to lead the Chicago-based organization, stopped by Reset to talk accessibility, activism and the enduring power of information.

Tracie Hall
Photo Credit: Jason Marck/WBEZ

On Why She Wanted The Job

Tracie Hall: Everything is leading us back to knowledge and information, how important it is. But I think one of the things that spoke loudest to me at this particular time, … is that I fundamentally believe that access to relevant and dependable information is a human right.

And I really see, at this point where we are in history, that public libraries in particular and libraries of all kinds, school libraries, etc., prison libraries are really the bedrock of democracy. So I saw this role as having an opportunity. If libraries have always been on the front lines, I think, of social justice, it was an opportunity for me to be present and to be there and to make sure that I helped to continue and steer that conversation.

On the Role of a Librarian

Hall: I was always attracted to the idea of librarians as activists. … Librarians, that role of really keeping track of the written record, that’s our job description. And also keeping track of the marketplace of ideas, that is our job description.

And also, to a certain degree, being agnostic about it, being relentless about it, not necessarily inserting our opinion and not editorializing the body of information, but to make sure that every user has access to an array of arguments, even competing arguments. …. It isn’t necessarily just a sequence of tasks we perform. I think there’s a way of thinking about information and knowledge that I think some of the best librarians demonstrate throughout their lives.

On Libraries as a Resource for Vulnerable Populations

Hall: I’ve learned to believe that having and using a library card is a revolutionary act. It is something that cannot only open up pathways for the user, but it also invites a user into a larger civic conversation that is really hard, maybe, to even talk about or explain.

Read on for the full article: ‘A Revolutionary Act’: The Power Of A 21st Century Library Card on WBEZ Chicago.


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