Chicago this week. Photo credit: Frank James Johnson.
If you haven’t signed the petition for save historic DuSable High School’s librarian position, you still can. Over 1,000 have signed it in the last 24 hours.
Retired LAUSD librarian Joan Kramer, a friend since my childhood, sent along this video that they made in 2010 as Los Angeles school libraries were being closed.
Students at @bsi_panthers called the library their “sanctuary” and a “peaceful place” for when life or school became overwhelming
— Lauren FitzPatrick (@bylaurenfitz) December 11, 2015
I actually wanted to begin on that theme by talking a bit about the inaccessibility of libraries, and I’m thinking about my own childhood, when I saw this incredible building in Birmingham, Alabama, made out of Indiana limestone. It was the Birmingham Public Library, but of course it was only for white peoples. The one black library that existed was run-down, very few books, and I tell this story because I first entered the doors of this library in 1959, and I can remember how it felt to actually walk into a real library, because although I had used the library in Birmingham, it was very lacking in resources. It was broken down. Finally they built a new one.
So I think that as we talk about the democratic impulse of libraries and the accessibility of libraries it’s also important to talk about those places where books have a hard time penetrating. And your example of the Texas State Correctional System is one. Just before the event, I had an opportunity to look at some of the items from the archival collections here, and I saw — I saw a wonderful collection of a periodical that was actually published by prisoners at Rikers Island from I think 1939 to 1940-something, and I was thinking about, you know, what was required in order to be able to do that. This is, for those of you who don’t remember, a period when we didn’t have Xeroxing or, I looked at it and I said, “This was mimeographed,” I think — is that the word, mimeograph? And the prisoners who put this together, and the books that they had to read in order to put this literary publication together was quite astounding, so I really like to thank the librarians for allowing me to see these documents.
I was in jail in New York — I don’t know, did you mention that I was in jail? Some people don’t know. And one of the first places I went, I was able to go, in the jail was the library, and I didn’t see very many interesting books there, all right? I mean, I had just finished my studies in philosophy, and I went to the library expecting something very different, so what I did was I had people send books to me when I was there, and I wanted to share those books with all of the other women, there was something like a thousand women there. I was not allowed to do that. Angela Davis in conversation with Toni Morrison on Literacy, Libraries and Liberation.