Democracy & Public Libraries

“Public libraries are one of the only places where information is readily available to anyone who might seek it out, and they often exist separately from the ever-changing nature of electoral politics. Through election cycles in a community, the public library and its resources are available for those who wish to use it. That is, as long as elected officials recognize the importance of preserving the public library and its unique position between government and civil society.” — Urban Libraries Council

Rows of library shelves

Challenging books = silencing voices

In Oak Park, our public library provides access to a wide range of reading materials crucial to democracy. Yet across the United States, a movement is growing to censor books in schools and public libraries. Last year saw the highest number of attempted book bans in 20 years, according to the American Library Association (ALA). And overwhelmingly, these attempts target books by and about people of color and members of LGBTQ+ communities.

Uniting to defend democracy & intellectual freedom

Oak Park is one of 95 libraries and supporting organizations pledging support of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC)’s Declaration of Democracy:

“We resolve to continue to create spaces where entering our doors is an act of participating in democracy, where people can read and learn freely from all points of view, make up their own minds and engage in their communities. We stand as proud leaders of libraries, and as such, we will continue to guard democracy’s great promise and ensure all those we serve are included in its fulfillment.”

—ULC, November 2022

Oak Park is a member and supporter of the American Library Association (ALA)’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, and the ALA’s statement on book censorship:

In recent months, a few organizations have advanced the proposition that the voices of the marginalized have no place on library shelves. To this end they have launched campaigns demanding the censorship of books and resources that mirror the lives of those who are gay, queer, or transgender, or that tell the stories of persons who are Black, Indigenous or persons of color. Falsely claiming that these works are subversive, immoral, or worse, these groups induce elected and non-elected officials to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights to promote government censorship of library collections. Some of these groups even resort to intimidation and threats to achieve their ends, targeting the safety and livelihoods of library workers, educators, and board members who have dedicated themselves to public service, to informing our communities, and educating our youth. ALA strongly condemns these acts of censorship and intimidation.  

—ALA, November 2021

Taking local action

In a joint effort between the library and the Village of Oak Park, Oak Park is now a Book Sanctuary Community. Learn more and show your support »