I write this as a parent, as a teacher, and as a librarian. There is a conversation this country must have. A conversation about guns. A conversation about mental health. A conversation about how we protect our children, a conversation about civil rights, and a conversation about the role of government in all of this.
This is a conversation that librarians must be a part of, and in some cases lead. I don’t say this because it provides librarians an opportunity for visibility. I don’t say this because of a sense of politics. I say this because there are few if any forums outside our libraries, particularly our public libraries, where we can have this conversation.
Certainly in Congress and our statehouses politicians will talk. Certainly in social media quotes, statistics and positions will be broadcast. But this is not what is needed. What is needed is a community by community conversation about who we want to be as a town and as a nation. A conversation that must happen in a civic and civil space. A conversation that must be informed, grounded, and vetted. It is a conversation that too many librarians back away from because it is too emotional, too political, too divisive.
We cannot shy away from this one. The massacre of Sandy Hook is only the latest call to the conversation. It is tragic, but more tragic would not be to hear it as just the latest sorrowful call to action. In Newtown, and every community our communities are hurting, and scared, and confused, and angry. In our communities people call for understanding, to make sense, or at least to cope with the mindless and inexplicable.
This is the time for librarians to stand up and not say we have the answers, but to say we can help forward this conversation. I have already seen librarians put together guides to resources. I have seen libraries provide gathering places. Let us not stop there. We must not simply inform the debate, but truly facilitate it. We must actively seek conversation, consensus, and action. Reach out to the politicians and offer a forum. Reach out to PTG’s, parents groups, school administrators, hunting clubs, media organizations, and offer yourself as a forum and facilitator. No more lib guides or pages of links, but calls for action. No more waiting for the conversation to support, start the conversation.