June Bloom: “Friends of the Library??”

Many thanks to all the librarians I’ve met who uphold their spaces as places for everyone and every book imaginable. This month’s  flash fiction story honors them with enduring gratitude.

"Friends of the Library??"

“Would I have done anything differently?” Lindsay pondered. At dawn she strained upward to peek out the miniscule window in her minimal space where she now spends her days.

During her long Timberland Library career, Lindsay had embraced and exhibited the Carnegie Library mindset “let there be light.” She welcomed all children, especially Len, Sue, and Mattie, who sought homework assistance and social acceptance.

On Tuesday afternoons, she helped Len find books with stories about people like Len who both struggled and thrived. On Saturdays Lindsay chatted with Sue, who slinked in through a side door before settling in the teen reading room, always alone, at the same time the town’s teens gathered for movies, meals or mischief. And each week Lindsay assured Mattie that no magazine cover model, nor streaming message or meme, shined brighter than Mattie’s beaming light within.

The Timberland’s Friends of the Library Association had sung Lindsay’s praises for years, showering her branch with generous financial and in-kind support. They all shared a passion for Carnegie Library values about transformational change in education and ensuring that everyone could experience a healthy, dignified life.

But last Winter rifts arose when several new-to-town Friends of the Library volunteers vocalized vehement opinions at monthly meetings. They questioned Timberland’s book collection and proposed revamping the library rules. Then the volunteers took sides.

Lindsay tried stopping Friends of the Library from splitting into factions. But she couldn’t. That summer, two camps, claiming to love their library, adopted new names. The Local Opportunity for Viewpoint Expansion (LOVE) faction applauded Lindsay for serving everyone all the time. The Local Opposition to Values Explosion (LOVE) faction admonished Lindsay for serving people like Len, Sue, and Mattie.

The library faction disputes spilled into November election discourse. The Library Board, School Board, and City Council seats were up for grabs and each faction put up candidates. The Local Opposition to Values Explosion swept the majority into each office, and the Mayor’s race.

And the winning faction drove the rapid adoption of revised policies. For example, the new Screening Commission conducted a rigorous application process for those seeking library entrance rights and issued cards to those they deemed worthy of the privilege. On Thursday evenings the new Values Commission reviewed all books the privileged wanted to check-out, and issued ‘yay or nay’ decisions the following week.

Despite the new policies, Lindsay continued operating the Carnegie way, allowing everyone to enter regardless of paperwork. She slipped books to patrons who always returned them. The Library Board fired Lindsay. The Local Opposition faction filed legal charges because her actions were now criminal under new laws.

“Would I have done anything differently?” Lindsay thought while sunset hues streaked across her jail cell floor. “No, absolutely not!”