As I write this article, many, many libraries across the country are planning to reopen in some capacity, whether it’s offering curbside pickup services or allowing patrons inside the physical building, like the Chicago Public Library plans to do as of June 1. And while libraries are pushing ahead with their reopening plans, I read about a lot of talk from administrators and library publications about how libraries are resilient and librarians are heroes. The internet is full of articles like this one from Publishers Weekly that says “Librarians, America is counting on you.” All of this is complete and utter bullshit.

Published 20 May On BookRiot (USA)

I’m not hiding it. I’m furious. I’m stressed out to the point where I feel like I’m vibrating from anxiety. Several years ago, I wrote about how I hated the “hero” narrative surrounding library work because calling us heroes ignores the fact that we are just average humans who need way more from our profession than our leaders are willing to provide, and now I’m watching that narrative play out on a national level. Libraries are resilient, they say, ignoring the fact that it’s not safe for patrons or staff to open the libraries yet. But no one seems to realize that empty words can’t keep us safe.


Every day I see these articles, and then I see actual librarians going on social media to talk about how terrified they are to return to work. It’s too early to open up the library, yet their board members are demanding it even though the board will never have to actually work with the public. Directors are putting up signs that encourage social distancing, saying that patrons will inevitably police themselves and obey library signage. (Because we all know how well people read library signs in the first place.) Staff are forced to go without essential PPE, because opening services to the public is more important than ensuring that staff are safe. Some argue that the libraries have to open because otherwise their funding will be at risk, but what kind of a service are you actually providing if your staff are terrified, angry, sick, or killed?

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