Windows or Mirrors: Why Not Both?

Nov 12, 2021

Young boy looking through windowBy Conrrado Saldivar
Reposted from Natrona County Library

Many see libraries as windows to the world. They can be ways to experience something beyond your imagination from the comfort of your couch, provide a new perspective, or even inspire you to get out there and make a change in the world. At the same time, libraries work to reflect (like mirrors) their communities through collections, programs, and other vital services they provide. How does the library function as both a window and a mirror?

First and foremost, library staff track down books, movies, and music that highlight the diverse individuals and perspectives in our community. From those whose protagonist is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community to another filled with characters who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, a library’s collections reflect family, friends, and neighbors. Books covering topics such as physician-assisted death, transgender rights, and undocumented immigrants patiently wait to be discovered.

Yet even though available for checkout, many of these items get lost among the thousands of other books on the shelves. To assist in making these more easily found, library staff regularly curate displays and endcaps so that members of the community represented in these books can see themselves in a prominent location. These act as teasers into the vast lived experiences hidden in the rest of the collection.

Libraries pride themselves on providing something for everyone in the community. Some say that a truly great library has something in it to offend everyone; we say a great library has something that represents everyone. When the most underserved, underprivileged, or underrepresented community members aren’t reflected in the library’s collection, we can’t truly see what our community looks like.

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