While trust in political institutions rapidly deteriorates and the technology and media companies that we rely on repeatedly fail to meet our information needs, the public still overwhelmingly trusts libraries. That’s because librarians fulfill a service mission as community information stewards–long serving as the only place people can go for free internet access, computer instruction, books and access to critical government resources.
As the information needs of communities have expanded from a crisis of access to a crisis of trust, librarians help patrons discern fact from fiction online and increasingly find themselves defending decisions about which books and information to carry and which to pull. The curatorial decisions of libraries have been shoved into the fray of polarized cultural and political debates about how to educate about racism in public schools, how to provide community resources on queerness, and whether or not to carry literature that promotes hate.
Meanwhile, debates rage about how tech companies and governments can regulate and retool our information ecosystems to keep communities safe and informed. Including the perspective of librarians in these conversations is essential to keeping solutions grounded in serving the information needs of our communities.