Why Arlington Co.’s libraries will declare themselves book sanctuaries

Many libraries across the country are getting ready to observe Banned Books Week from Oct. 1-7, but Arlington County, Virginia, has plans to go one step further.

Library Director Diane Kresh said, thankfully, controversy over books is not a big issue in Arlington.

“To me, that makes the onus and responsibility of speaking up even more necessary.”

Kresh said she plans to declare Arlington libraries book sanctuaries that first week in October.

“It means having a diverse library collection. It means promoting books and talking about books by diverse authors,” she said.

Kresh said libraries are the window and door to a new way of thinking and better quality of life.

There have been numerous efforts in recent years to ban certain books in school libraries in Virginia, and now because of a controversial new law, parents have the ability to prevent their kids from checking out certain books.

In addition, school systems must publish a list of “controversial works” every year that are available in their school library or may be assigned by a teacher to read.

Kresh said some students may not be ready for the ideas and topics in certain books, and their parents may not want them exposed to the material. She did say, however, calls for bans are an overreach.

“Where it gets difficult for administrators in libraries and school libraries is when that parent complaint becomes a reason for ‘OK, we’ll just take that book off the shelf,'” she said.

Kresh said Arlington will feature books and discussions in its spaces during Banned Books Week, some of which are controversial, because those spaces are for everyone.

“Sanctuary is a great word, because it’s safe, and it’s secure and your allowed to be who you want to be. Your authentic self is welcome at the library,” Kresh said.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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