Monday, January 19, 2015

Should Libraries be Closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

One of the perks of being a government employee is that you get federal holidays off of work. I've discovered that these holidays are a much welcome reprieve for library staff. So, sorry for what I'm about to say, but... I think public libraries should be open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (and possibly other federal holidays). I worked for a library that stays open and hosts a MLK Day celebration and the community really appreciated it. I poked around online and found three libraries that are open today and hosting events. Here is what they are doing.

Frisco Public Library, Frisco, TX

This is the library I used to work for. I helped organize this event, so I know more about it than the following two. On the website, they describe the events like this: "Explore an interactive exhibit that celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement." While some details may have changed, this is how it this exhibit looked a few years ago. There were banners marking the timeline of the greatest civil rights achievements around the room. There was a short documentary on loop for patrons to watch and a few other educational stations. Outside the room, patrons could write out on a paper cloud what dreams they have for the future.

Des Moines Public Library, Des Moines, IA

Most of the Des Moines PL branches are closed, but one branch remains open for a celebration. They also had an art and writing contest in honor of MLK. Here is what they say on their website:

"The Forest Avenue Library is sponsoring a student art and writing contest as part of our community event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The students whose pieces are selected will win a gift card and have the opportunity to present their work during our annual MLK, Jr. Day Celebration on January 19, 2015 at 4:00pm.

Legacy means what is handed down from the past, from one person to another. Martin Luther King, Jr. left a great legacy for all of us. He was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, which helped bring about important laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. These laws made great progress toward racial equality. He was a powerful speaker, helping people think and feel differently about racism. Dr. King believed in making changes peacefully and he earned the Nobel Peace Prize for this. Later in his life, he also worked with others to try to end poverty and war and to create world peace.

Reflecting on Dr. King’s legacy, we invite you to express yourself by creating a work of visual art (painting, photography, sculpture) or writing (poetry, short story, essay)."

Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, OH

CPL has a wonderful community event that they describe on their website:

"Drum Majors for Change.

The drum beat for change remains strong as each new generation continues the struggle. Join the Cleveland Public Library and the Delta Alpha Lambda Chapter of the Alphi Phi Alpha fraternity (Dr. King’s fraternity) in commemorating Dr. King’s life and honoring his legacy of leadership in the struggle for civil rights.

Keynote address presented by Pastor Richard M. Gibson, Elizabeth Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH. A community reception follows the program."

While I know it is important to treat your staff well and give them paid time off, I'm not sure public libraries should be closed on most federal holidays. I accept that major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas should be left alone so people can spend time with their families, but do we really need Columbus Day off? Memorial Day? Veterans Day? The library could be open and serving the public on these days. This would open the door to all kinds of community learning events to honor the reason for the holiday. Instead, why not give employees extra floating holidays?

I know I just suggested that we take away what is a glorious day off of work for many of you, but think of how you could truly embody the spirit of MLK by bringing the community together to celebrate his dream.


No comments:

Post a Comment