Minnesota’s largest library system is spreading a message that all people — no matter their nationality, faith or other aspects of their background — are welcome.
The Hennepin County Library recently posted signs at all 41 of its libraries in Minneapolis and the west metro suburbs that read “All are welcome here,” regardless of citizenship status, age, sexual orientation, race, housing status, gender identity and economic status, among other factors.
The signs are similar to buttons worn by library staffers and will be part of a social media campaign soon to be launched.
While the messages are part of the library’s long-standing core mission, Library Director Lois Langer Thompson said, staffers wanted to do something more tangible to underscore that mission in response to current controversies over immigrants and refugees.
“Libraries have always been welcome places,” she said. “No matter who you are, no matter your background ... everybody is welcome.”
Other libraries across the country also are responding to national issues. An Iowa library is holding an event on fake news, while others have posted displays of books by refugees or about immigrants.
“We want to make sure we present all viewpoints,” Thompson said. “We respond to what our community wants to learn about.”
So far, she said, the messages have gotten a positive reaction from visitors. She added that the Hennepin County Library has a history of responding to crises, whether environmental or political, providing more for the community than just a place to pick up books.
Last year, the library responded to Black Lives Matter protests in the Twin Cities by launching a Black Lives Matter teen reading list, hoping that the power of books would help educate residents on racial issues.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the library put together a reading list to help parents find a way to talk to children about that tragedy.
“We’re not just here for a book to read; we’re here to learn,” Thompson said. “We’re one of the cornerstones of democracy.”