At the Urban Libraries Council’s 2022 Annual Forum: Creating a Place for Democracy in Washington, DC this November, ULC unveiled the Declaration of Democracy. This Declaration is a commitment from libraries and supporting organizations to preserve, protect and advance the highest ideals of democracy so that all members of our communities may fully participate in the democratic process.
Now more than ever, the battle to protect democracy is a global struggle playing out at the local level. Due to their community- and service-oriented nature, public libraries are on the front lines of this struggle. In 2021, the American Library Association tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services — resulting in more than 1,597 individual book bans or renewals. And according to an April report from PEN America, more than two dozen states banned books in the last year, with half of these incidents being pushed by state officials and elected lawmakers primarily focused on books dealing with race and sexuality.
Public libraries are critical pillars of democracy, but that democracy’s future is diminished when people’s access to power, information, a diversity of voices and the ability to influence policy are restricted. To meaningfully participate in society, people need access to a broad range of information and ideas, as well as opportunities for open, uncensored discourse to hear, read, debate and learn from each other’s perspectives.
The Declaration of Democracy acts as a baseline for building policies and actions that preserve and protect democracy in all communities. In short, it outlines libraries’ commitments to:
- Educating the public about their rights
- Encouraging active citizenry
- Serving as a convenor for and facilitator of civic engagement
- Increasing efforts to fight misinformation
- Leveraging resources to promote human dignity, the expression of diverse viewpoints, civil rights and other protections and freedoms
The Urban Libraries Council invites all libraries and organizations who support this commitment to sign on to the Declaration of Democracy. Read the full Declaration and sign the pledge here.
About the Urban Libraries Council:
The Urban Libraries Council is an innovation and impact tank of North America’s leading public library systems. ULC drives cutting-edge research and strategic partnerships to elevate the power of libraries as essential, transformative institutions. More than 160 urban member libraries in the U.S. and Canada rely on ULC to identify significant challenges facing today’s communities and provide new tools and techniques to help libraries achieve stronger outcomes in education, digital equity, workforce and economic development, and race and social equity.