KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Mayfield: One public library is now banning kids from entering

Jul 5, 2024, 5:42 PM | Updated: 11:01 pm

Rows of books at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix are seen on Sept. 11, 2019....

Rows of books at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix are seen on Sept. 11, 2019. (File photo: Anita Snow, AP)

(File photo: Anita Snow, AP)

I have so many wonderful childhood memories at the public library. I remember summer reading challenges. I remember the treasure hunt of the physical card catalogue and the Dewey decimal system. I remember proudly telling people my mom was on the local library board and that I was on a first name basis with the librarians.

Today, I love walking to the neighborhood branch of the Seattle Public Library with our kids. I love that they have their own library cards and know how to use them. I love programs like the Global Reading Challenge.

So, it breaks my heart to read this week about a public library in Idaho officially banning kids from entering. Donnelly Public Library in the small town of Donnelly, Idaho, announced in May it was being forced to make the change due to a new state law. Among other restrictions, the new law requires Idaho public libraries to have adults-only sections out of children’s range. Donnelly’s library is physically too small to make that possible. And so to avoid being sued or, worse, close down entirely, the tiny library put up a sign restricting everyone under the age of 18 from entry.

Kids can still go into the library, but only if they are with an adult or have explicit written permission in advance from an adult.

More from Travis Mayfield: Washington lawmakers must fix broken school funding system

I could say I am outraged. I could say I am perplexed. I could say I was disgusted. But what I really am is just sad. I’m sad that a growing number of people in this country have decided that knowledge – and by extension books and libraries – is(/are) dangerous for kids.

Instead of teaching our kids the joys and the freedoms of exploring new knowledge we are closing those avenues and placing them off limits. I understand that some families have different values from my own, but why do those families now believe they can impose their values on the rest of us?

A public library is a place where you should be able to explore all kinds of conflicting ideas. It’s a place where you can see worlds that don’t look like your own. Books are fountains from which the thirsty can drink and keep drinking.

We can debate the perspectives, narratives and ideas presented in books. But to get to a place where that debate is even possible, first, we must have access to the books.

Travis Mayfield content: Democracy needs your help

Lawmakers forcing a library into a place where it must close its doors to kids may not yet be burning books, but it certainly is turning up the heat.

Travis Mayfield is a Seattle-based media personality and a fill-in host on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of his stories and commentaries here.

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Mayfield: One public library is now banning kids from entering