*SMALL SPOILER ALERT FOR HIDDEN FIGURES* (that will in no way ruin your moviegoing experience if you happen not to have seen the film yet, but I wanted to let you know just in case).
I enjoyed the movie Hidden Figures very much. I think it was good to bring to the big screen some of the harsh realities of being black and female in the US during the 1960s. None of the discrimination and injustice surprised me. It didn’t even rile me up. That is until Octavia Spencer’s character couldn’t check out a book from the library.
The library! Oh heck naw! Not the library!
For my entire life libraries have been my safe havens, my sanctuaries.
I have had a 40+ year love affair with libraries and an equally long fangirl crush on librarians. For the whole of my existence libraries of have been places that promoted and facilitated the free acquisition and exchange of knowledge and information. They have been places where everyone could find a spot and where no one was unwelcome.
While my rational self understands that even libraries (bastions of goodness that they are) could not and did not escape the racism and prejudice that governed our country at the time, my heart broke at the thought that someone would be turned away from a library. That’s not entirely true. My heart broke at the thought that there was a time in our recent history that I would have been turned away from a library.
And what would that have done to me?
I like to think that I would have persevered and gotten the information I wanted from wherever I could, but I don’t know if that would be true. Would it be more likely that having been turned away from a library I never would have developed my love of reading and learning? And yes, I absolutely link my love of learning to my love of reading and libraries. I love the hunt that is researching, and I learned in libraries that all of the learning I wanted to do would open to me as easily as a book.
Who would I be if I had never had my biweekly library visits with my father?
What would I have studied in school, if I had never found solace within the stacks of a library?
Who would I fangirl crush on if librarians had turned me away instead of embracing me?
What would my life be if I hadn’t enjoyed unfettered access to everything libraries have to offer?
It makes me shudder to think about it.
And it makes me wonder about all of the people who, while they may not be turned away from libraries due the color of their skin, do not enjoy everything libraries have to offer. What about kids whose schools don’t have libraries? What about people whose libraries are too far away from home for them to get there easily? What about libraries that face funding cuts and can’t extend their services to those who need them the most?
I thank God times have changed since Hidden Figures, but it’s clear they haven’t changed enough.