Interview with Kathy Daly, a librarian from Michigan who worked for 7 years in Salt Lake City for the City Library
Daly: As a librarian, I am concerned by the story in the Deseret News that the Washington County library was dedicated by an elder of the Mormon church. (Elder Holland dedicates Washington County library, desertnews.com, Feb 20, 2007)
This is a public library, correct? Paid for by public money from all the people of the county, correct? Then please explain why the dedication was highlighted by a religious leader and the parade to the tabernacle was part of the dedication? In the eternal quest for separation of church and state, this event does not even attempt to pretend to do so.
Libraries should be the safe place for all ideas, and the obvious imprimatur of a religious belief casts a cold chill down the spine of librarians who work every day to protect this freedom.
Every citizen of every faith in the Washington County community, as well as every citizen in the country, should be aghast.
Minow: Why are you concerned about the dedication of a library that is in a state with a large Mormon community?
Daly: As a public librarian for a long time, I am sensitive to anything that erodes what a library should be in a community. I currently work in Michigan, but for 7 years (until late 2001) worked in Salt Lake City for the City Library, and have a great affection for the state of Utah. SLC is cosmopolitan enough to avoid the worst of what can happen when there is a dominant group in a state. But the worst case scenario is when the provincialism and parochialism is unquestioned by the members of the community. Then you get processions to the tabernacle from a public library dedication. Frankly, it makes me sad when such things happen because it really makes Utah look foolish to the outside world. People have to speak up, and have to sign their names. By affectionately holding up the mirror perhaps we can help affect change.
Minow: Do you think this problem is because the community is Mormon?
Daly: Please let me make it clear that my issues are not issues against the LDS church; such a situation can happen in any place where the balance is seriously distorted. It is a human thing, not a Mormon thing.
Having lived there, I know that objections won't come from the librarians who are part of the dominant group. It just won't happen. But you know what else? The non-Mormon librarians in the state won't complain either. Oh, maybe to one another, but not out loud, because it would seem, well, rude to do so, and everybody has to work together. Maybe that is the gift of having been there and loved the place and cared about the people. Having moved away, I am safe to speak about it without recrimination, either religious or social.
I also have to say that we are talking about really good people --but who have become so comfortable in a pretty homogeneous place that they have forgotten that there are others to include at the table.