March 7: A Home for the Sparrows

by Elizabeth Willse

I work in the public library. One of our posters reads:

Everyone is welcome here

…translated into a colorful series of different languages.

Everyone who has come from all over the world to New York, and the library, is welcome; job seekers, new parents, English learners. The library is a safe space.

Everyone is welcome. Every question is welcome: from how to fill out an affordable housing application to how to put the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book on hold.

Sometimes, library patrons ask shyly: “I’m sorry to bother you.” I think of today’s psalm — “Even the sparrow has found a home” — because some hesitant library visitors make me talk softer, trying to coax them to feel safe.

I work with teenagers, a boisterous group: flirting, teasing, navigating cliques. Mostly, I nod and smile and try to keep a straight face. (Not always easy.) When I hear some of the ways they tease each other — meanness about differences — I get mad. The smiling librarian is gone, and I’m angry enough to kick a table over! “Nope. You’re not using those insults, not in my library.” I don’t care if they tell me they’re joking.

Not. In. My. Library.

My library is a place where everyone is welcome. You are in my house now, and my house is a house of learning and respect, a sacred space for everyone. As much as I delight in meeting patrons where their questions are, I want to push myself to be fiercer. To help make my library and my city a sturdier place for people to feel safe and welcome.

Everyone is welcome here




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