I have to Bitch about this ;-)

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I don’t think I mentioned this before, but I finally got an assignment to write for Bitch magazine, which some of you probably know is one of my faaaaavorite publications. Their tagline says it all: “A Feminist Response to Pop Culture.” Extremely well-written, well-researched and frighteningly erudite, the mag has been on my must-read list for at least a decade, since I discovered it at the Richland County Public Library years ago. Anyhoo, I was so scared to even query them for the longest time, as they have a well-deserved reputation for being one of the best zines in existence, but after a few tries, I finally got the greenlight!!!

I submitted the finished piece a couple of weeks ago and am awaiting the editor’s comments. She emailed me the other day to thank me for turning it in so promptly, which makes me wonder if they’ve had problems with disappearing writers in the past. (Knowing the tenuous world of zine publications, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t too far off the mark.) In any case, the article itself (about feminism and public libraries, natch) will be in the Winter issue. Stay tuned!

I thoroughly enjoyed researching that piece, probably more so than almost any other article I’ve ever written. Having worked for years in public libraries, I guess I hadn’t ever really considered its role in the community, not only as a repository of books and other media, but also as a potential partner in everything from public education to social justice. I know that RCPL was a very prominent, very popular hub in Columbia, and deservedly so. However, I’m only now beginning to understand the enormous potential that libraries have (or could have, depending on their leadership’s commitment) to inspire its patrons to exercise their full rights of citizenship in a democracy. I mean, if democracy requires an educated, informed populace, what better place for it to flourish than at the local public library, where knowledge and understand can be had for free?

I read a beautiful line in a book about libraries and democracy that gave me that Click! experience normally associated with the women’s movement. It was something to the effect of, “A free library can only exist in a free society.” It reminded me of how severely lacking the Philippines (and so much of the rest of the world) is in providing even the most basic library services to their people. Even in Australia, which I think of as one of the more enlightened democracies, I remember being surprised at the relatively high barriers to access the New South Wales library imposed on its patrons. (For example, you couldn’t browse through stacks; you had to search for the item you need in the catalog, write all kinds of info down on a slip of paper, which you then had to hand over to a librarian for retrieval. I think it took about ten minutes for me to get my books because of the large number of people waiting in line.)

I never really made the connection between a democracy and the presence of a truly public library before, so this has been quite an eye-opening experience, not to mention a kick-ass assignment. Who knew that your local library could be so subversive?

MRA

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