Dear friend of the Library,
As the world reels from and mourns the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and as we face devastating truths about countless other injustices, I have struggled to put into words my own sadness and shock. Because the American Library in Paris is as much a community and cultural anchor as it is a lending library, I have also been torn about how to respond effectively and respectfully in this charged moment. First, what could I possibly add to the eloquent reflections and expressions of solidarity that my librarian colleagues have put forth? I realize that personal conviction and private heartache are simply not enough. Today nothing goes without saying. And saying it is merely a start.
One of the founding missions of the Library was to act as a bridge of understanding between France and America. In the Library’s early years, our predecessors witnessed a time when Paris was a city that offered the promise of more freedom to Black Americans. Since the mid-century, the Library has been an important resource for French scholars studying questions about race in America. Now, in this time of collective grief about the ongoing, systemic violence enacted on people of color and the legacy of racism we find in both of our countries, we strongly recommit and broaden our efforts of understanding.
This week the Library staff, Board members, and volunteers have been processing events and determining how the Library may serve the community now. We strive for the Library to be a welcoming space where readers can learn, discuss, and confront challenging issues about identity, race, and culture. And beyond that, we strive to do the work, both individually and institutionally, to stand against racism. These recent events have reminded us that we have a responsibility to learn, to do the work, and to never be complacent. We will uphold and embody the ultimately humanitarian mission of libraries: to promote understanding of ourselves, each other, and the wider world.
Thank you for being a part of this community of inspiring, engaged readers.