We’re still buzzing from National Library Week (NLW), which wrapped on Saturday, April 29. The awareness, advocacy, and love for libraries, librarians, and library workers that we saw throughout the country was outstanding. While it would be a near-impossible task for us to highlight every single way that libraries were championed during NLW 2023, one instance stood out for us.
In addition to officially proclaiming April 23-29, 2023, to be “California Library Week,” California Governor Gavin Newsom penned a love letter to the “nation’s hardworking librarians” at the close of NLW, thanking them for their service and for changing the lives of people everywhere—himself included. We’d be lying if we said the letter didn’t bring a tear to our eyes. Here it is, in full.
To our nation’s hardworking librarians—
You share words with the world, and as we close out National Library Week, I want to share two words with you: Thank you.
In my childhood, I struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia. Books and words weren’t just difficult to read—they felt entirely out of reach. Without them, my world was far smaller than it could have been: I avoided classrooms and libraries for reasons I couldn’t fully understand or articulate. But as I grew, my world did too. Through support, advice, and mentorship from specialists, educators, and librarians too numerous to list, I didn’t just fall in love with words… my life started revolving around them. Because people—people like you—took the time to care about me, to show me the power of words and the power of books, I was able to find my footing in business, service, and eventually, elected office. I am in your debt.
You helped get me here. And my story isn’t unique. Librarians change lives every day. Your impact goes far beyond book recommendations (although, you have recommended many great books over the years). You help us start new chapters at every stage of our lives, showing us the magic of reading as children, and teaching us new skills in our golden years. You are the heart of our communities, providing a way out and a way up for those unsure of where they’re going—including those who are unhoused, unemployed, or simply looking for a new path.
You guard the sanctity of our pasts, good and bad, as you shepherd the possibilities of our tomorrows.
And yet, despite your indispensable contributions—or perhaps because of them—you have become the target of unjust attacks across the nation. Idealogues and demagogues are attacking you for championing diversity, inclusion, and equity—for making sure our children and all people belong. You are facing censorship, battling record numbers of book bans and challenges, as you defend free access to literary works, especially those written by authors who are often targeted: LGBTQ+ writers, writers of color, and those daring to challenge the status quo.
It is more important than ever that we have your back and that we ensure and expand access to public libraries and defend your essential role in preserving freedom. We must refuse to dabble in the zealotry of whitewashing literature and banning books. And in California, we are. Together, we’ve accomplished some incredible things: investing hundreds of millions to equitably improve and modernize your workplaces; working to preserve and share our historically and culturally significant materials by investing in library digitization; renovating and enhancing the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center Library and Archives building; expanding and diversifying our library resources to promote health and wellness and reflect our multilingual and multicultural communities; and beyond. We’ve even worked with Dolly Parton to establish a Statewide Imagination Library.
In California, we know libraries hold more than books—so much more. Libraries, and librarians, stand at the crossroads of opportunity and information, acting as gateways to online job training and educational upskilling programs; to state parks by enabling people to check out a parks pass, regardless of income; and to food through free lunch programs. And above all else, our library walls hold the most valuable treasure: you.
So, I will continue to stand up for you — and stand up to those that get in your way. California has your back, because you’ve always had ours. You’ve always had mine.
I know from my own challenges with dyslexia that when we help people read, we help them succeed. You do that every day. The value of a librarian is inestimable—you go beyond books, and even beyond knowledge. You open the doors to possibility. To opportunity, imagination, and the pursuit of freedom. I’ve experienced it firsthand.
This National Library Week, and always, thank you.
Governor of California
Photo: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons