Honoring the ‘Covenant’: My April 17th Book Reading at Prince George’s Community College Library

Flyer by Candice C Floyd of Prince George’s Community College Library

I would like to thank Marianne, Candice, Maura, Robert, and Janet for their support of my book reading at the Prince George’s Community College Library on Wednesday, April 17th. Through our post-reading conversation, I felt the love they had for their patrons, college students, gaining knowledge by reading.

More than any other for me, this reading affirmed the importance of libraries and librarians. At this reading was the display of all of Hopkins’s novels republished by Oxford University Press, as well as an edition of her 1903 novel Of One Blood published by “X Press” with a cover I have never seen before. I was grateful to be so graciously hosted.

Our discussion included the historical significance of librarians. I mentioned the historical significance of librarian Arturo Schomburg and Ernestine Rose in making the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I mentioned the significance of librarian Jean Blackwell Hutson in the intellectual life of Professor Sonia Sanchez. And I mentioned the significance of Dr. Carla Hayden’s interview with HistoryMakers.org saying that the U.S.A. Patriot Act threatened what she called “a covenant of trust” between a librarian and patron. I chose to read from the first chapter that mentioned Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, because of his recent April 11th detention.

Cynthia McKinney in 2015 said that an Antioch University librarian said she had to remove references to Wikileaks from her doctoral dissertation, or else the librarian would be subpoenaed. Dr. McKinney consented.

Dr. Hayden said that what bothered librarians about the Patriot Act is that the interest in a patron reading about, for example, “jihad” does not exactly mean interest in joining “jihad.”

This concept of persecuting readers reminded me of video I just came across, of Alice Childress in 1987, speaking at a program produced by the American Theatre Wing, about how Blacks were jailed for reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin and had to hide in basements of buildings in order to read the book. For centuries it was against the law for a Black person to read. The descendants of those who built their economic wealth on laws like these still make attempts to regain this power.

Dr. Hayden said in the context of wanting to read about “jihad,” that “interest and intent” are not necessarily equal. She wanted to “make sure that people could still want to find out information about anything without being investigated.” She mentioned that librarians have “a covenant of trust” with their patrons and this covenant included respecting patrons’ privacy. I appreciated this concept of “a covenant of trust.” I felt that each librarian I met on Wednesday had that for each of their patrons, and I thank each of them for their gracious hospitality on April 17th, and their supporting a venue for my book. -RF.

Photo from Pinterest, Kandee Randall.