In 2018 National Public Radio asked Americans what they were the most grateful for, and poet, educator and novelist, Kwame Alexander, wove their responses into a cohesive and powerful poem. Many respondents were grateful for their local libraries, which one person described as “sacred places to share knowledge and creativity.” I couldn’t agree more.
As we race to the end of another challenging year, I want to share my deep appreciation to you for your support of the Cambridge Public Library. Thanks to the generosity of you and your neighbors, our library nimbly responded to ever-changing directives and stayed focused on serving everyone – particularly the most vulnerable – in our community.
The wonderful poem below celebrates our differences, acknowledges our past, and looks hopefully towards the future. Thank you for ensuring a bright future for libraries by making a gift – if you haven’t already done so – to the Cambridge Public Library.
I wish for you and your family a happy, peaceful and restorative holiday.
Director, Cambridge Public Library Foundation
Thank You, America
The sun rising behind farm houses in the Midwest
The clear mountain rivers in Montana
I hope we have the wisdom to treasure all of it.
A glimmer of dawn
First flickers in Maine
For the mountains.
magnificent weathered beacons of topographical wonder.
Tengo gracias that I can speak my mind
y no hay consecuencias graves when I do so.
I won't lie, I struggled with this question
With all the fighting, hate and violence
it has been difficult to remember to be thankful.
However, when I read stories of people who
stand up and speak out
for justice and truth
I become immensely grateful and proud of America.
Freedom to whisper against kings
My grandmother who carried her green card
in the broken tattoos on her back
I am thankful that other people are still trying to come here.
I am thankful for the vastness of our borders and the beauty of our natural lands.
Sunshine streaming softly
while we sip our morning coffee.
But across the oceans our troops fight
ensuring that we keep our rights,
to give us a land of the free.
For the first responders
I am thankful for America's history, warts and all.
Our past, full of light and dark,
Read the history
of heroes and villains
See our country for what it is.
Free Press and Free speech
to speak out against injustices in our country,
For places to walk safely
places to paddle
arcades of trees
varied, inexpensive food
tools and workplaces
longtime friends who listen
to worship whoever we want,
to say whatever we want,
to go wherever we want.
for the public libraries.
They raise up voices whom others attempt to silence.
My son is transgender and I am grateful for those who treat HER with respect and kindness.
for Cape May; for parties on the Fourth of July; for anarchist coffee shops; for church-run thrift stores; hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints; Lake Michigan; Vinny's Pizzeria in the 90s; beer delivery in a snow storm;
for second, third and fourth chances.
I am thankful that my hybrid existence, hinted by my brown skin and slanted eyes, can make sense in America.
For many spectacular parks in our nation--from the huge and awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the tiny neighborhood park with the small playground and the pretty benches painted by local artists.
I am grateful that America can change, too.
for the millions who take to the streets,
insist on change,
resist evil, tell their stories,
Wrought through division
Sustained by freedom's hope
I am thankful for America, most of the time.
AMERICA LETS ME CONNECT AND PLAY VIDEOS WITH THE WORLD
AMERICA ALLOWS ME TO PLAY BASKETBALL
AMERICA GIVES ME A GOOD EDUCATION
Thank you, America,
For the mom and pop shops and rest stops.
For the back roads and the beaten paths.
For the love that greets me when I come home.
For the dream to become,
the dream to make better or different,
the dream to inspire,
the dream of something on the other side
of whatever is facing us in the moment
It's no secret: we love the Cambridge Public Library staff! From circulation to admin, facilities to youth services - the enthusiasm, warmth, and dedication of the library’s team makes Cambridge an amazing place to live, learn and explore.
This week we are pleased to introduce you to Deputy Director of Libraries, Joy Kim!
Joy is giving us a behind-the-scenes peek at how the Cambridge Public Library decided to join a growing number of libraries that have decided to eliminate late fines.
Joy, what is the fine free initiative?
Fine free is a movement happening in public libraries across the United States. About five years ago we began to see some of the largest libraries in the country make the shift to fine free. The libraries that were at the forefront of this initiative questioned whether late fines were consistent with the mission of libraries as institutions designed to serve all members of the community. So far, the libraries that have gone fine free have seen positive impacts in their communities!
There have been studies done on the benefits of going fine free. Research has shown that late fines are a significant deterrent to people with low incomes - they either won’t get a library card to begin with out of fear of fines or they lose access to materials because they accrue fines. When books are returned late or lost, it’s often because people are facing other hardships, such as housing instability or poverty, and we don’t want to make people's lives even harder with late fines. Eliminating library fines removes the financial barrier, and at times shame, that comes with library charges.
Studies have also shown that small fines don’t change behavior. In fact, some large libraries realized that the cost of fining patrons was more expensive than the fines they were collecting. There’s a myth that going fine free discourages patrons from returning their items, but libraries that are fine free still have their materials returned. In fact, some people are more inclined to return their overdue library books because they aren’t nervous about the repercussions!
So how did it work here in Cambridge? How did our community make this important decision?
As we saw other libraries go fine free, our leadership team wanted to explore it here. We were so fortunate to have the full support of Mayor Siddiqui and Vice Mayor Mallon, who passed a policy order asking the library to look into this question, and of the City Manager’s Office. Cambridge is a really unique and special city in that way - our elected and City leadership understand the importance of libraries for families in the community, and support our efforts to provide a warm, welcoming space for all.
The Cambridge Public Library became temporarily fine free at the beginning of the pandemic because we wanted to respond to the immediate needs of our community members: if someone was unable to return materials to the library because of Covid-19, we didn’t want them to be penalized. Prior to the pandemic, if a patron had more than $10 in fines they were barred from taking out materials, but during the pandemic we lifted that ceiling to $1,000.
We waited until library buildings had reopened and returned to a semblance of normalcy to officially launch the fine free initiative by waiving eligible past charges. We are a member of the Minuteman Library Network, a regional consortium, and we worked with our partners there on the logistical work necessary to update our borrowing settings and to remove eligible past changes.
What does fine free actually look like for library patrons?
Going fine free is a game changer! Just a few weeks ago, on October 19th, the library cleared all the past overdue fines that had accumulated on patrons’ accounts. We also cleared the bills on lost Cambridge-owned children and young adult materials. Cambridge has been fine free for youth materials for decades, and people have still brought back their books. We expect that to continue to be true as we become fine free for all materials.
This is what fine free looks like for us:
Could you tell us how going fine free fits into the library’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives?
Last year the library committed to expanding our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and programs. We have been doing both outward-facing work in the community and internal work with the library staff and teams. We are actively working to understand and dismantle the structures of oppression that exist within our organization and community.
At one point in time librarians created late fees which reduced people's access to library materials, so by eliminating overdue fines we are removing barriers to equitable access and helping to break the cycle of oppression.
What do you like most about working at the library?
I like doing mission driven work, and I feel fulfilled when I get to help people at the library. Going fine free is a great example of that! I like working in Cambridge because the community loves and values the public library. Our patrons understand the library’s mission in the community and have consistently invested in library services. That’s really special. What’s also unique about this library in particular is the community support we receive from residents, stakeholders, elected officials and city leadership.
What is your favorite book?
Oh that is so hard, I can't pick just one! I read really widely, but I lean towards science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels. Earlier in my library career, I was a youth services librarian, and I had the opportunity to serve on two Young Adult Library Services Association book committees (the William C. Morris YA Debut Award Committee and the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee).
Thank you for joining us this week, Joy! If you would like to learn more about the library’s Fine Free Initiative, you can do so here. Please contact the library if you have questions about the status of your account.
Contributions from the City of Cambridge and our generous donors have supported the library’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. If you would like to support the Cambridge Public Library, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cambridge Public Library Foundation is dedicated to supporting the Cambridge Public Library and its programs that educate, inspire and respond to the needs of our diverse community.