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Florida Libraries are Fundamental to Freedom

by on July 31, 2023

picture of doug crane background with balloons and florida library association logo blue ribbon across fron of pic says Douglas crane President 2023-2024On May 19, 2023, I became President of the Florida Library Association. We are a statewide organization that promotes excellence in Florida libraries by advocating strongly for libraries and providing high quality professional and leadership development for a diverse community of library staff, volunteers, and supporters. Our vision is to champion strong, indispensable, user-focused Florida libraries that exceed the expectations of the communities and constituents they serve. At the annual conference in Daytona Beach, I unveiled my Presidential theme: Florida Libraries are Fundamental to Freedom. Below is the speech explaining the theme and why it is important to the work that all libraries are doing today.

Florida Libraries are Fundamental to Freedom.

The drafters of the Declaration of Independence believed in the essential rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since 1776, our nation has struggled to apply these principles equally across all its residents in order to create that elusive more perfect union. At its core, the freedoms that Americans seek are the same freedoms supported by our libraries. Of these aspects of liberty, three specific freedoms stand out for me.

Florida libraries support the freedom to participate. In an increasingly fractious society, our buildings remain the one space where everyone is welcome. Through our libraries, residents can find all the tools and resources needed to live their lives. Whether it is using public computers to apply for benefits, meeting neighbors at a children’s story hour, or to register to vote and actually vote, libraries remain central to our communities. Erik Klinenberg in his book, Palaces for the People, states that a founding principle of libraries is, “that all people deserve free, open access to our shared culture and heritage, which they can use to any end they see fit.”

Florida libraries are fundamental to freedom.

Florida libraries support the freedom to discover. We have all experienced the serendipity of walking the library stacks and discovering a book that changes our perspective. For me, it was Getting Things Done, by David Allen, which altered the course of my career. Libraries support the endless discovery happening in our colleges and universities, such as when a professor connects ideas after deep research using a database or students group studying into the late hours to understand a concept. In a knowledge-based economy, the freedom to discover new ideas and the capacity to implement them are essential for a thriving democracy.

Florida libraries are fundamental to freedom.

Most importantly, Florida libraries support the freedom to read. It is no surprise that the Founding Fathers valued a liberal education. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to name just two were intense bibliophiles, amassing collections that started both the first public library in America and the core of the Library of Congress respectively. Throughout history, one of the surest measures of a free society is the ability for its citizens to read or write about any topic they desire, without censorship or interference.

I also attest today, that the freedom to participate, the freedom to discover, and the freedom to read are not only American values but stand as undeniable human rights.

Florida libraries are fundamental to freedom.

We must also acknowledge that these freedoms apply to Florida’s youngest residents. The future of our society is determined in part by our children. Whether it is a baby at his first lap sit story time, a toddler giggling at a funny rhyme, a teen finding a book that gives them insight into who they are, or a college student working on her thesis, the fundamental freedoms provided by libraries are essential to their growth. Therefore, our children deserve access to collections that are broad and diverse. As novelist, Judy Blume put it, “Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”

Florida libraries are fundamental to freedom.

This year’s theme is designed to be widely utilized across the Florida Library Association. For our committees, this theme may inspire you to incorporate these freedoms into your work. For our member institutions, please use these principals to advocate for the resources needed to fulfill your mission. For each individual member, these ideas can encourage you in tough times to keep striving for the good of both yourself and those you serve in your community. As novelist Maya Angelou once said, “Without librarians, I certainly would not be who I am. That means a lot of other people would not be who they are.”

These last few years have been tough for libraries of all types. It may get tougher still. However, as you go forth to do vital work in your communities, allow this truth to reassure you.

Florida libraries are fundamental to freedom.


Doug Crane began his career with the Palm Beach County Library System as a children’s librarian in 1998. He was appointed Library Director in 2014 and has spoken at national conferences on topics such as office productivity and leadership. Doug is the author of the articles, “May I Ask You a Question? Lessons Learned from Interviewing Public Library Leaders”; “Efficient Librarianship – A New Path for the Profession” and “Go For It! Advice From Library Directors” all published in Public Libraries magazine.  In 2021, Doug was honored as the Florida Librarian of the Year by the Florida Library Association where he currently serves as President. He shares his musings at www.efficientlibrarian.com. In his spare time, he admires his collection of Doctor Who sonic screwdrivers, and relaxes at home with his wife, daughter, dog and cat.