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Shelf Talk 2: Voting & Census

By Beth Roberts, MCLS PR and Customer Service Specialist

“The very concept of public depends upon public libraries.” - Stacy Abrams

Last week in Nashville, Stacy Abrams – author, non-profit CEO, 11-year member of the Georgia House of Representatives, former gubernatorial candidate, and daughter of a librarian – opened the 2020 Public Library Association Conference with this bold statement. Ms. Abrams’ job, like that of most keynote speakers, was to inspire, to remind attendees why their work in libraries is important. She was talking about how libraries are central for building strong, diverse communities.

She’s right.

Public libraries were formed by the public and formed for the public, but they also form the public. How? By hosting and encouraging public interaction and discourse. In a world that is increasingly polarized, libraries are a great equalizer. Instead of promoting specific opinions or voices, the library ensures varying perspectives on an array of subjects are faithfully and accurately represented. These curators of information exist to ensure that all people, regardless of age, race, gender, orientation, nationality, language, ability, or life circumstance have access to resources and information, yes, but also access to each other. In the “too much information age,” libraries provide space for dialog, connection, and community learning. Libraries exist to help the public be a better place, to help the public be a better people. The Mississippi County Library System (MCLS) tagline is Enrich Your Life: we hope that you use our branches to enrich your knowledge, your relationships, and your vision of our community.

This year is a vital time for healthy public formation. 2020 marks our nation’s 59th presidential election and 24th national census. For nearly 250 years, public libraries have helped to inform engaged communities and encouraged them to help form a more perfect union. It is time for Mississippi County to stand up and be counted, to step forward and make our collective voice heard. The decisions made this year will affect the direction of our country and the position of our county well into the next decade. We must be a well-informed people in order to make good decisions at the polls. In order to vote for our own best interests and that of our community, we need to be able to cut through the misinformation and misrepresentations that are so prevalent in the news, online, and in social media. We need to know and understand our Mississippi County neighbors. We need to visit the library.

Do you have questions about the Census? Do you need computer/internet access, or help completing an online form? Do you worry about privacy, or about how census information will be used? Does someone you know need help navigating materials written in English? The library is a safe place to ask questions, gain reliable information, and receive assistance. Each of the six MCLS branches offers free public-access computers and staff ready to help simplify the process and guide users through completing the form. No appointment necessary: visit the library!

Does election season seem overwhelming? Do you know where to go to find accurate, complete information on candidates and issues? Do you need to update your voter registration, or need help completing the form for the first time? Does someone you know struggle to distinguish reliable sources from “fake news”? Your MCLS is ready to help. Find reliable accounts from various perspectives; engage with people who see the world from a different point of view; learn to judge media bias. No need to call ahead: visit the library!

Libraries form the public. Be part of that formation. We’d like to know the formative conversations that are important to you. Call the Blytheville Library at 870-762-2431, stop by, or email me at

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