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They Made Me Nonessential

Thank You Brother, Radmil

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n March 18th of 2020, I was, along with other completely random sectors of the labor market in my liberal college town, declared “nonessential.” 

I’m a public librarian and take great pride in my job, partly because it feels like we are now one of the final bulwarks for democracy and free speech. A huge amount of my time, indeed most of it, is spent trying to close down the digital divide, which was a chasm before the Covid lockdowns, but is now more like the Grand Canyon. 

If I’m not teaching a technology class, I’m helping someone find legal information, affordable housing, medical insurance or social services support. I also spend a chunk of time building our online community archive, which features collections from underrepresented parts of my community. 

My library is a place of last refuge for society’s discarded, for people who have no shelter, no hope. We are the lifeline of information and technology for the unfortunate souls who have been left behind by our global economy. You’d be amazed how many people still haven’t even seen a computer before but now need to fill out an online job application for Hardees or for a job pouring concrete. If there is any place that feels essential, the modern American public library is it. The profession, which has gone full authoritarian-woke, I feel also needs civil libertarians like myself. 

And yet, here I was. The “Stay at Home Order” was announced, and I was left sitting at home, without a job, desperately trying to help my daughters with their homework, thinking of how much I wanted to start drinking again. 

My workplace was shuttered. I was “nonessential.” 

 

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