Oak Park is now a “book sanctuary city.” It was declared as such on Monday evening in a joint effort by the village board and the Oak Park Public Library board.

This village has a habit of such declarations and it can lead to some mockery from those who do not see the essential virtue of small towns making plain their values. It is at the community level that change takes place, where it takes root and grows. So have fun with Oak Park’s decades old “Nuclear-Free Zone” exclamation.

But in this shaming moment where a fairly small but not to be ignored group of very scared people seek to ban books, turn against gay and trans people, and diminish the place of immigrants in America, it is a point of pride that Oak Park intentionally speaks out.

The book-sanctuary action makes plain that our library system will not be cowed into banning books and will instead celebrate open access to all books. It will welcome everyone to participate in story hours and book discussions. Our village will not provide support to businesses or organizations that support banning books.

Practical, declarative, symbolic actions are essential in this moment. Pushing back hard against small minds with big fears is a critical step toward protecting our democratic values.

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