Public libraries are critical cornerstones of democracy, and democracy’s future is diminished when people’s access to power, information, a diversity of voices and the ability to influence policy are restricted. The battle to protect democracy is a global struggle playing out at the local level and libraries have landed on the front lines.
ULC provides ongoing support to urban public libraries as conveners for and facilitators of civic engagement and civil discourse. With robust resources and opportunities for peer learning, ULC uplifts member libraries' efforts to fight misinformation and disinformation, encourage an active citizenry where all are engaged in creating an equitable and just society, and ensure community members free and open access to information.
NEW Leadership Brief: Libraries as Cornerstones of Democracy
Informed by the work of ULC's Democracy Advocacy Group, this Leadership Brief highlights the core areas libraries can focus on to increase their reach in promoting a more democratic community, as outlined in the Declaration of Democracy. It also spotlights the work of eight exemplary ULC member libraries in the U.S. and Canada that empower their patrons through various programs and services.
A supplemental resource, Frequently Asked Questions and Commonly Used Phrases: Talking About Democracy and Free Expression in Public Libraries, offers answers to frequently asked questions and explanations of commonly used phrases when discussing the library’s role as a cornerstone of democracy.
As leaders of North America’s urban public libraries, we must commit to preserving, protecting and advancing the highest hopes and ideals of democracy so all members of our communities may fully participate in the democratic process. Launched at ULC's 2022 Annual Forum, this declaration provides a baseline for building policies and actions that preserve and protect democracy in our communities.
Every ULC library — in small and large ways — is organizing and contributing to civil discussions and programs that support a strong democracy. To best learn from one another, ULC is collecting descriptions of your efforts and making these available on this website.
Explore examples of ULC member libraries that are driving the Book Sanctuary movement. Launched by the Chicago Public Library in 2022, Book Sanctuaries are spaces that collect and protect endangered books, make those books broadly accessible, and educate others on the importance of intellectual freedom.
Across North America, many library systems have gone "fine free," ceasing or limiting their use of overdue materials fines to reduce access barriers. ULC created an interactive map to help you understand and learn from libraries that have gone fine free.