“I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal. Tryin’ to reach my goal, my power of speech.”
Someone recently asked me why I love the musical Hamilton so much, and my answer was simple: because it captures the heart of America. While thinking more about that, I realize there’s a lot more to it than that. It represents our belief that anything is possible, that everyone has the potential to rise above their situation. This is also a core belief of librarians, so it makes sense that I would be drawn to this musical.
“Hey yo, I’m just like my country. I’m young, scrappy, and hungry. And I’m not throwing away my shot!”
For those unfamiliar with the Hamilton craze that has swept our nation, it is a Broadway musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza. Lest you assume this production is about a bunch of white guys long dead who have no relevance today, let me inform you the cast is almost entirely made up of young people in every shade of color. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical, is the son of immigrants. After reading the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Miranda was inspired to adapt the story in a way that would resonate with modern audiences. The music is a mix of pop and rap, and it takes kind of an alternative history approach, letting the audience imagine “what if our founding forefathers had been like this?” It is raw and it tugs at every heart that has ever yearned for “more.”
“We’ll bleed and fight for you. We’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation. We’ll pass it on to you. We’ll give the world to you and you’ll blow us all away.”
So what does this have to do with libraries? Librarians believe in the power of knowledge. We take seriously our role in preserving the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We welcome all and we strive to provide the tools necessary for our community to thrive. Sometimes this takes the form of story times, which prepare young minds for successful school years. Other times it may be lengthy assistance at a computer as someone applies for jobs. Or opening the world to a teen who needs to believe that there is more to life than their current struggles. Sometimes it’s the simple act of providing an escape through books, movies, or music to people who are homebound.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less.”
We librarians are not perfect. We carry with us our own experience, bias and fear, but we rise above that every day that we come to work because we believe so strongly in what we do. For this reason, our library has chosen a new slogan:
This is our way of reminding everyone that we are a place where everyone can discover their own way of pursuing the “American Dream” — whatever shape that dream may take.
“There’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait, just you wait.”