Lit: The Rights of the Community

‘We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.’

The historical do’s and don’t’s for influenza in 1918. (Submitted)

The historical do’s and don’t’s for influenza in 1918. (Submitted)

By Saara Itkonen, chief librarian at the Creston Valley Public Library

While scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, I came upon an image from an Alaskan newspaper, dated November 1918. It was an article listing the “Do’s and Don’t’s for Influenza Prevention.” It was a list of best practices for avoiding infection and death during the Spanish Flu epidemic over 100 years ago. Included in the list were the words, “Do not disregard the rights of a community.” I’ve been thinking of that particular line ever since.

As a librarian, I don’t have nearly enough time to read all the information I come across, but I do try to keep up with knowing what is out there and circulating around. As the provincial government recently announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for some social activities, the anti-vaccine rhetoric, online and in our community, has reached a fever pitch.

This past week, I’ve had to disable comments on our Facebook, block anti-vaccine SPAM in my email box, respond directly to outraged community members, and I’ve even had to file a police report after violence was threatened. It’s a fraught time in our community, and this makes it especially hard to work in public service.

Much of the anti-vaccine conversation centres around fear. Fear of vaccine side-effects, fear of government control, fear of loss of freedoms. This fear isolates us all and only serves to fracture our connections to each other and reality. The focus is always your “personal rights” and “personal freedoms,” but I wonder, what about the “rights of the community?”

Because no matter how much power and control we each think we have over our own lives, this pandemic has shown us that we actually don’t have that much at all. We are not islands. None of us has come into being entirely through our own volition. We are all interconnected and depend so much more on each other, more than perhaps we’d like to admit, even to ourselves.

We are 18 months into this pandemic and we’re all in this together, whether we like it or not. For whatever our own personal reasons for calling Creston our home, we are here together now and, as the Library Director, I’m asking you to consider the rights of your community.

You see, at the library we’ve already lost a lot over this pandemic. We lost the chance to celebrate our 100th anniversary. We’ve lost the ability to run children’s programs and provide safe meeting spaces for our community. We’ve lost the joy of bumping into so many familiar faces in our building as most people are still staying away to be safe. And that’s not even mentioning our own personal losses. And yet, we’re prepared to continue losing these things if it means we’re helping our community members from getting sick and dying.

At the library, community is everything. It’s why we do the work that we do. So please, I’m asking you all to do your part to help us get back to being together as a community again. Consider wearing a mask so you don’t breathe the virus on someone else. Consider getting vaccinated so you can protect your body against severe illness and decrease the likelihood of passing it to someone else. Consider the rights of all of the members of your community instead of only your own.

Because you are not alone. You are a part of our community. And we are all in this together.

Upcoming Events and Programs at the Library:

• None until further notice.

• Keep an eye on the Creston Valley Public Library Facebook page for dates and times of upcoming pop-up vaccination clinics.

• If you are unsure about the reliability of COVID information you are encountering, library staff are here to assist you.

READ MORE: Lit: Are You a Friend of the Library?

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