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“Libraries are so important to the very core of our society”

Elizabeth Jonkel (left) and Honore Bray (right).

As a part of the 2022 StoryCorps mobile tour, friends and colleagues Honore Bray (former Executive Director of the Missoula Public Library) and Elizabeth Jonkel (Assistant Director of Services at the Missoula Public Library) talk about the impact and importance of libraries and librarians, especially in this time of censorship and extreme political divide.

Honore Bray: Libraries provide something for everybody. And people are able to find what fits them, and what fits their family, and not make the choices for all families. That—I think that people need to understand that that’s why libraries are so important: there’s something for everybody; we don’t just choose things for one one person or one type of person.

I think that we’re living in a very divided country right now, and we see many fears surfacing. And libraries are so important to the very core of our society. And we must all stand strong, because this too shall pass, and when it does, and we look back on it, we’ll be much smarter than we were when we went into it. But it’s always scary when those first few people come forward and start making challenges to things, because most often, it’s someone—they challenge someone who they know has never had to deal with this before, or who looks like they’re meek and mild. And then once they make the challenge, they find out how strong librarians really are.

Elizabeth Jonkel: The stereotypical librarian with the bun and the glasses and the cardigan suddenly turns into an ardent champion.

Honore Bray: That’s right.

Elizabeth Jonkel: [Laughs]

The 2022 StoryCorps mobile tour recorded at the Missoula Public Library from May through June 2022, giving Missoulians the opportunity to preserve their conversations and stories for future generations. StoryCorps Missoula is brought to you in part by Clearwater Credit Union, Partners Creative, and Montana State Fund.