Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson resurfaced this week with a protest song in support of Winnipeg's Millennium Library. Last winter, the library installed "airport-style" security screeners and reportedly began physical searches of guests. Patrons assert that these policies, which arrived amidst funding cuts, have drastically and negatively changed the character of the space. The community group Millennium For All was formed in the wake of these changes, sharing the particular concern that the increased scrutiny has deterred access for marginalized and vulnerable people.
Both Samson and his partner Christine Fellows were co-writers-in-residence at the Winnipeg Public Library in 2016 and 17.
"I wanted to write a song about the Millennium Library, which I visited and worked at weekly for most of my life until the security was installed a year ago. I wanted to demonstrate how the Millennium is so much more than a building full of books. It's the heart of my community and I miss it."
The track, named for the community organization, features Samson backed by Fellows, Ashley Au, Scott Nolan, and Weakerthans drummer Jason Tait. Fellows created the song's accompanying stop-motion video, which features illustrations by Winnipeg artist Jonathan Dyck.
A rally at the library, scheduled for February 25, will mark a year since the installation of the security screeners. Samson continued in a statement to Exclaim:
"I want to help promote the upcoming week of events being organized by Millennium for All and Budget for All Winnipeg. We need to make it clear to the city and library management that we don't accept exclusionary security in our library, and also remind politicians that libraries require committed investment. All Winnipeg's libraries are underfunded and understaffed, yet the mayor and councillors are threatening to cut funding even further to these and other essential services in their proposed city budget next month. We can't let that happen.
I've been really inspired by people acting on behalf of libraries, from community resistance to transphobia at the Toronto Public Library to Winnipeggers' protests against the racist and exclusionary security at the Millennium. We need our libraries to be truly welcoming and fully funded."