Huddled masses yearn to breathe free -- and check out Harry Potter

The Denver Public Library hosted a naturalization ceremony for more than a hundred new citizens from dozens of countries Thursday morning. The ceremony has been a tradition at DPL for more than a decade, and why not? As several speakers noted in welcoming the crowd of new Americans, citizenship and libraries seem to go together.

Many aspects of American life that natives take for granted -- shared culture and language, some grasp of history and politics, access to courts and services -- can seem daunting to new arrivals. The library is where they go for needed information. And where they can count on running into other naturalized persons, such as city librarian Shirley Amore, who became a citizen two years ago.

The DPL encourages the ceremony participants to pick up library cards along with their passports so they can be better prepared to vote, debate and join in the democratic process. "It is in the free choice of a visit to the library, the most democratic of institutions, that the highest responsibility of citizenship is discharged," said Denver Public Library Commission member Jay Mead.

Mead quickly added that libraries aren't just about civics lessons. The new Americans might want to "play computer games or pick up a Harry Potter movie," he said.

Damn right. Good thing Mayor John Hickenlooper relented on some of his library cuts. The line at the checkout counter just got longer.

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