Libraries and Contemporary Issue Education

PrivacyWashington, DC’s central library is named for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and throughout DC’s public library system, MLK day lasts an entire week. Branch events for all ages this week include a collaborative art activity discussion and freedom songs workshops as well as the more usual films, poetry readings, and book talks. A number of important resources are on-line for use around the country.

Throughout MLK week and into Black History Month, DC’s main Library will be home to “Black Space,” an art exhibition by Holly Bass. Her work revolves around a tiny house in the shape of the District, which has been a center of Black culture since the early 1900s.

“As D.C. residents, we all occupy black space, regardless of ethnicity or background,” the Library says. So, visitors will be invited to share their D.C. memories with the artist and create collaborative responses – photographs, poems, sketches, and oral histories, which will be catalogued and displayed in the house.

In Ferguson, MO, the public library is hosting monthly discussions on race using materials from the media as well as books. The first discussion ranged over articles from two St. Louis papers and two national periodicals. Up next is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

The Ferguson Library has created what it calls the Unity Collection, using donations from book-lovers around the world, sent in support of the town. These books are all available for checkout locally and highlighted on-line for those in other locations. Recent titles included Keats’s Neighborhood, a treasury of stories by author Ezra Jack Keats, and Healing Days: for kids who have experienced trauma.

But DC and Ferguson (MO) are not the only locations with great educational offerings at their libraries for all ages and interests. Wherever you live, chances are good that YOUR local public library is offering innovative ways to explore topics related to Black History, Civil Rights, and race relations and to honor Dr. King’s legacy. This is, as Ferguson Librarian Scott Bonner reminds us, just one aspect of #WhatLibrariesDo in support of their communities.

Orwellian America at the DC Public Library

Back in DC, on the heel’s of MLK week programming, the District’s Public Library begins a ten-day series called “Orwellian America: Government transparency and personal privacy in the digital age,” with a range of activities for all ages. Programming includes a marathon reading of Orwell’s 1984, with special guest readers and members of the public taking 10-minute spots from 10 a.m. through 9 p.m. on Jan 21. This will be live-streamed, and other Orwellian America resources are available on-line as well.

Listen to this report and the whole Jan 15 show —

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