In the midst of a national political movement, the Williamsburg Regional Library has stepped up once again to provide resources and education.
The library recently launched a new resource called “Antiracism Reads” that provides a cultivated list of books and films on various topics regarding race and cultural identity. The lists breakdown resources by age, with books for adults, teens and children.
“One of the most important roles of the public library is that it’s all about the hard work of democracy,” said Betsy Fowler, library director. “That includes offering a variety of resources about important topics and social equity to make sure all members of the community have free access to these resources.”
Librarians compiled the list looking at current available titles. They also are having discussions with people in the community about what they wanted to read.
So far there has been a huge interest in many of the titles listed such as the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo which already has 80 requests.
“Clearly people are interested and want to be more educated,” Fowler said. “So they’re turning to the library for this information.”
While the library also hosts various programs and events, Fowler said it’s important to provide literature to the community. Sandy Towers, assistant director, added that librarians are used to compiling resources based on current events and find the public always responds quickly to their availability.
“Books have always been mirrors and windows because you can use a fiction book to see your own experience and that’s important,” Towers said. “But they can also be a window to a different experience, which allows us to expand horizons and reflect.”
Librarians are doing this type of work across the country, Towers said. As pillars of community education, it’s important for libraries to make sure information is available to everyone in the community, regardless of socioeconomic status or cultural background.
That’s why the new resource is just an addition to the ongoing work of the Williamsburg Regional Library to provide culturally educational opportunities for the community.
The library recently hosted the “One Book, One Community” program, in partnership with William & Mary, which featured the author Tommy Orange. Orange’s book, There There traces generations of Native Americans living in Oakland, California and deals with the issues of Native Americans living in cities.
Towers said the experience showed that many people didn’t know much about Native American life and struggles, but they wanted to learn more.
“I think when people read fiction, they gain a sense of empathy,” Fowler said. “When they read about people with different life experiences and viewpoints, it breaks down barriers.”
The library plans to host the same program this year but with a book that tackles racism in America. The book has not been selected yet, but library staff are looking at various opinions and will make a decision in September.
There will be various book discussion groups, community programming and other resources that will culminate in a large event in January.
In the meantime, the library will continue updating the list of Antiracism Reads.
“Librarians are trained to feel passionately about serving everyone,” Fowler said. “We treat everyone with the same respect and desire to get people the opportunities for growth they need.”
To learn more, visit the Williamsburg Regional Library online.
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