Local libraries secure grants for community conversations

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/12/2021 11:18:23 AM

Local library staff are getting training in how to have tough conversations about topics such as race and gender, and the future of the library within the community, with assistance from an American Libraries Association grant.

The modest grants – each for about $3,000 – from the ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative will help train the staff at the Peterborough Town Library, Jaffrey Public Library and the James A. Tuttle Library in Antrim to facilitate conversations this year on a topic of interest to the community, and help fund materials to help make those conversations happen and pay for keynote speakers.

Each library submitted their topic of choice, and about 300 libraries across the country were chosen for the grant.

The Jaffrey Public Library is using its grant to have community education on diversity in gender.

“We have a diverse staff, and this is something that we ourselves have had to address, sometimes addressing ignorance, and sometimes just curiosity,” Jaffrey Library Director Julie Perrin said. “Teens in the community have thanked us for our Pride displays and for our diversity in selections, and that is something we want to grow.”

Perrin said the library intends to work with a diversity and inclusion resource group at MilliporeSigma in Jaffrey and Jaffrey United Church to hold a community conversation to educate the public on topics such as being nonbinary or gender fluid, as well as getting additional diversity training for library staff and trustees. She said the goal is to make everyone more educated, and open to creating safe spaces for the LGBT community.

“Rural New Hampshire tends to be somewhat homogeneous, and it’s important that we create an environment that’s welcoming for everyone,” Perrin said. “If you grow up with something about you that’s different, you often have difficulty in these kinds of environments because rural communities tend to be very insular. It’s a hard place to grow up if that’s the case. Hopefully, we’re going to help make New Hampshire a safer and more welcoming place to live.”

In a similar vein, the Peterborough Town Library intends to use its grant to continue conversations on the topic of systemic racism.

“Talking about race is not easy,” said Peterborough Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos.

The Peterborough Town Library has already begun this process of talking about race, including starting a book group specifically to talk about racial issues, which Chronopoulos said has been well-attended.

“We’ve definitely been putting staff time and focus on this, and encouraging that exploration,” Chronopoulos said. “This is our next step in that direction. This conversation needs to be had, and not only among people that agree. We want to model brave conversations among people that disagree. That’s part of our commitment. It’s an enduring commitment, it can’t just be a one-time thing.”

The Peterborough Public Library plans to partner with Franklin Pierce University to hold these conversations.

In Antrim, the James A. Tuttle Library is going to be using its grant funding to develop a plan for the future of the library itself. Library Director Cindy Jewett said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the rural library wasn’t as prepared as some others that have already invested in more remote resources and technology.

“We weren’t prepared to go online for things,” Jewett said. “We didn’t have laptops to loan out. We didn’t have hotspots. We’re getting up to speed with that, but it’s time to have a conversation about what people want to see in the future.”

Jewett said the library has added some remote resources since last March, including language learning software for children homeschooling, and an online source for newspapers and magazines, and people have been taking advantage of those online resources that the library already has, such as EBSCO databases and ancestry searches in unprecedented numbers.

“They’re using what we have to offer,” Jewett said.

Jewett said it’s time for the library to have a conversation with the community about what is important to them in their local library, and what resources don’t exist that they need.

“I don’t know what the community needs will be in five or 10 years, but it would be nice to know that community input. Everyone’s needs are so different now,” Jewett said. She said the conversations eventually will be incorporated into a strategic plan for the library.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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