Wayne County Public Library bookmobiles and seven locations are 100 pounds heavier and far more knowledgeable about America’s long and complicated racial history.
From little-known stories to more complete accounts, the Wayne County Coalition for Racial Justice, the county public library system and Buckeye Book Fair has partnered to donate over 100 black-themed books for adults and children in an effort to make American history more accessible.
The Hudson enclosure reflects:“By muting me for two minutes, millions of people have learned the story.”
For Susan Roberts, deputy director of the county library system, the donation of books was enough to pique her interest.
“We are always interested in expanding our collection and having a wide range of books available for everyone,” said Roberts.
Library books for all ages
The book reader started with a single connection.
Rachel Fichter is a member of the Racial Justice Coalition and was the project leader for this campaign. She also worked for the library system several years ago.
Fitcher suggested to Roberts the idea of donating various books and she provided a list of titles that might be suitable.
“We already had some of the titles she suggested in the collection,” said Roberts. “In fact, we had made videos on how to discuss race and racism with children and / or adults interested in the subject.”
But there was still a void to be filled, Roberts said.
Fitcher worked with a team of library acquisition editors to select books that the county either did not have on its shelves or had only a few copies. Two lists have been created, one for children and young adults sections and one for general library use.
As Fitcher and the library worked on a final list of books, Roberts said acquisition editors made the final selections.
The final list of books approved by the library goes online online in October 2020. Each book was donated by volunteer donors.
The full list includes novels, memoirs, and graphic novels for adults and children like “The New Jim Crow” by Michele Alexander, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds and “March ! ” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
A total of 75 books were donated and the library purchased 25 more thanks to a grant provided by the Buckeye Book Fair, a Wooster-based nonprofit that promotes literacy projects and authors.
“The Buckeye Book Fair Literacy Bursary Program provided a $ 350 grant to the Wayne County Public Library System to purchase black-themed children’s books for the library’s seven branches,” said Julia Wiesenberg, member of the association’s board of directors. “We believe that reading can change lives and that it takes creative and collaborative projects like this to have an impact.”
Advocacy meets education
For Désirée Weber, member of the Racial Justice Coalition, this donation of books goes beyond the objective of her community outreach group. It’s about education.
“It was an idea to provide people with the resources to continue to educate themselves on issues related to race and inequality,” Weber said.
The idea was a by-product of the coalition daily protests following the death of George Floyd last May.
Members, including Weber and Fitcher, brainstormed ideas to continue their community outreach campaign and make these stories more accessible.
“We had gathered information with flyers and other ways to pursue educational resources,” Weber said.
One particular series that stood out for Weber was a graphic novel written and illustrated with John Lewis, a former member of the United States Congress and a veteran of the civil rights movement.
Entitled “Mars!” the novel follows Lewis’s civil rights career through the 1965 attack on protesters by Alabama state soldiers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
The death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, at the hands of state law enforcement, catalyzed the protest march weeks earlier.
For Weber, the Wayne County Public Library and the Buckeye Book Fair, donating books is just one way to make information more accessible to the general public.
“To continue to find ways to broaden your own understanding of US history and politics, including on issues of inequality and the effects of racism, I think that’s a good thing,” Weber said. “If people go to the library and can find these books and pick them up and want to know more, I think that’s a good thing too.”
Contact Bryce by email at [email protected]
On Twitter: @Bryce_Buyakie