Community Engagement for Equity

A woman with long dark hair holds a sign that reads, "Listen. Respond positively. Be courageous! Show Compassion!"
Smiling woman holding a motivational message from the Longest Table event.

by Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

Learn about what’s local!

This fall we designed and launched a new series of programs to educate customers about local diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and connect participants to organizations taking action on those topics.

Why? Our mission to provide high-quality education for all must include education about our own community! As local news coverage has decreased, it is especially imperative to create conversations and presentations where our shared experience as Howard County residents is discussed and analyzed. We hope you come learn with us, and that our programming helps you contribute to our community.

Look forward to events on the county council’s Racial Equity Taskforce and more.

Learn about your neighbors!

In strategic planning events held with over 500 residents in 2019 and early 2020, HCLS staff heard loud and clear that people are interested in ways to learn about each other. People said they want opportunities to bridge what can feel like racial, cultural, and political divides in the country and build more community. At the excellent 2020 virtual Longest Table, participants voiced this request again.

Howard County is asking HCLS to make spaces for people to connect with and learn from each other. Look ahead to more programming in 2021 with small group discussion, especially on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics.

Additionally, HCLS will be launching a story collection effort on racial equity issues. We have two goals. First, we hope to build community – that sharing and listening to stories will increase our understanding of each other, provide recognition of diverse experiences, and spur new relationships. Second, we seek impact. We will use our stories to understand local diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts more precisely. We will publicly share stories and community-led analysis of these stories to help inform local decision-making. We can’t wait to start this process with you.

Stay tuned at hclibrary.org and through HiLights, our weekly email newsletter.

Katie is the Community Education and Engagement Manager for HCLS. She loves people, the big questions, the woods, and chocolate.

We Need Diverse Books

The book cover depicts three people in silhouette seated on a bridge, overlooking the water, with bright sunshine in the center behind a partially cloudy sky.

By Alan S.

I know that is a groundbreaking title there. Anyway, this post is a personal illustration of connecting with book characters because they are like me. Before anyone else can point it out – yes, I am a white guy. Yes, I am a white, heterosexual male. Yes, there are many books about people like me.  This post is not about me wanting more books about me. I’ve always agreed that we need more diverse books. I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this. Kids need to be able to read a book about a person who reflects their personal experience. Intellectually, I always knew this. My last two books have been a good illustration of how a connection to the characters improves the reader’s experience.

I read The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (also available in ebook and eaudiobook from OverDrive/Libby). It takes place in rural Tennessee, and in the author’s words from the book jacket:

“I wanted to write about young people who struggle to live lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten and unglamorous place. Who wonder what becomes of dreams once they cross the county line. This book is my love letter
to those young people and anyone who has ever felt like them, no matter where they grew up.”

I grew up in a place that could be considered forgotten and unglamorous. A small town where many kids dream of escaping to a bigger and brighter world. A small town where some days it seems like your dreams will die. I felt completely connected to the characters and could see a little bit of myself in them. Because of this, the book meant more to me and I was more emotionally invested in the story.

The book cover depicts a girl literally pieced together from different bodies, with an oversized arm and an arm of bones, a ribcage, a heart, an oversized toothy smile, and a single eye looking up.

Immediately after Serpent King, I read Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. I like the book, but I don’t feel the same connection to the character because I am not a Mexican-American girl living in California. A Mexican-American girl will feel that connection here, but not necessarily in The Serpent King.  It’s important for books like Gabi to exist for that girl. She does not have the plethora of books about people like her that I’ve benefited from my entire life.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up a reader and finding myself in all of the books I read (like the creepy clown in It, for example), and even though I realized it as an adult, it didn’t really stand out to me until I read these two books back to back.

I do think it is important for me to read books about people different from me, but sometimes it is really nice to read a book that feels like home. Everyone should have that opportunity.

For more information about where to find diverse books, please visit the We Need Diverse Books website. They have an excellent resource page of current, active sites that offer recommendations for diverse titles, as well as a great blog to help you discover new authors.

Alan has worked for HCLS for just under 25 years, currently at the Savage Branch. He enjoys reading, television, and most sports.

The Longest (Virtual) Table with Daryl Davis

There’s a place for you at the Longest (virtual) Table on Saturday, October 17 from 5:30 – 8 pm for some great conversation with folks in the community. We really look forward to our annual dinner date and didn’t want to cancel altogether, so for all the 2020 reasons, the event is going virtual. And, it’s FREE!

This year, we are excited to introduce a guest speaker: Daryl Davis, acclaimed jazz musician and race relations expert. Through interactions with a fan, Davis gained access – as a Black man – to meeting with Ku Klux Klan members. He eventually became the recipient of robes and hoods from Klan members who came to rescind their beliefs after getting to know him. Davis has received acclaim for his book, Klan-Destine Relationships, and his work in race relations from many respected sources, including: CNN, CNBC, Good Morning America, The Learning Channel, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and The Baltimore Sun. He is the recipient of the The American Ethical Union’s Elliott-Black Award, The Washington Ethical Society’s Bridge Builder, and the Search for Common Ground Award, among others.

After Davis talks to us about his encounters, we connect with new friends to discuss issues facing our community in small breakout rooms with no more than 10 people (probably fewer). Other elements enliven what promises to be an exciting evening. You can enter the online event at 5:30 pm to watch HCLS’ art instructor Jereme Scott’s video demonstrating drawing techniques.

Order and pick up dinner from one of our restaurant partners (place your own order directly with the restaurant) or make your own meal and join us at the table! “Secret menu suggestions” for our event:

  • Anegada Delights Caribbean Cuisine – Jerk Chicken (Spicy) w/ two sides – $12.99; side choices: rice and peas, mac and cheese, cabbage, plantains, zucchini, (jerk mac and cheese $1.99 extra)
  • Cured | 18th & 21st – Cedar Plank Salmon with bacon braised collard greens, sweet potato hash, maple glaze, crispy leeks – $27.21; large sides $8 each: paprika fries, house side salad, sweet potato fries
  • Roving Radish meal kit – Kit includes ingredients for two meals for four people – $38 ($18 subsidized); Week 26 menu options will include an Apple Cider Chicken meal and vegetarian meal. All orders must be placed before Sunday, October 4 at midnight and picked up by Wednesday, October 14. Please allow time for at-home meal preparation prior to the start of event.

Longest Table T-shirts are also on sale for $25; proceeds benefit HCLS’ commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Reserve your place at the table today!