Empowerment through Libraries

In the summer of 2011, I decided to reach out to activist poets about their thoughts on community involvement in libraries. I pitched the idea around and nothing came of it. But, in the 21st century, everyone has a blog and voice, so here it goes… I couldn’t just let it die. If only my readers get the opportunity to read it… that means something to me. So, here’s the short piece that never made it to the “mainstream” audience that I originally intended. (Parade and USA Weekend, I’m looking at you.)

Many of us would love to be more involved in doing something positive for ourselves, and ultimately, our communities. Where’s the perfect place to start? Go and visit your local library. The library provides resources that are freely available, and the opportunity to give back and make a difference. And it may literally be just around the corner from your home.

A rewarding way to help empower individuals would be to create a program via the library. Kenji Liu (poet/designer) helped Oakland Public Libraries (CA) receive grant funding to start a creative writing program. The program provided “a nice sense of culture and network in the community” as Liu described, and allowed this large community of working/middle class people of all racial/immigrant backgrounds to “find their voice.”  Programs of this kind are available in most libraries across the nation. If you want to support creative arts, this is a great way to do so.

Supporting your own cause or passion by simply using the library as a space. Raphael Cohen (poet/educator) also based out of Oakland, CA, spoke about how libraries are at times underutilized as a literary arts and performing arts space to host potential events. This is also true for educators, who can use the library as a place to “invoke a desire for learning” as Cohen describes his use of the library with his work on StreetSide Stories.

Libraries have been known as a “fundamental public good” — this is a tired but true thought. To elaborate on it, libraries can and will serve as the catalyst for empowering individuals (from all walks of life) in their communities. The examples above just skim the surface of what libraries can provide. Go to your local library, and see what is being created on a daily basis, it may be a surprisingly enlightening experience.

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