May 10, 2019
by Vesta Copestakes
In late March, the Public Library Association (PLA) announced the winners of its 2019 awards and grants, honoring the best in public library service, innovation and outreach. Award and grant recipients are chosen by member volunteers who serve on PLA’s Award Juries.
Launched in 2018, The Singer Group “Helping Communities Come Together Award” recognizes a public library’s ability to identify community needs specifically in times of crisis and division and respond in creative and exemplary ways. The 2019 recipient of this $1,000 award is the Sonoma County Library for its Together at the Table project. Through this project, the library hosted community discussions around the topics of climate change, immigration, Blackness in America, LGBTQI life and income inequality.
Kathy DeWeese, the library’s Youth Services Administrator, helped plan and organize the Together at the Table series. “Our Together at the Table project encouraged community to come together to learn about and voice their thoughts and opinions on six important topics. All branches had curated Together at the Table spaces where the public learned about topics, checked out materials, and discussed the issue together. We hosted a series of events bringing together local agencies and organizations who gave expert information on the topic and provided details about what that issue looks like in Sonoma County,” DeWeese said.
The series was well-received. “Our community was hungry for opportunities like this to talk about important issues in a safe environment,” said DeWeese. “It was heartening to see people expressing differing opinions about hot-button topics and feel respected and heard, even if they did not agree with others' opinions. Our community was hit hard by wildfires in October 2017. This shared experience lent itself to a countywide feeling of support and civic pride and engagement, which may not have been as pronounced had we not experienced this disaster.”
A library staff member will be at the American Library Association conference in Washington, DC this summer to accept the award.
Planning is underway now for the 2019 Together at the Table series.
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