Building Better Worlds at the Library
by Jill Fuller, Marketing and Communications Librarian
I’m standing in a room with a chattering group of teens and tweens. I watch as some choose their paint colors while others carefully trace their paintbrushes into creative designs. I’m at the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson and these kids are participating in today’s Kindness Rocks project. The goal is to decorate rocks with uplifting words and give them to someone or leave them somewhere for a stranger to find. Colorful rocks that read “You are the best” and “Smile, it’s a beautiful day” are taking shape before my eyes as the kids continue to talk and laugh with each other.
A few days later, I’m standing in a room with a group of teenagers excitedly making plans for the video they’re shooting. I watch as some practice their lines and laugh at each other’s facial expressions, while others check the lighting and the camera angles. We’re at the Oconomowoc Public Library this time and these teens have been working hard on a movie to promote the Summer Reading Program. They’ve written the script, practiced their parts, and designed the set. Their passion for this project is obvious.
It heartens me to see young adults coming together to create something wonderful for other people, and that the library has given them this opportunity. The emphasis on “giving back” to others was a common theme this summer at our public libraries. Summer Reading Program is a busy time, as each library hosts an extravaganza of programs, events, and reading challenges to encourage reading once school is out. This year’s theme, “Build A Better World,” goes beyond reading to emphasize our responsibility to care for our communities, our planet, and each other, encouraging kids and adults to give back. Teens went to the L.D. Fargo Public Library in Lake Mills every week this summer to create Random Acts of Kindness projects to pass out in the community. You can donate food to the local food pantry all summer long at the Pewaukee Public Library. And the list goes on and on.
Building a better world also includes a willingness to listen and discuss. Like a typical millennial, I get much of my information from social media. But Facebook can be a maelstrom of argument and false information; weeding out what is real from what isn’t is no easy task. Our libraries are providing opportunities this summer to hear new perspectives, learn new information, and have conversations about issues that matter to all of us. Dwight Foster Public Library hosted an author talk about the impact of poverty in Milwaukee, along with an exhibit on the Fair Housing Marches in the 1960s. Officer Corey Saffold, a black police officer in Madison, will discuss the issues surrounding race and law enforcement at Elm Grove Public Library on August 2. The Watertown Public Library is hosting a “How To” Fair on Saturday, July 29 as an opportunity for library patrons to share their skills and talents with others. Looking at this list, it’s easy to see that the library is there to challenge my worldview, make me a better-informed citizen, and encourage me to do more. Our libraries prove that making a difference is possible. If I want to build a better world, it turns out the library is the most useful tool to get started.