The Sun Prairie Public Library is set to take on racial injustice motivated by the police killings of Black men, the Black Lives Matter, and other incidents of Americans not being treated equally.
It’s part of an effort in libraries nationwide to end racism and injustice, said Sun Prairie Public Library Director Svetha Hetzler.
“To really serve our community we have to look at racism, so we can move forward in being anti-racist,” Hetzler said. “I think the call right now is urgent for that.”
The Sun Prairie Public Library’s Racial Literacy Plan was OK’d by the board last month. Hetzler said it’s a call to action that was advocated by the Public Library Association nationwide after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The Sun Prairie library already focuses on diversity and creates access and programming for people of color, Hetzler said, but the racial literacy plan will refocus and fine-tune efforts to teach people to recognize, understand and counteract racism.
“When people think of literacy,” Hetzler said. “They think of books and learning to read but it goes much deeper. To be truly literate means you have a deeper understanding and knowledge.”
The racial literacy plan sets goals for the next five years, fanning out to all parts of the library—from books and material, programming, staff development, hiring and community partnerships.
The Urban SUN: Black Voices Book Club is the first program under the new racial literacy plan.
Two Black Sun Prairie women will host the program, Sun Prairie School Board member Marilyn Ruffin and Donna Mackey, a racial justice specialist and educator. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama will be the first book selection with a virtual ZOOM discussion on Sunday, Sept. 27 at 3 p.m. with the Sun Prairie Public Library.
“We are really excited about this new program as we explore the issue of race and racism through the books we read and discuss,” Hetzler said.
With more than 200,000 visits to the Sun Prairie Public Library each year, Hetzler said the library has the influence to connect and engage residents. The racial literacy plan will help people recognize racism at a society and individual level.
“Racial literacy depends on so much—who you are, where you grew up and even who you are married to, so we want to give people a chance to start where they are,” Hetzler said.
The library—even virtually these days with COVID-19—has the power to engage people on racial issues and encourage them to listen, act and reflect toward a goal of collective liberation, Hetzler said.
Besides boosting the library’s collection with books, films, music and digital content that addresses racial literacy, there will be a focus on programming.
The library recently hosted Black storyteller Oba William King for virtual storytime and Hetzler said similar events are coming soon.
Library staff will also review collection materials and library policies to align with the plan’s objectives.
The Ripple Project, launched at all Dane County Libraries, will encourage people to talk about race.
Hetzler said the project’s mission is to root out racism and white supremacy at the individual and institutional levels.
The Sun Prairie Public Library also partners with the City of Sun Prairie, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County and support activities that combat systemic and individual racism and bring opportunities for people of color.
Getting more people of color involved with the library is another of the plan’s goals Hetzler said. That includes recruiting staff, volunteers, interns and library board members.
Hetzler said the power of the Sun Prairie Public library is an important link to strengthen the community.
“This racial literacy plan is something that is going to connect and engage our entire community and understand each other better,” Hetzler said.
Read the Sun Prairie Public Library Racial Literacy Plan at https://www.sunprairiepubliclibrary.org/sites/www.sunprairiepubliclibrary.org/files/Racial%20Literacy%20Plan%202020.pdf