A Virtual Exploration of Race and Representation in JMRL’s Collection

Join JMRL for the timely and important virtual program “Race and Representation in JMRL’s Collection” on Wednesday, August 5 at 7pm.

This panel discussion on racial diversity and representation in library collections, namely the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system will be moderated by Siri Russell, Albemarle County Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Panelists will include four representatives from JMRL:

David Plunkett: Library Director
Angela Critics: Children’s Services Manager
Hayley Tompkins: Crozet Branch Manager
Meredith Dickens: Collection Manager

“JMRL looks forward to this opportunity to discuss the issues that must be confronted when reconciling the past practices of public library collections in America with the very real and diverse needs of the people of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson,” said David Plunkett, JMRL Library Director.

This virtual discussion will explore current trends in collection development and Race & Representation (August 5, 2020)-page-001materials selection, how JMRL is endeavoring to break with the traditional white perspective/narrative to broaden its collection to ensure an inclusive body of own-voice materials that fairly reflect the opinions and stories of marginalized communities.

Discussion will also examine how literature and media can perpetuate racial stereotypes and the challenges libraries face in establishing a fluid and evolving collection of materials that meet the needs of ever-diverse communities seeking to speak on their own behalf.

Registration is required via http://www.jmrl.org or by calling 434.973.7893 x3. The program will be accessible on Zoom (online) or by a toll-free phone number.

This event will also be recorded and published on JMRL’s YouTube channel.

Revisiting the Founding Era

grantees facebook 1200x630JMRL has been awarded a Revisiting the Founding Era Grant to implement public programming and community conversations that explore America’s founding and its enduring themes. As part of the grant, JMRL received $1,000 to help implement programs, and additional digital resources, training, and support from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the American Library Association. These resources will allow JMRL to launch a two-program series on the Founding Era. And local residents are invited to attend the following two free events:

Revisiting the Founding Era Panel on Saturday February 9, 2019, at 2 – 3:30PM
Clay Hansen, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, will join UVa’s Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, Alan Shaw Taylor, to talk about the Constitution writing process and founders’ intent through the lens of current events in Charlottesville and across the nation. The discussion will be moderated by local librarian and local historian Miranda Burnett at the Northside Library.

Constitution Community Discussion on Sunday 24, 2019, at 2 – 3:30PM 
Join your neighbors for a community discussion event reflecting on current events through a historical lens with a focus on the founding fathers. Discussion facilitator Dr. Michael Dickens will lead this event at the Central Library.

Revisiting the Founding Era is a three-year national initiative of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, presented in partnership with the American Library Association and the National Constitution Center, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant provided 100 public libraries across the country the opportunity to use historical documents to spark public conversations about the Founding Era’s enduring ideas and themes.

“The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.”

IMG_5862Brown Baggers met on February 15 to discuss The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Originally published in 2016, this novel focuses on the escape story of enslaved woman named Cora as she travels north on her search for freedom. The Underground Railroad was well regarded by critics and selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. It won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Whitehead used a literal train as a device to move the story and characters from point to point on their journey. This threw off some readers who thought it would detract from the other historical details present in the book and some found it harder to read as a result. They also were chagrined at the state of education in America when they discovered the gullibility of acquaintances — thinking the train was real because it’s called an underground railroad. Others felt it freed the author up to have such horrific realistic details if the main focus was fantastical.

The horrific violence kept some readers from reading continuously. While the brutality made them take frequent breaks and spread out their reading they felt it was very realistic and was well written, just a tough subject. They recoiled from the depictions of strong hatred and spite towards African Americans and talked about the seeds of racism that lead to such behaviors.

Talking about racism brought the discussion forward to the present day, allowing reflections on the horrific events here in Charlottesville during August 2017. Readers felt like the book’s popularity is due to the need for a reminder of what has happened historically as well as what may still not be resolved. They discussed the concept of African Americans and freedom — how free they are or feel like they are. Readers were impressed by those willing to help people escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad despite the near constant threat of death.

The key to the book was relationships, readers felt — mainly those Cora has with Lovey, Royal, and Mabel. Also mentioned was Cora’s relationship with herself and her similarities and differences from the antagonist Ridgeway, doing whatever they have to to survive. Readers were astounded that she had such a strong sense of self despite not being her own person. This sense of self allowed her to care for and defend her plot of land and continue forward and northward despite many setbacks in her journey to freedom.

More Info:
Interview with author
Author bio
Pulitzer info
National Book award info

Other mentions:
Twelve Years a Slave book by Solomon Northrup (as well as the film)
Birth of a White Nation by Jacqueline Battalora
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
The Underground Railroad (the other) by Charles Blockson
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (about a real life slave who stay in an attic)

Brown Baggers will meet again on March 15 at noon to discuss the JMRL inaugural Same Page community read selection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander. For a free copy stop by the Reference Desk at the Central Library.