National Library Week: More than books, libraries address big issues in the community | TheUnion.com

National Library Week: More than books, libraries address big issues in the community

Crystal Miles
Branch Librarian
Madelyn Helling Library

Gone are the days of public libraries serving as only a space for quietly enjoying a book.

Now, many libraries thrive as vital community hubs of learning, idea exchanging, technology assistance, connecting with county services, film screenings, live music, and yes, of course, we have books. Libraries like ours in Nevada County work to create programs that provide free opportunities to the community in a diverse number of areas.

Primarily we utilize the connection of powerful stories and books to create the opportunity for meaningful discussions with our patrons. For example, this year the Nevada County Reads & Writes Program, a community reading-based program implemented in a joint venture with the Nevada County Community Library and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, features a powerful book by author Celeste Ng that serves as a catalyst for a community discussion on mental health, which can create lasting change.

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet …," begins the short novel by Ng, Everything I Never Told You. This is a story of a family spiraling out of control, confronting some of life's most difficult issues including suicide, mental illness, gender inequality, cultural bias, and family relationships.

One conversation this year's program has created is about mental health and the feeling of "other." When you feel you are on the outside, due to cultural background, sexual orientation, mental illness, social expectations, or status, it can create a feeling of isolation that can lead to situations that can be dangerous.

In the case of Lydia, the protagonist of Everything I Never Told You, it leads to her death (don't worry; I am not giving anything away here. We know Lydia dies from page one). Just the act of reading Everything I Never Told You, may have an impact on our community members, and encouraging reading is one of our primary goals.

Recommended Stories For You

Having a book discussion on serious topics that affect us all will encourage the exchange of ideas, which is even better. Many libraries, including ours, are going a step further, creating programs that connect with other community organizations and creating opportunities for a deeper look into serious issues that directly affect the people we serve.

This spring, we have several library programs in Nevada County that fit this description, with two that really stand out. The first, coming up at 7 p.m. on April 19 at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley, is a young adult author panel focusing on the 2018 Nevada County Reads book choice, Everything I Never Told You.

Although author does not write young adult novels, the theme of being "other" or dealing with being outside of the mainstream is something we often see covered in young adult novels. It makes sense, most of us probably at least felt like we were outsiders at some point during adolescence.

It is because of this alignment with the underlying feeling of "other," that it made sense for the Nevada County Reads & Writes Committee to bring young adult authors into the fold for this year's program. Two successful local young adult authors fit this bill right here in Nevada County, Kim Culbertson and Hilary Smith.

Together, with authors Emily Ziff Griffin and Jeff Garvin, and moderator and author Sands Hall, they will be exploring what it is to write stories about grief, loss, loneliness, experiencing mental illness, and the feeling of "other," in our society. They will draw on personal experiences and the process of writing for young people. This dynamic event is surely not to miss.

Another event inspired by the Nevada County Reads & Writes program's focus on mental health is, "Mind Your Mental Health: A Nevada County Community Library Mental Wellness Event," hosted at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City from 3-7 p.m. on May 30. This event will be providing tangible support and resources for those struggling with their mental health or the loved ones of community members that are.

This event will be set up in three parts: a resource "fair" (tables in the round with different local resources at each) in the Gene Albaugh Community Room, expert speakers on topics like suicide prevention and mindfulness in the Collaborative Technology Center classroom, and mind-body movement classes in the Dr. Marian E. Gallaher, M.D., Amphitheater.

This is a perfect example of the library taking the promotion of reading one book as a community and creating a program that connects with other local organizations to work toward a similar goal of supporting the local community with a real need. If you are interested in learning new ways to stay mentally healthy, looking for resources for yourself or someone you care about, or just want to learn about mindfulness or take a free yoga class, this event is for you.

We at the Nevada County Community Library look forward to continuing our mission of being a vital part of serving Nevada County, not only through the traditional scope of library services, but by offering unique, empowering experiences and supporting individuals in meaningful ways.

Source: Nevada County Library

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.