The Waterbury Public Library has been selected as one of 300 libraries to participate in an American Library Association initiative to better serve small and rural communities.

The competitive award in the program titled, “Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries,” comes with a $3,000 grant for the library to use to reach out to New Americans and build communication.

“We are so proud to be chosen for this amazing opportunity,” said Adult Program Coordinator Judi Byron. “This grant will allow our library to foster a greater understanding of New Americans and their challenges, and discover the richness found in one another’s stories.”

As part of the grant, Byron will take an online course in how to lead community conversations, a skill vital to library work today. The library will host three events starting Oct. 5 with a book discussion of Laila Lalami’s provocative novel, “The Other Americans,” a mystery, love story, and family saga rolled into a chronicle of immigration and its discontents.

On Oct. 12, poet, writer, and activist Rajnii Eddins will share his work and discuss how personal stories can be used to confront racism and other injustices, affirm diversity and equity, and initiate community dialogue.

For the final event on Oct. 19, community members will be able to hear about the life and experience of refugees and asylum seekers in Central Vermont. “This is an important topic for our community,” Byron said. “With refugees fleeing Afghanistan and other war-torn countries, the time is now to have these conversations.”

Just last week on Sept. 16 Gov. Phil Scott announced that the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants received the U.S. Department of State’s approval to welcome up to 100 Afghans in Vermont in the coming weeks. The Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is a national nonprofit resettlement agency that assists people who have migrated to the United States.

All three programs will begin at 6:30 p.m. Books are available now to check out with an audio version available as well. In addition to the conversations, the library has also purchased two Chromebooks and two wi-fi hotspots to lend to patrons in an effort to provide internet access to community members. To get involved, take part in the conversations, or for more information, contact Byron at judi@waterburypubliclibrary.com or visit waterburypubliclibrary.com.

Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has helped expand the role libraries play in supporting communities by providing training and resources for library staff to lead community and campus forums, take part in anti-violence activities, provide opportunities for people to discuss challenging topics, and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees, and staff. Libraries Transforming Communities is an initiative of the American Library Association with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

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