Image: Weekes Branch Library, Hayward, Calif.
“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” ― Andrew Carnegie
The latest issue of Rotary International’s monthly magazine The Rotarian features a cover story on the allure of books by “negative-styled humorist” and Wall Street Journal columnist Joe Queenan. Of particular note are the accompanying photo illustrations, which I found to be as intriguing and thought-provoking as the article itself.
As a proud member of my local Rotary club, I know how much Rotary supports reading and literacy in communities around the world. For example, here in Hayward the Rotary club raises over $20,000 each year to provide a children’s dictionary to every third grader in Hayward — all 2,200 of them. As a librarian, I know that studies show that children who have access to books in their home do better in school, go farther in their educations, and earn more in later life. But as a Rotarian, for me the best part of the dictionary project is simpler than that — it’s seeing these children’s faces light up when they first get their dictionaries and start leafing through the pages. These dictionaries are beautiful hardcover editions, filled with gorgeous full color photos and illustrations, almost like single-volume encyclopedias. And when we tell them that these books are theirs to keep, the looks of delight and amazement on their faces… well, it is a priceless moment. And when they ask, why is Rotary giving us these books?, the answer is equally priceless — because we care about you, we care about kids in our community, and we want you have everything you need to learn and grow and do your very best in school.
That connection, that passing of the torch of knowledge is one of the essential joys of reading. Learning is a lifelong adventure that deepens and enriches our lives in so many ways. And we all have a part to play in paying it forward to the next generation through the enduring power of books.
Rotary International has 1.2 million members in more than 34,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary members volunteer in communities in every corner of the globe, at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio. To learn more, and to find a Rotary club in your community, visit www.rotary.org.
Library Journal published a feature story on Hayward Public Library’s teen filmmaking project, Now We Can Dance: The Story of the Hayward Gay Prom. The film is a remarkable achievement–a moving and inspiring look into the history, meaning, importance, and impact of the Hayward Gay Prom, one of the longest-running LGBTQ youth events of its kind in the country. It features several past and present attendees and organizers of the prom, as well as local leaders who played key roles in forming and supporting the event. Eighteen months in the making, the film was produced by local Hayward youth under the guidance of Academy-Award winning documentarian Debra Chasnoff (Deadly Deception; Let’s Get Real) and library staff with a grant from CalHumanities and additional support provided by Friends of Hayward Public Library.As well as being a celebration of a very special and unique youth event, Now We Can Dance masterfully and unflinchingly examines the pool of hate and intolerance that has been directed toward LGBTQ youth from the Gay Prom’s inception in 1995 to the present day, embodied in the sickening protests that accompany the event, and it brilliantly captures how the community literally “bands together” to respond to and neutralize these hateful displays. The manner in which the event’s supporters counteract the poisonous viewpoints of the protesters is nothing short of triumphant. A bit rough around the edges production-wise, but otherwise flawless in its passion and grace, Now We Can Dance, is unquestionably a landmark achievement in the history of HPL, one that “takes the concept of a local history project to the next level,” to paraphrase the LJ article.
The next stop for the film will hopefully be acceptance to the upcoming Frameline film festival in San Francisco where the film has been submitted for consideration, and beyond that, possible distribution to a wider audience via DVD.
Kudos to my colleague Laurie Willis for her extraordinary work producing this film.
At the public library, our goal is to deliver equal opportunity in education to all. This is because we believe that education is the key to a stronger, brighter future for any community. Whether it’s through our early childhood education classes for young children and parents, after school homework support for students, literacy tutoring for adults who lack basic reading and writing proficiency, or English as Second Language training for non-native speakers of English, we place an emphasis on meeting the lifelong learning needs of every member of our diverse community. In this regard, the Library is truly the community’s learning center.
Books will always be the heart and soul of the library, but our educational mission extends far beyond books—and even beyond the four walls of our buildings. Through new partnerships and innovative programs, we continuously strive to meet our community’s changing educational needs.
For example, the City of Hayward opened a new afterschool homework center in September at Longwood Elementary School, in partnership with Hayward Unified School District. The new center provides customized one-to-one homework tutoring to students with the help of trained volunteers. Over 200 students received homework assistance in its first week of operation.
Longwood Center is also the home of Hayward’s first Public Library Book Vending Machine. It looks like a snack vending machine, but, instead of chips and candy, it’s stocked with Hayward Public Library books! The new homework center and book vending machine provide access to public library books and services where previously there was none.
Through partnership, innovation, technology, and the support of community volunteers like you, we can continue to build new educational opportunities and a brighter future for every Hayward resident—of every age. To learn more about how people can help make a positive difference in the community, visit the City’s website and its volunteering opportunities.