Grant helps libraries purchase materials on racial equity


DUBOIS — More materials about race relations and racial equity will soon be on the shelves at local libraries.

The Dubois Branch Library recently received the Advancing Racial Equity Collection Development grant from Indiana Humanities to help fund the purchase of books, DVDs and other materials that tackle themes such as race relations, injustice and policing.

“It’s supposed to help your communities start having conversations about racial issues,” Dubois Branch Manager Anita Murphy said.

Murphy applied for the grant after she saw the increase in circulation of titles that deal with race relations following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis poilce officer and the protests and riots that followed. Some of the titles that picked up in circulation include “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo — which tackles why the white community struggles to talk about race issues in America — and “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi, which is a history of race in the U.S.

Murphy said she wasn’t surprised to see the uptick in circulation of race-related materials. Protests and riots were in the news, and many patrons seemed to be seeking out materials that presented perspectives that are different from those accepted in predominantly white communities.

“I think that they’re starting to see that some of their ideas about other races may be incorrect,” Murphy said. “They’re looking for other sides to the story and other ideas.”

That’s where the grant from Indiana Humanities can help. Librarians at libraries that receive grant funds can purchase materials from a list of over 100 titles curated by librarians from the Indianapolis Public Library’s Collection Management Team using the funds. Titles on the list include fiction and nonfiction geared toward a variety of age groups and grapple with topics such as systemic racism, inequitable policing and/or protest through a humanities lens. Murphy explained that some of the titles, particularly nonfiction titles, will tackle the issues head-on, while others will look at the issues as themes within a story.

Murphy plans to use the $1,000 she receives from the grant to purchase 10 copies each of seven books: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi; “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead; “Conjure Women” by Afia Atakora; “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones; “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride; “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid; and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. The list includes both fiction and nonfiction.

Once purchased, the books will be available for use by book clubs throughout the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library system — which includes the Birdseye, Dubois, Ferdinand and Jasper branches — as well as by community book clubs and schools. Eventually, Murphy said, she plans to host programs that use the materials and to bring in speakers to help facilitate conversations about the themes brought up in the books. Those plans will have to wait until COVID-19 becomes less of an issue, however.

Murphy stressed that the purchase and use of the materials by the library does not represent any political stance. Rather, it’s part of the library fulfilling its role as a source of information of all kinds and as a facilitator of conversation and intellectualism within the community. The library’s role, Murphy said, is to both provide challenging materials and to provide a safe space for the community to engage issues brought up by the materials, particularly when it comes to how those issues play out in the communities it serves.

“I think the library can take an active roll in that,” Murphy said.

She hopes the materials purchased with the grant and eventual complementary programming will help those in the local community gain new perspectives and think critically about the history of race in Dubois County and the surrounding areas.

“To make this a better world,” Murphy said, “we all have to look at ourselves and how we could better treat people.”

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