Outreach when tragedy strikes

Editor’s note: we are publishing twice this week to help librarians respond when tragedy strikes. Taking initiative to offer our resources and skills to our communities when facing adversity is one of the greatest gifts we can give through our profession. Anna Francesca Garcia felt compelled to write this piece while her community – and mine – reels from a blow. ~Lizz

When something awful occurs, social workers, psychologists, and chaplains are often part of the immediate trauma team. Librarians also have services to help communities heal. Call me a nerd; as soon as tragedy strikes, I run to the written word. People naturally want to know that we are not alone.

This week, my hometown made news around the world. Unlike last month, it wasn’t for the Spelling Bee.  Instead, it was due to multiple murders. Someone targeted the Jewish community and killed three people.  As it turns out, none of them were Jewish. However, as Victor Wishna writes in JTA: The Global Jewish News Source, “The victims may not have been Jews — as the murderer likely intended — but they were members of our community all the same.”

Kids may ask about what happened. I found a book that would be a strong choice for outreach to elementary schools. The Christmas Menorxmas menorahahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn, D.S.W. and illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, tells the story of a boy named Isaac. It is based on actual occurrences when Isaac was five-years-old. Billings, Montana experienced a slew of hate crimes, including a brick thrown into the window that displayed Isaac’s menorah. The entire town banded together.  Non-Jewish residents exhibited pictures of menorahs in their home windows.  They stood in solidarity to show that they didn’t fear bullies.

Anyone who challenges the worth of librarians needs to take note. We can use the record of history to comfort and empower. That is valuable. It is essential. It is a way that library outreach tangibly betters the world.

With book and educator site 2013Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas and has worked for over nine years in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri. She is checking out The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate to share with her almost-seven-year-old daughter.

 

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