The Neuse Regional Library system has gone through many changes over the past year, and many of these transformations have been inspired by a unified theme of encouraging partnerships between our libraries and their communities.
In December, the Etta Jones Pink Hill Public Library began hosting a forum on pressing issues of the day called “Community Conversations” in hopes of opening dialogue on tough topics. The topics of conversation at this forum are the type that you commonly hear throughout political venues, the media, and the community itself, but our intention was to offer a chance for community members to engage face-to-face on these topics.
The topic on December 3, our first event, was “A Conversation on Immigration.” Executive Directors from both NC Field and the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry were in attendance, as were three migrant farmworkers. The pastor of La Semilla, a new faith community working closely with the immigrant community in and around Durham, NC also attended.
While the questions leading into the conversation were set up to help educate the community on the current state of immigration in our country, the panel also sought to individuals with completely different perspectives on immigration issues to share them with each other. The entire room agreed that immigration reform was necessary while holding differing views on how exactly to address it; a poignant moment during the conversation was when one of the farmworkers addressed the room stating “I know that immigration reform is necessary, that it will occur eventually, but what I wish in the meantime is that people would begin to see us as human.” Bringing people together to hear differing views and perspectives while helping them find information is part of the Library’s mission.
On February 4 we will hold our next Community Conversation, which will address the Opioid Crisis. Our panel of experts will discuss points-of-view on the issue from the differing perspectives of law enforcement, mental health, emergency medical responders, recovered addicts, and members from the Lenoir County Opioid Task Force. Many issues will be covered that night, including but not limited to the causes of addiction, noticing addiction in those around you, treatment and rehabilitation for those suffering from addiction, and any other questions or concerns raised by those in attendance.
It is the Library’s hope and goal to provide a community space where people can talk to each other, which in turn leads them to find more productive ways to move forward in our communities together. Libraries are still one of few places left in society where all are welcome and encouraged to grow, making them wonderful places to garner information. The objective of our community conversations is not to sway beliefs but to serve as neutral space for people to share and explore diverse opinions and ideas. Each Community Conversation holds a zero tolerance for uncivil behavior, and participants are able to move freely and leave if necessary.
It is understandable that not everyone will agree on issues, but it necessary to be able to speak to one another in a respectful manner. After each conversation there are light refreshments and people are able to mingle.
In 2020 the Etta Jones Turner Pink Hill Public Library plans to have several more community conversations addressing topics such as mental health and human trafficking. If there is an issue you would like to have discussed please feel free to contact Pink Hill Public Library staff at 252- 568-3631.