February’s here, and that means it’s Black History Month, and also Library Lovers’ Month.
First and foremost, let’s focus on Black History Month, 2021. According to the Wikipedia article, this month-long celebration got its start in honor of Abe Lincoln’s birthday and Frederick Douglass’s birthday, and it began as a week to commemorate these dates back in the late 1920s. The inspiration, according to this article, was in 1915, when Howard University professor Carter G. Woodson attended a celebration that marked the 15th Amendment anniversary. As a month, it started at Kent State University in 1970, and soon, other schools and communities began observing it. President Gerald Ford made it official in 1976, to coincide with the bicentennial celebrations. Canada also observes it this month, whereas the U.K., the Netherlands, and Ireland has their Black History Month in October.
Oprah’s magazine website has a great feature on Black History Month, and more importantly, ways to take the celebration beyond the 28 (or 29 if it’s a leap year) days of February.
One of the things in the feature is a list of Black-owned bookshops by state. It’s so disappointing to see that there’s none listed in my state. I really hope this changes soon. If there’s no listings in your state for any of you readers, then we’ve still got some options. We can buy from these bookstores online if their websites have the option to do so.
Let’s vote with our dollars, and support small businesses.
While we’re on the subject of books, today is also the first day of Library Lovers’ Month, 2021. This year, it’s obviously gonna look different due to the pandemic, and while some libraries are starting to open back up, others haven’t. All the branches of my town’s library have opened back up, but on a set schedule with limited service availability. The college law library and the med school’s library still isn’t open to us members of the general public.
I’m guessing that’ll change soon. In the meantime, I’ll take what I can get, so I’m hoping I get the chance to go to the library sometime this week. As a library lover since I was a kid, while a trip to the public library was seldom, I always looked forward to the days it was my class’s turn to go to the library and pick out a book. I never left empty-handed, by the way.
Several years ago, one of the branches of my town’s library underwent some renovations, so they had a temporary location in a vacant parcel of a building complex with some shops nearby. I was talking with one of the librarians, and they recounted a story that happened the other day where a little kid walking by the temporary location wanted to go in, but the adults they were with said no, that they didn’t read, and they walked past it.
That story still hurts my heart to think about, in terms of what they’re taking and keeping away from that kid, and what they’re missing out on for themselves. Maybe they’re more casual readers, or maybe they don’t know how to read. No judgment from me, but we all gotta start somewhere, and wherever they start, that can be their somewhere.
In the past 10 years or so, I’ve seen the library branch I usually go to expand their collection of multicultural literature. They have a form you can fill out to request a book, or you can donate to them also. Maybe your local library has this option, and if they do, definitely use it to request any of the books listed on the O Magazine website, along with other authors from under-represented demographics. If you choose to donate books, buy your contributions from independent bookstores like the ones the O Magazine feature lists. This way, we’re showing there’s a demand for it, and more importantly, supporting these authors. Even if there isn’t a large community in your area of the demographic an author is from, representation still matters at the end of the day. By including these books in the library collections, we’re giving people an authentic, insider view of the cultures an author represents, and the lived experiences they bring to the table, so to speak.
Since the local library hasn’t been an option due to the pandemic, I’ve filled that gap with the Internet Archive’s library. While some of the stuff there is indeed questionable at best, like about extremist worldviews, books that use stereotypes about people, and books that are otherwise decent but use outdated terms and views, there’s a lot to be said about it. I may or may not devote a post just to this, but we’ll see on that.
Over to you, readers. How are you gonna celebrate Black History Month, and also Library Lover’s Month? Sound off below, and let’s get it started.