Cal Humanities Trains Librarians to Lead Community Conversations with Veterans

Jul 01 2014
What it is like to go to war cover

On June 9th and 10th, Cal Humanities hosted a civic reflection facilitation training for public librarians at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.  Co-led by Adam Davis (Oregon Humanities Executive Director and former Director of the Center for Civic Reflection) and  Vanessa Whang (Cal Humanities Director of Programs), the training—part of Cal Humanities’ Now We’re Talking program—included 20 representatives from sixteen library jurisdictions across California.  Since 2009 Now We’re Talking, developed in collaboration with the Center for Civic Reflection, has trained staff from library systems statewide to facilitate meaningful dialogues in their communities.

Some newly trained facilitators were recruited from Cal Humanities’ California Reads program, which provides grants to libraries participating in a statewide thematic initiative. This year, California Reads is focusing on the experience of veterans through community-wide reading and discussion activities of Karl Marlantes’ powerful nonfiction narrative on Vietnam, What It Is Like to Go to War. The statewide read of Marlantes’ book is one component of Cal Humanities’ multi-year initiative, War Comes Home, which includes hundreds of events bringing communities together with veterans, their families, historians and writers to explore how California is welcoming its veterans home.

Other librarians who participated in the facilitation training are engaged in a parallel initiative of the California State Library, the Library Outreach to Veterans Initiative, whose purpose is to connect veterans and their communities with the services and resources they need.

Explains Cal Humanities’ Vanessa Whang, “What we want to do is build understanding about the experience of veterans, given we have been at war for over a dozen years.  Now that the US has an all-volunteer military, many fewer people are directly touched by military service.  People have become estranged from the reality of what it means to go to war or send fellow citizens to fight a war.  We’re trying to raise awareness and break down the alienation and silences between those who have served in the military and those who haven’t.”  California Reads events around What It Is Like to Go to War will be held at libraries statewide from September through November 2014.

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