U.S. libraries sponsor community dialogue in wake of 9-11

Contact: Larra Clark


For Immediate Release

December 11, 2001

U.S. libraries sponsor community dialogue in wake of 9-11

As community resource and cultural information centers, libraries nationwide play an important role in helping Americans understand and cope with the recent terrorist attacks and the U.S. response. Libraries across the country are helping patrons gather information, providing resources to help individuals cope with the tragedy, and bringing community members together to discuss the implications and significance of the recent events.

In Maine, many of the state's 270 libraries held programs simultaneously on October 11 using W.H. Auden's poem, "September 1, 1939" and Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech to reflect on the events of September 11. The program developed by the Maine Humanities Council engaged the people of Maine in reading, reflection, and community discussion.

On September 25, the Rockford (Ill.) Public Library partnered with the League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford to organize a panel titled "Coming Together in the Aftermath of the September 11 attack." Topics included terrorist groups, the rhetoric of war and how an enemy is "constructed," American foreign policy and Islam.

"Many among the 170 in attendance at this highly successful program commented that the rapid response and the spirit of learning promoted individual healing, as well as a greater feeling of community," said Zoe Norwood, chair of the Adult Services Program Committee at Rockford Public Library, which initiated the project. "I still hear people remark about what they learned from these experts about American foreign policy in the Middle East, the plight of the Afghan people, and the power of the language of leadership to shape public expectations."

The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office has created a new Web site for libraries interested in encouraging dialogue about the events of September 11 in their communities. The site contains library, state humanities council and other resources for developing cultural programming.

"We hope this Web site will highlight the ways librarians are helping their patrons better understand the events of September 11 and beyond," said Deb Robertson, director of the ALA's Public Programs Office. "The examples on the Web site can serve as starting points for other librarians and community members interested in using cultural programming to address local and global ideas and concerns."

The Web site, called "Encouraging Dialogue through Cultural Programming," (
http://www.ala.org/publicprograms/dialogue/) is regularly updated to include additional materials and resources.

"All of us have been deeply moved by these events," said ALA President John W. Berry. "Every day librarians assist the public by providing free information and information services. Our public programs take this effort to increase knowledge and understanding to another level."

Other informational and cultural programs include:

  • New York Public Library has launched "NYPL Responds: Meeting Community Needs in the Wake of Tragedy," a new series of programs, and an extensive listing of emergency information and services (
  • Boulder (Colo.) Public Library developed "Afghanistan in My Heart: Local Afghan-Americans Talk About Their Native Land," in which local Afghan-Americans shared insights into the lives, mores and religion of the people of Afghanistan
  • Canton (Mich.) Public Library set aside the last week in September for a "Fines for Freedom" disaster relief effort that raised $2,640, more than double the weekly average.
  • Washington-Centerville (Ohio) Public Library sponsored a town hall meeting on emergency Preparedness and Public Safety in conjunction with Ohio State Representative John White.
  • The Wallkill (N.Y.) High School library media center served as the broadcast center for the school on September 11 and continues to be a school gathering point.
  • University of Georgia/Athens archivists gathered candles, messages and other memorabilia left at the Arch, a campus landmark, in the wake of the attacks for a display at the main library
  • Teton County (Wyo.) Library is hosting a documentary film series exploring such topics as Women & Islam, Afghanistan and the history of Islam

The Institute of Museum and Library Services also has created a Web page sharing examples of how these institutions have responded in the wake of the terrorist attacks:

The ALA Public Programs Office fosters cultural programming by libraries of all types. Established in 1990, the office helps thousands of libraries nationwide develop and host programs that encourage dialogue among community members and works to establish libraries as cultural centers in their communities.