On a dark and stormy night in Prineville, fifty members of the community gathered in Crook County Library’s meeting room. The program facilitator walked in the door five minutes before go-time. The Assistant Director introduced him to the room. And then all hell broke loose. The program topic? Guns and America.
Guns and America was offered as part of the Conversation Project series of community discussion programs given by Oregon Humanities. Conversation Project programs are intended to be open-ended discussions run by a trained facilitator who is an expert in the topic at hand. The facilitator creates a neutral space, but political conversations that occur within the boundaries of civil, productive conversation often arise and are not discouraged. In general, these programs are extremely well-run and well-received. Both of our current libraries have done and continue to do Conversation Projects. We would recommend these programs for any library.
While programs centering on contentious topics can be intimidating, they fill a necessary role in public library services. In order for such programs to be successful, however, library staff members have to do some additional legwork when selecting a topic and preparing to host a program.
Guns and America and the Library and Us: What We Learned from the Worst Library Program … Ever!.
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