We Stories loves libraries and librarians! Two of our first cheerleaders and most steadfast partners are the leaders of St. Louis County Library and Kirkwood Public Library. Starting in 2016, these library systems gave us an important organizational boost and help to garner important regional momentum.
In both systems We Stories curricular titles are labeled as “We Stories” and searchable in the library database. This enables participating We Stories families, and all other community members, to access a wonderful, diverse list of books at no cost. We have also developed We Stories kit libraries covering more than 26 different themes. Each kit contains 4-6 books, a discussion guide, parent resources and often an activity or toy.
Our collaboration not only increased patron demand for diverse titles but also changed display and shelving practices to more prominently highlight diverse books and authors. As a result, circulation of diverse titles in both systems has dramatically increased.
Through a grant from the Missouri State Library, Kirkwood Public Library contracted We Stories as a consulting partner to develop a three-part training series for its staff and Kirkwood Parents as Teachers team of parent educators.This training is focused on helping staff and educators engage more regularly and comfortably in conversations about race and racism, and empower the families they serve to do the same.
Across both library systems, the We Stories kits have proven to be popular items across our very segregated region, and our ‘sweet spot’ continues to be helping institutions in predominantly White communities think about deepening family engagement in both the library and larger civic environment.
We know that the messages of family-serving organizations, such as libraries, are a critical component of making it normal for White families to engage in conversations about race with their kids, Our experience contains lessons for other regions who also want to shift engagement in their regions. We Stories was proud to present at the Public Library Association national conference with the Director of the St Louis County Library Association in March 2018. A copy of our presentation is available to interested libraries seeking transferable lessons. We also presented at the Missouri Library Association conference in October of 2018.
At this point we are exploring partnership opportunities and gathering interest from other Missouri-based library systems. If your Missouri-based / St. Louis region library system is interested in exploring partnership with We Stories please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us a little about your system, your goals, and your community’s needs. We are looking for opportunities to elevate this work and connect systems together in service of engaging more families in reading diverse books and exploring conversations about race.
We also invite interested institutions to check out our past webinar with Embrace Race, a national multiracial community of parents, teachers, experts, and other caring adults who support each other to meet the challenges that race poses to our children, families, and communities. A copy of the webinar can be found here, and supporting materials, here.