Like everyone, my experiences have been shaped in large part by the environments in which I’ve lived. Recently, I’ve become even more aware of the influence the places I’ve lived have had on me. Some influences have been good, and some have not. Because I like to travel, I’ve always welcomed opportunities to see other places and experience other cultures. But even with these experiences, I’m still just Steve from the suburbs of Kansas City.
Living in suburban Kansas City provides interesting comparisons and contrasts, both opportunities and insulation. When events have pierced my “bubble,” I do what comes natural to a librarian—I read and research. Over the past several weeks, current events have encouraged me to pause, to read, and to research topics like systemic racism.
When I was in college, I read Letter From Birmingham Jail for the first time, and it really opened my eyes to situations that I didn’t know much about from my early life. When I was on vacation one year, I read Some of My Best Friends Are Black. What was very interesting to me about this book was the section about something with which I was familiar—the Troost Redline. It was also useful in helping me connect dots about what was happening just outside my bubble. Later, a friend of mine suggested that I read Our Kids. The proverb is that it takes a village to raise a child. But what if the village has challenges?
I’ve mentioned before about the impact that books like Hillbilly Elegy and Heartland have had on me, and one of the reasons these were relatable was because of my personal experiences. My point is that when I find I need to learn about experiences different from mine and understand where people are coming from, I read.
Right now, many are thinking deeper about racism and its influence on the world around us. My friends at the Library created a list of items from our catalog on anti-racism. This list has many titles to consider that may help readers gain a deeper understanding of the issues weighing on our community—especially if they stem from different experiences from your own.
This is one of the things that libraries do very well. We collect titles and provide access to many points of view on many subjects. If you’re interested in taking a deep dive on a subject or exploring experiences outside your own, our staff can help you find things to read, allowing you to consider different perspectives.
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director & CEO