Tackling bias and talking belonging to better serve youth with PA Humanities, Project Ready

June 25, 2024
Participants in the convening included members of PA Humanities' Teen Reading Lounge, Youth-Led Humanities and Project Ready programs.

As libraries continue to find themselves on the front lines of political debates throughout the country, some Pennsylvania librarians and youth leaders are intensifying their efforts to create equitable, inclusive and welcoming spaces of belonging for young people. 

Program consultant Fatima Hafiz shares a laugh with participants.

The second annual Community Culture Changers Convening – or C4 – brought librarians and out-of-school time leaders together to learn how to create spaces where the humanities can flourish. The convening was held June 7-8 at 3 Dots Downtown in State College, Pa., with attendees from three different programs supported by PA Humanities and the Pennsylvania Office of Commonwealth Libraries: Teen Reading Lounge, Youth-Led Humanities and Project Ready. Project Ready participants, who have been taking part in a cultural competency and anti-racist train-the-trainer program for the last two years, took the lead as facilitators, with support from PA Humanities’ education program manager Julia Katz Terry and Office of Commonwealth Libraries’ school age services advisor Corri Hines. Program consultants Fatima Hafiz and Gregory Seaton supported the convening as well.

“I’m so grateful for the way all the participants showed up to the space, as confident and courageous facilitators and creative, curious and vulnerable participants,” Katz Terry said. “And our hosts at 3 Dots Downtown were an incredible example of what brought us together: creating community-driven spaces of belonging.”

PA Humanities founded Teen Reading Lounge more than a decade ago to encourage teens to take an active role in choosing what to read and how to connect themes in the books they choose to projects in their communities. They added the Youth-Led Humanities last year to expand training for libraries and out-of-school programs seeking to implement long-lasting youth-led humanities programming. 

Attendees showed up “as confident and courageous facilitators and creative, curious and vulnerable participants,” PA Humanities’ education program manager Julia Katz Terry said.

To help support thinking about welcoming spaces where conversation and exploration can flourish, the Project Ready facilitators led workshops on implicit bias and microaggressions, and confronting colorblindness and neutrality. Their interactive presentations ignited curiosity and critical reflection on organizational policies and practices, and sparked new ideas of what a more equitable and compassionate organizational culture could look and feel like for Black, indigenous, and youth of color. Participants inquired about biases that might have impacted the experience of patrons and explored their roles as stewards of inclusive community spaces. 

3 Dots Downtown, both a Youth-Led Humanities participant and a PA Humanities Wingspan grantee, shared their experiences being stewards of a space that is co-created by and for the community. The welcoming space they’ve created was highlighted as community members attending local Pride celebrations stopped in to view art, chat, share meals and even play the piano. Attendees also got to witness and take part in 3 Dots Downtown’s initiative, supported by PA Humanities’ Youth-Led Humanities funding, Paper Cranes for Palestine, in which a local young person and her mother are creating paper cranes to memorialize the children killed in Palestine since October 7, 2023. 

C4 is made possible by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries (OCL) , Department of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and other generous donors.

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