Celebrating Women's History Month @ Your Library: Telling the Story of Women's Work Is Never Done
Cassell, Kay Ann, Weibel, Kathleen, American Libraries
Writing Women Back into History" is the theme for National Women's History Month, March 2010, the annual celebration of women in the United States. For years women's contributions were routinely underestimated or ignored even in the history of our own profession. While this still remains the case for much of history, the second wave of feminism reinvigorated interest in, and work on, "women's history" at the academic and community levels. Now children learn about Sojourner Truth as well as Betsy Ross and we understand that Abigail Adams contributed to the founding of this country as did her husband, John, our nation's second president.
National Women's History Month (NWHM) offers libraries a familiar framework for programming and for updating your website, displays, and exhibits. You can take an approach similar to Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, and other heritage-themed celebrations relevant to your community. Many types of 1ibraries join in the celebration, even if only at the most basic level of a book display. However, focusing on women's history and women as a library market segment offers so many more creative opportunities for reaching out to your community, whether that community consists of students and faculty, corporate executives, homemakers, scientists, secretaries, or others.
This article focuses on celebrations that take place in public libraries, since the greatest variety of women's history programming in libraries takes place there. Here is what four public libraries of varying sizes reported in response to our recent information request to the PubLib and Feminist discussion lists:
* For several years the East Baton Rouge (La.) Parish Library has joined in its city's Women's Week program, sponsored by the Women's Council of Greater Baton Rouge. The library offers genealogy classes, consumer health information classes targeting women's health, and classes on library resources of interest to women. In 2009, the library made available Wii games targeted at senior women. At other times during the year EBRPL offers programs for professional women and caregivers.
* In 2001 Fort Worth (Tex.) Library spearheaded the creation of "Hattitude ... Hats Off to Women," a month-long citywide celebration of women that continues today with the cooperation of several city organizations. In 2009 the groups cosponsored six events including a hat fashion show, a girls' poetry jam, a leadership conference, and two award events honoring area women and organizations. The library has also established an archive documenting women's contributions to Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
* The 21-branch Ocean County (N.J.) Library sponsors a range of programs each year. The 2009 selection included: women's history quizzes; jazz and blues programs focusing on women; programs on New Jersey women; film screenings; scrapbooking to honor extraordinary women in one's life; a scavenger hunt; programs on beauty, health, women authors, and the history of women's underwear; and a one-woman show about three modern First Ladies.
* The Twelve Bridges Library in Lincoln, California, celebrated Women's History Month with an array of special events: for children, "Celebrating Great Women" featured five costumed volunteers speaking in the first person as Abigail Adams, Indira Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, architect Julia Morgan, and Sally Ride; a program highlighting International Women's Day offered speakers from a variety of international groups including CROP (Comparative Research Programme on Poverty), Heifer International, WIPA (Women for International Peace and Arbitration), and the Tahirih Justice Center; and there was a screening of Ken Burns and Paul Barnes's film Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Partnerships are an effective way to develop programs for National Women's History Month and to develop long-term relationships with other local groups and individuals who don't use the library. …