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Western Libraries Responds

Posted on: April 11, 2018

Topic(s): Feature Stories

WWU holds event to replace vandalized books

This article is written by Mary Gallagher and is courtesy of the Office of Communications and Marketing at Western. It originally appeared in Western Today on April 10, 2018 and can be viewed here.

Members of the Western community who have responded to the destruction and vandalism of books in Western’s Jewish Studies Collection have replaced the books and grown the collection, illustrating the community’s resolve against acts of antisemitism and other forms of hate, bigotry and violence, said speakers at a Western Libraries event Tuesday morning.

“Whether campus is your home, or you live in Bellingham or beyond, we are all one community,” said President Sabah Randhawa. “We are united in opposition against these acts of antisemitic vandalism, and against all such acts of hatred and bigotry. This kind of cowardly action perfectly illustrates the nature of hate and bigotry, because it flourishes in darkness and withers when exposed to the light of reason and intellectual scrutiny.”

More than 250 students, faculty, staff and community members crowded into the Wilson Library Reading Room for the event, which was a response to acts of destruction and vandalism of books in Western’s Jewish Studies collection.

“The deliberate destruction of library books, along with hateful slurs written in them, constitutes a reprehensible, criminal act that will not be tolerated,” said Dean of Libraries Mark Greenberg. Tuesday's show of solidarity, along with replacing the books and adding to the collection, show that as a community, “we vigorously oppose acts of bigotry and hate against the Jewish community and against all minoritized and marginalized groups,” Greenberg said.

The destruction of the books was appalling and upsetting, Randhawa said, in part because “this particular activity occurred in our library, the heart of our institution – of any academic institution – and involved the destruction of the very objects of knowledge itself.”

As outlined in last year’s report from Western’s Taskforce on Preventing and Responding to Antisemitism, Randhawa said, all forms of racism, bias and hate are interconnected and must be fought on a united front.

“Democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained,” he said. “One of the central mandates of education is to examine what it means to be a responsible citizen and to ensure that human values are appreciated, nurtured and protected. Silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringements of civil rights in any society, can perpetuate these problems.”

German Professor Sandra Alfers, director of the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, said that as someone who grew up in post-war West Germany, the destruction of books “conjures up particularly disturbing ghosts from the past.”

“Thanks to the support of many, our shelves in Wilson Library do not remain empty, and so we have replaced books that were destroyed and added traditional and new formats in written, oral and visual form to enhance our collection,” Alfers said. “More than 120 items have been added thus far, some of them not held by any other library in the state.”

But more work needs to be done, Alfers said. Hate crimes and violence against minority groups are on the rise in the U.S. as islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-immigrant sentiment and Holocaust distortion and denial are becoming more common around the globe.

“Reports can be shelved and forgotten,” Alfers said. “So, commit yourself to being engaged, to actively thoughtfully, and respectfully be building bridges, not walls, and creating much-needed change. To seek knowledge and to apply it. Therein lies your – our – responsibility as we stand up in unity to antisemitism, hate and bigotry.”


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Western Libraries Responds to Antisemitism, Book Vandalism

Posted on: April 3, 2018

Topic(s): Updates, Feature Stories

New Additions to Library Collections & Invitation to April 10 Event

Since mid-March, the Western Washington University community has been grappling with the discovery of vandalized (and in some cases, destroyed) books within the Libraries’ Jewish Studies collection. While libraries are havens for expression and intellectual freedom, the targeted destruction of Jewish Studies materials because of their subject matter crosses the line from free speech into hateful conduct.  University Police are actively seeking to identify the individual(s) involved in these crimes and to deter further incidents.

In response to these antisemitic acts, the Libraries has replaced the damaged items and added new books to the collection. The University will hold an event at 10 a.m., Tuesday, April 10 to showcase the collection and to come together in a public display of solidarity and support for the rights of readers to access information. This public event will take place in the Wilson Library Reading Room and precedes Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, which begins at sunset on April 11.

Western Libraries is proud to restore the vandalized content and to continue efforts to acquire new resources supporting Jewish Studies. These efforts reflect the Libraries’ ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its mission to ensure that historically marginalized voices are well represented within our collections.

To that end, and prior to these antisemitic incidents, the Libraries has been actively acquiring content related to Jewish and Holocaust Studies in order to support both The Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity,  and Jewish Studies coursework at Western. Recent acquisitions include print books, e-books, digital primary source archives, children’s books, and special collections materials. Also of particular note is a donation from what was formerly the Northwest Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Ethnocide Education, and is now The Ray Wolpow Institue. These materials are discoverable through the Libraries’ OneSearch interface. Users can also browse the virtual Holocaust and Genocide Studies collection, a selection of materials that has been curated over the last several years.

To support the Libraries’ efforts to build and maintain diverse and inclusive collections, please consider donating funds (specify “for Jewish Studies materials”—or another subject area, if desired—in the additional gift instructions) and/or suggesting a specific title for purchase.


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Bellingham Pride 2017

Posted on: July 10, 2017

Topic(s): Updates, Feature Stories

Western Libraries & Bellingham Pride

Western Libraries’ staff, friends, and family came together in celebration of “Bellingham Pride” on Sunday, July 9, 2017. Since 2013, participating in  Pride has grown into an annual tradition that many library employees look forward to and enjoy. For the past couple of years, Western Libraries has also walked in the parade and shared a festival table with members of the Bellingham Public Library and the Whatcom County Library System.

"I really do look forward to this every year," said staff member Amy Sedovic. "It is such a family-friendly event and a wonderful way to connect with the wider Bellingham community as a whole.  And the cheers of, 'we love our libraries!' from friends and neighbors along the parade route is very hopeful and heartwarming." Sedovic explained how libraries are seen as “open, welcoming, and affirming places,” and that she feels honored to be a part of that tradition.

As explained by the American Library Association, libraries can serve LGBTQ people by ensuring that they are represented in library collections. Additionally, as a population frequently subjected to discrimination and harassment, LGBTQ people can benefit from access to information and the sense of community libraries provide.  

"I was really excited that the libraries were going to table at Pride," said Emma Winningham, who began working at Western Libraries a little under a year ago. "I knew I had to sign up to be there! It was a great opportunity to connect with our broader community and show that we can work together to support each other.”

Librarian Rebecca Marrall explained that she looks forward to the festival every year because of the chance to connect with the community and raise awareness about the Libraries’ historical and archival collections that feature regional LGBTQ narratives. A poster  featuring some of these collections was on display and served as a popular conversation piece at the festival.

“The Heritage Resources poster was a big hit,” said librarian Sylvia Tag. “Lots of folks commented on the amazing history within our region and community around LGBTQ organizations, artists, and activists as displayed on the poster.”

Western Libraries anticipates increased WWU participation  in the Bellingham Pride events as enthusiasm for such an important and significant celebration grows, and they invite anyone interested to join them next year!  

For more information about the LGBTQ Archival and primary source materials at Western Libraries, contact Heritage.Resources@wwu.edu.


Read more: Bellingham Pride 2017


Connecting Literature to Life

Posted on: March 2, 2017

Topic(s): Updates, Feature Stories, Exhibits, Resources

Connecting Literature to Life: Childhood Inspiration Comes Full Circle

Keri Krout can still recall the long hot California summers of her childhood, and how they were marked by each arrival from the mail-order Scholastic book club. Krout and her siblings would gather around their mother, eagerly watching as she opened up the cardboard wrapping that encased the book.  But the one book Krout remembers most of all is Andrew Henry’s Meadow, written and illustrated by Doris (Wernstedt) Burn.

“We not only read her story, but I remember studying the pictures for hours and imagining my life in a meadow full of friends,” explained Krout. “My home of choice was the bird house built up in the sky. I imagined what a cool breeze would feel like, and the sound of the birds singing just to me.”

 Andrew Henry's Meadow is the story of a boy who feels ignored and unappreciated by his family and decides to build a special retreat for himself in a nearby meadow. Other children from the neighborhood join him, so he builds houses for them as well, each one customized to complement their interests and hobbies.

“My brother and I attempted to build a pulley system in his bedroom like Andrew Henry built for his younger brothers, but I admit our attempts fell short,” said Krout. She noted that while other books continued to arrive in the mail, it was Andrew Henry’s Meadow that impacted her the most.

“I grew up working with children,” said Krout, who now works as the manager of the Associated Students Child Development Center (CDC) at Western Washington University. “I think perhaps I understand children’s need to have their own space thanks to Andrew Henry.”

Krout recalled how her favorite childhood story resurfaced when she first began working at Western as she walked through The Outback on her way to work. She encountered a small cabin and was astonished to learn its connection to Doris Burn, as the cabin had once belonged to June and Farrar Burn, Doris Burn’s parents-in-law.

“My beginning started with a simple story of the need to create, to escape, to be understood and accepted.  And here I was, standing by the cabin which had belonged to the family of the woman whose life and creating influenced mine in ways I’m sure I can’t count.  I felt a sense of utter gratitude of how life can take a person full circle,” Krout explained.

Krout relayed this experience to some of the families of the CDC, and one of the parents later emailed her about a special exhibition featuring the work of Doris Burn that was on display at Western Libraries. As part of this exhibition, Doris Burn’s daughter, the local author and multi-dimensional artist Skye Burn, was scheduled to give a special public presentation about the life and legacy of her mother. Krout knew immediately she would attend this event, and following Skye’s talk, the two women finally met in person.

“What an honor to meet her daughter and to bask in the glow of creative genius,” said Krout. “How can I begin to even thank Doris and her family?”

Burn’s work continues to speak to readers of all ages, and since her death in 2011, Andrew Henry’s Meadow has been reissued by Penguin’s Philomel Books. The title has also been published and is presently available in translation in Korea, China and Japan.  Andrew Henry's Meadow won the Washington Governor's Art Award and was a Weekly Reader book club selection.

 “Plenty of Things to Do: The Work of Northwest Children’s Author Doris Burn,” will remain on display through March 10th, and is available for viewing weekdays Monday – Friday in Special Collections, (Wilson Library 6th Floor) between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Additionallydigital version of the Doris Burn exhibit is now available online, as are detailed collection guides to the Doris Burn Artwork and Manuscripts and related collections of June and Farrar Burn Papers and South Burn Papers, housed and available at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies

The pieces on display were selected from a far larger collection of Burn’s original works, which were donated to Western Libraries Heritage Resources in 2015 as a gift of the Burn Family via the Doris Burn Legacy LLC. These materials help document the cultural and artistic history of the Pacific Northwest region and were created by an artist and writer who sought specifically to engage with the needs, interests, and creativity of a younger audience.

Skye Burn’s talk, “The Strength of a Dream: A Daughter's Portrait of a Northwest Children's Author and Illustrator,” can be found in Western CEDAR and is viewable from this link.


Read more: Connecting Literature to Life