Whittemore Library receives $7,500 grant

The Henry Whittemore Library received a $7,500 grant to help increase civic engagement during this academic year, according to a University press release.

The Civic Hub grant was awarded to the Library by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). 

The Whittemore Library will partner with several campus and local organizations to create a virtual and on-campus civic engagement hub. The Library will reach many outside of the campus by capturing and archiving all of the activities sponsored by the grant.

The activities will begin in October and will coincide with the Presidential campaign. 

The goal is to build a sustainable civic community, and the only way to achieve this is through engagement with students. 

According to Millie Gonzalez, interim dean of Whittemore Library, this grant will be used to promote a number of events to increase civic engagement on campus. 

In an interview, Gonzalez said, “I was lucky enough to partner with different organizations both on- and off-campus to really look at different aspects of civic engagement.” 

“It will involve many types of civic engagement-related topics like fake news, the election, and book discussions. We also have events – for example, racial healing circles – and also information and events related to climate change,” Gonzalez added.

The healing circles will serve to proactively deal with the effects of racial trauma.

In addition, the grant will fund guest lectures, a photo exhibit, podcasts, and videos to promote civic engagement. 

According to the proposal, “By engaging students with provocative events, capturing their reflections about issues, providing them with credible information and training, and engaging in healing conversations. …The Library and its partners will lead the effort to build a civic community.”

Gonzalez added, “What is exciting about the grant, really, for me, is to open up the idea of what it means to be civically engaged.”

Rob Favini, head of library advisory & development for the MBLC, said the Whittemore Library was, “a perfect fit for our Civic Hub grant.”

Favini said he believes the grant program will engage the community to bring forth change. Part of this program will address the apathy and disconnectedness that affects young adults. He added that participation in the electoral process has never been more important.

“The fact that this grant is being carried out by an academic library is really exciting, since most of the MBLC grants go to public libraries,” Favini said. 

Addressing issues that keep people from taking an active and knowledgeable role is vital, he added. He expects this grant will have a wider impact across campus – beyond the library. 

According to the grant application, the project looks to embed the concept of civic engagement within existing FSU programs and activities.

Some activities, like the racial healing circles, will continue well past the grant period. The library will be purchasing a Padcaster and training both students and staff to use it for filming, editing, and uploading.

The Padcaster will be available for use for interested faculty and classes after the grant period ends. 

The Center for Civic Engagement will continue training and events using images and videos archived from the Civic Hub project. 

According to Gonzalez, initially, the civic engagement project was developed for a pre-COVID-19 world. Luckily enough, a number of events were transitioned to the virtual meeting format with ease. 

She said promoting discourse is the most important part of democracy – a healthy way of being able to talk about issues, even though we may not agree with each other.

The program officially kicks off with a lecture about the Nineteenth Amendment on Oct. 6.