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Let’s Talk: Verde Valley Librarians Collaborate to Engage Communities in Conversations


A few months ago your librarians from around the Verde Valley began meeting to hammer out a collaborative initiative focused on engaging community members in regional conversations, thanks to a grant from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State. Librarians from Yavapai College, Village of Oak Creek, Sedona, Cottonwood and Camp Verde applied their collective intelligence to the abstract idea of meaningful community engagement and began to create a plan.

We vaguely suspected we wanted to facilitate moderated discussions on polarizing topics that would encourage logical presentation of opposing views in a respectful environment. Wow! Both a mouthful and a pipe dream? We knew that none of us had the skills or experience to jump into something quite that complicated. Instead of throwing out the idea, we spent a few hours with a grant-provided consultant who encouraged us to look for community partners and start with something less explosive.

Buoyed by examples of collaborative regional efforts that have gained energy (think, Sedona Verde Valley Geotourism, the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, Verde Valley Leadership, Inc.) and multiplied success through collaboration, Verde Valley Librarians felt the hopeful stirrings of similar possibilities. We were blissfully envisioning polite, academic discussions on topics like the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana or gun control when we looked up to realize we were living in libraryland where all stories are wrapped up neatly between two covers. Fortunately, before we closed the book or leapt into the fray, Arizona Humanities entered the picture.

Partnering with Arizona Humanities gives us the opportunity to try our hand at a collaborative project that is a lot less volatile than those mentioned above under the direction of an organization that brings years of experience and specialized skills in leading community discussions. Mix Veterans Day in November and Pearl Harbor Day in early December, with the hearts of compassion that beat inside seasoned librarians, and you get the direction our first collaborative program is taking: honoring and supporting American veterans.

Since the ultimate goal of the Verde Valley Librarians is bring a series of topics of regional interest to our cities and towns through facilitated community discussions, we chose to call our collaborative program, Let’s Talk. Some might say we’re still living in libraryland – dreaming the dream, but we believe that community discussion leads to listening, listening to understanding and understanding to innovation and solution (actually, some of us believe, you can get nearly the same effect by thoughtfully reading diverse literature that crosses time and cultures).

doh-poster-iSo, without further ado, announcing: your Verde Valley Libraries collaborate to kick-off the first in a series of community conversations called, Let’s Talk. Let’s talk about understanding, honoring and supporting American veterans. Join us for a screening of the Ric Burns film, Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History followed by a moderated public dialogue and question and answer period.

Choose from 2 days and three times: Friday, December 4 at the Cottonwood Recreation Center from 1:00 – 4:00p or Monday, December 7 at Sedona Public Library at 10:00a or 6:00p to view the film, participate in the community discussion and sample the variety of resources available to veterans in the Verde Valley. Each program starts with an informal Coffee with a Vet meet & greet with coffee/tea and light snacks included. Resource tables to include Yavapai College Veterans Education & Transition Services, Cottonwood Vetraplex, American Legion, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans Administration, the Veterans History Project and more will be setup for veterans and family members to learn more about services available in the Verde Valley.

Debt of Honor examines the way in which the American government and society as a whole have regarded disabled veterans throughout history, beginning with the Revolutionary War and moving forward to include the current conflicts in the Middle East. Discussion following the film will be moderated by Ellie Hutchison, Arizona Humanities with veteran and scholar, Dr. Dan Shilling, handling the question and answer period in Cottonwood and someone from ASU’s Pat Tillman Center in Sedona.

The kick-off Let’s Talk program is made possible by Arizona Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with Verde Valley Libraries: Camp Verde Community Library, Cottonwood Public Library, Sedona Public Library, Village of Oak Creek Library and Yavapai College Verde Campus Library. Admission and participation is free, but donations of non-perishable food items to benefit local food banks are appreciated.

Look for future Let’s Talk topics dear to Verde Valley residents like river recreation, water use, dark skies and more in coming months. Believing that community discussion will lead to listening, listening to understanding and understanding to solution may be a dream from libraryland, but such sometimes get libraries built!