Heights Libraries' programs will explore refugee experience

This fall, Heights Libraries will explore the experiences of refugees around the world in On The Same Page, a community-wide initiative aimed at fostering conversations through a shared reading experience. On The Same Page will feature a series of community events, book and film discussions, and related programs aimed at raising awareness of the global refugee crisis and celebrating the cultures and contributions of Northeast Ohio’s refugee population.   

Due in large part to war, climate change, and other conflicts, the world is currently experiencing the highest level of displacement on record. Cleveland alone receives approximately 500–700 refugees each year, primarily from Bhutan, Burma, Somalia and Iraq. According to the Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland, these individuals face a number of barriers upon arriving in America, including “unfamiliar language, customs, systems, technology, food, climate,” and other obstacles.

With this in mind, Heights Libraries’ On The Same Page initiative will spark discussions on the plight of refugees and offer a space for local refugees to share their experiences and aspects of their native cultures. Programs will begin in early September and run through the end of November.

Selected titles for book discussions include Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, The Displaced by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Outcasts United by Warren St. John, My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo, and Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs. Other notable programs include a community soccer game and potluck on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Denison Park; a panel discussion featuring representatives from local refugee service organizations; children’s storytimes centered on tales of refugees; a foreign film series; and more.

“We’re delighted to offer such a wide range of programs highlighting the struggles and contributions of refugees worldwide,” said Special Projects Manager Maggie Kinney. “Cleveland Heights is home to a number of refugee communities, and we think this is one way to shine a light on their experiences and let them know they’re valued here.”

Heights Libraries’ Noble Neighborhood branch provides ongoing services to immigrants and refugees, including weekly citizenship classes, English language lessons for non-native speakers, and an informal Welcome Hub providing information on American culture.

“Libraries fill a different role than I think a lot of people imagine,” said Steve Sanders, programming and refugee services librarian at Noble. “We’ve always offered books and movies, and will continue to do so, but libraries have also developed into inclusive community spaces where people can come and have their needs met, or ask important questions. I think this aspect of libraries is especially crucial to refugee populations who are new to the country and trying to make sense of an unfamiliar culture.”

He continued, “I’ve heard plenty of stories about refugees new to Cleveland Heights talking about how one of the first places they visit is the library—and how they feel a little bit more at ease once they leave, when they realize there’s a place they can go if they ever need help with something. For them, it’s been pretty clear from the start that we’re a good place to visit.”

For more information on Heights Libraries’ On The Same Page initiative, go to www.heightslibrary.org or call 216-932-3600.

Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen is communications coordinator at Heights Libraries.

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 2:43 PM, 09.03.2018