Library launches 'Unpacking 1619' podcast

In April, Heights Libraries launched the first episode of “Unpacking 1619,” a bi-weekly podcast that explores themes raised by The New York Times’ “The 1619 Project” (published in 2019).

The podcast emerged from the library’s monthly 1619 Project discussion group, in which community members meet to discuss issues of race in America, using articles from “The 1619 Project” as a jumping off point.

As the discussion group grew in popularity since it began in 2019, the program’s facilitator, Adult Services Librarian John Piche, saw an opportunity to bring more voices to the table.

“Back in 2020, participants in the discussion group approached me, asking for more content to include in our monthly meetings—lecturers, professors, writers, historians,” said Piche. “There was a clear demand to integrate perspectives beyond the original text of ‘The 1619 Project.’ ”

Since then, Piche has been interviewing scholars from across the country on subjects ranging from race and the criminal justice system, to the case for and against reparations. The video interviews are recorded on Zoom and shared on Heights Libraries’ website and YouTube page.

“The videos have been well-received by members of the discussion group and others in the library’s service area,” said Piche. “But my colleagues and I saw an opportunity to increase access to the interview content by adapting the audio from the interviews into a podcast format. With that, ‘Unpacking 1619’ was born.”

Episodes of the podcast are released every two weeks at, and on Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

“Libraries are one of the few spaces left where people from all walks of life come together and talk about issues that impact our lives,” said Piche. “Like we do in our monthly discussion groups, I hope that people will listen to this podcast on drives or walks with family and friends, inspiring these important conversations beyond the walls of the library.”

Isabelle Rew

Isabelle Rew is the community engagement associate for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 5:39 PM, 05.01.2022