By Rachel Muchin Young, director, Franklin Public Library, Franklin, Wis.
The Not in Our Town (NIOT) movement has been an inspiration to me long before I entered Libraryland. NIOT’s first effort nearly 20 years ago — a PBS film about a town’s response to hate crimes — not only showcased Billings, Mont., as an open-minded and forward-thinking community, but it made everyone who encountered the film realize that they, too, possess the power to right wrongs in their neighborhoods.
Two years ago, Oak Creek, Wis., experienced the unthinkable: a shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. On a quiet Sunday morning, a man filled with hate, a man who presumably knew little, if anything, about the Sikh religion, entered the temple. He shot and killed five men and one woman, presumably just because he perceived the Sikhs as different.
Not in Our Town tells the story of this horrific hate crime in a 34-minute film called "Waking in Oak Creek." The film records not only what happened that awful day, but also the way the Sikh community and Oak Creek are recovering. As said in the film, what we want are “safe, inclusive communities.”
Many libraries, like my own Franklin Public Library in Franklin, Wis., a Milwaukee County neighbor of Oak Creek, see ourselves as community centers. We strive to be safe, inclusive sanctuaries in our communities. We seek to build inclusive collections. To paraphrase the late Judith Krug, former director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, everyone should be able to find themselves on our shelves. And we strive to make those collections available to everyone, without opinion, without judgment.
NIOT helps us do that by providing programming resources like "Waking in Oak Creek," often at no charge (a price much appreciated by ever-strapped-for-cash librarians), as well as materials we can add to our collections. We are proud to be able to promote NIOT’s focus — "inspiring and empowering communities to create a world where residents stand together to stop hate and promote safety and inclusion for all" — in our libraries, which strive to create not only a welcoming and respectful space for everyone, but access to information that opens minds, and maybe even hearts.
"Waking in Oak Creek" is available free to libraries and other groups for community screenings and discussions, training workshops, and other outreach and engagement activities.
"Waking in Oak Creek" was produced in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services through the Working Together for Safe, Inclusive Communities project. Not In Our Town is a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all. NIOT films, new media, and organizing tools help local leaders build vibrant, diverse cities and towns, where everyone can participate. Learn more at www.NIOT.org.