WESTMINSTER—The town’s two public libraries were the surprise recipients last week of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant that was submitted by Westminster Elementary School Librarian Mandy Walsh last September.
The grant endowed the community with an NEH Bridging Cultures Bookshelf, Muslim Journeys, with 25 books and several DVDs. They are intended to be divided between the two Westminster libraries — Butterfield and Westminster West.
Butterfield librarian Linda Fawcett said she knew nothing about the grant until Liz Bourne, the other Westminster Elementary Center school librarian, sent her an email notifying her of the school’s receipt of several boxes of books on the Muslim culture.
“I’m really pleased to get them,” Fawcett said. “They’re really nice.”
The hardcover books are for mostly adult readers, but Walsh said when she found out about the grant last fall, she felt “it was a good fit with the community,” even though the Westminster Center School serves students in elementary grades.
Walsh felt the grant was in line with several of the school’s belief statements: “Connecting learning to the local community and life experiences; celebrating the diversity of the global community; and cultivating democratic practices and global citizenship.”
The school recently celebrated a “World Café” night, with parents and the community visiting to experience what organizers called an “international museum, ethnic cuisine, and activities in each classroom.”
Walsh said the books would be on display, and that the art teacher would very likely show one of the DVDs about Islamic art from the collection at the event.
Walsh said to get the grant, she “talked about how we would use the books for the community at large, and we knew about the World Café, so it seemed to come together with the timing of the grant and the books’ arrival.”
She explained that there is a “school-wide initiative to honor diversity and create diversity. So they fit into the whole theme to reach out to the larger community and contribute” to a more diverse community.
Westminster West librarian Bev Major met with Fawcett last week, and they divided the collection.
Fawcett said her readers take out more fiction, where Major said her readers tend to want to read nonfiction.
And Major said that she already had several of the books in the Muslim Journey’s collection, so those duplicates went to the Butterfield library “of course.”
“I’m very excited about getting them,” Major said. “There’s just not a lot of information out there on the Muslim culture and the Middle East for the ordinary person to pick up easily.”
She added that since a majority of the books are nonfiction, and “for our population, it’s just fine for them.”
Major also said that while they will be permanent collections for each of the two libraries, “we can switch them back and forth and probably will, occasionally, but they are going to be books for our library.”
She added that she had traveled extensively with her husband and “loved the Middle East, so I am just delighted” to get the books.
“I didn’t have to write the grant and there will be community-wide access on both sides of the hill, and the publicity is being done by the folks at the school,” she said.
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