March 28, 2015

The Elephant in the Room...

To use a phrase from a friend of mine from London … I’m gutted.  Gutted.  Disgusted.  Saddened.
Angry and sickened. 

I’m truly beside myself, reeling with emotion that can no longer be contained.  As a human being, a Caucasian American, and former resident and teacher in the state of Oklahoma, I am beyond words at the recent events at OU.  And yet, I have to say while I am stunned, I am not surprised.

Not surprised because as a nation, we are not dealing with the elephant in the room that is named RACISM.  And as a result, the ramifications and consequences of our unwillingness and denial are that the elephant remains.  And this pachyderm is not getting any smaller.  

Recently the focus has been on Oklahoma because that happens to be where the latest shameful scenario took place. But what happened is far beyond Oklahoma – it’s a recurring tragedy that knows no geographic boundaries. The pathetic irony is this “event” comes on the heels of the fiftieth anniversary of the walk to Montgomery.  How far have we really traveled as a people? 

I realize those students - who saw themselves so superior and disarming as they sang a song about exclusivity, lynching, and the “n” word – don’t represent every young person, every Oklahoman, every Caucasian or every American.  But if we don’t find a way to deal with this highly charged and burgeoning issue, the ever-growing impression will be that they do speak for all of us via our collaborative passivity.  

I applaud OU President Boren for his swift action to immediately close the fraternity down. He could have admonished the group, imposed some restrictions and let it all quietly fade into the sunset. To his credit, he didn’t. He said “no tolerance” and his actions have matched his words.  But there is much more to do, not only in Oklahoma, but in every single town, city, school and home in America.  And yes, that includes Pullman and Moscow.

Do you agree?  If not, let’s try a very simple experiment.  Close your eyes and imagine you just woke up with skin color different than what it has always been.  Stay with me.  Let yourself go there. What do you think and feel?  What do you notice? Do you feel any safer or more at risk?  Do you feel you’ll be seen, treated or judged differently?  Will you likely get more or less respect from random folks? These are thought provoking questions for those who are willing to truly entertain them and then talk about what they feel and think.  Not an easy thing for any of us to do. But we must, or we will continue to suffer the repercussions of our unwillingness. 

I am a Caucasian American woman.  I’m almost sixty, and, yes, there have been times I’ve felt slaps of discrimination and marginalization. But I am Caucasian.  And with that comes innate privilege and distinct advantage.  I did nothing to “deserve this” – yet by virtue of my birth, I benefit every single day from it. And if I am judged or treated poorly, I can just go somewhere else – and blend in pretty easily.  Not everyone has that same privilege. I believe we need to start acknowledging that reality or the monstrous elephant will continue to reside and grow. 

So what can we do?  It’s truly up to each of us.  Every single one of us, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve expressed.  We must come together and find a way to respect one another and live as equals.  It is our only hope.

Enter Neill Public Library. We have two public meeting rooms where gatherings can take place.  Room reservations can be made in person, via phone or online. We also have a plethora of materials to help support the dialogue and the healing process.  To name a few … White Socks Only by Coleman, Carry Me Home by McWhorter, Arc of Justice by Boyle, White Guilt by Steele, Hand in Hand by Pinkney, The Power of One by Fradin, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Coles and A Wreath for Emmett Till by Nelson.

As individuals, a community and nation, we cannot afford to complacently accept the status quo. Our future and the future for our children depend on us - now.  Let’s bring the elephant into the light.

Kathleen Ahern
Youth Services Librarian

March 26, 2015

Every Day is a Celebration!

If you woke up this morning, then today is a reason to celebrate! You are alive, living and breathing, and that's a great reason to celebrate. Most of us are familiar with the traditional holidays that are celebrated, some in the United States (national holidays) and some worldwide (religious holidays). You may have a day off work, stores may be closed, and families may gather. But have you ever wondered about every other day that is celebrated throughout the year?  Why do we celebrate National Joe Day (3/27) or I AM IN CONTROL DAY (3/30) or International Talk Like a Pirate Day (9/19), and what do they mean?

The reason we have these three and so many other holidays is because today, March 26th, is "Make Up Your Own Holiday Day."  It's a day to throw away the rule book, get together with friends and celebrate anyone or anything that you would like. That is why we now celebrate the holidays mentioned.

  • National Joe Day has been widely celebrated since the late 1800's due to the popularity of the name Joe.  It was a day to recognize all of the people named Joe, Josephine or Jodi. It also became a day where you could change your name for the day to Joe.

  • I AM IN CONTROL DAY started  March 31, 1981, when Secretary of State Alexander Haig made the statement, "I am in control here," following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, even though he would not be in control as the President and Vice President and Speaker of the House were all still living.

  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day was born from an idea resulting from an injury incurred during a racquetball game between John Baur and Mark Summers of Albany, Oregon, When injured on June 6th, one of them reacted with an outburst of "Aaarrr!" and the idea was born.  Out of respect for D-Day, they chose Summer's ex-wife's birthday, September 19th, for the holiday.

So what would you celebrate today? Perhaps its guitars, bunny slippers or talking in a foreign accent? You can make a suggestion, start a movement and submit the idea to be passed for approval and added to the calendar as a National or International holiday in future years. For more information visit
No matter what you decide, remember that whatever you do, if you are reading this today, then you have a reason to celebrate life!

March 25, 2015

Explore the Palouse Heritage Collection....

The Palouse Heritage Collection at Neill Public Library has a wide variety of materials about the Palouse.  We will be sharing some of the photos from the collection with you over the next few days and weeks, but don't just view the materials here.  Come down to the library and explore the Palouse Heritage Collection!
As the flood waters recede, two figures on horseback survey Main Street

March 23, 2015


With only 5% of the world’s population, Americans generate more than 40% of the world’s garbage— an average of 7 lbs. per day, per person! Even more terrifying—over 60,000 unstudied chemicals in products we buy, and all of those end up in landfills –seeping into our water supply, thereby our food supply.

Plastics never biodegrade; sunlight eventually breaks it down until plastic dust remains—but the dust persists for centuries, wreaking havoc in ecosystems and food sources.
It’s time to start thinking about our trash—how to reuse it, certainly; more important--how to reduce the amount we create. It helps the environment, but it also saves you money!

Reusing plastic containers instead of Ziploc bags could save you hundreds of dollars per year; switching to cloth rags from paper-towels, saves $80 per year. Cloth diapering instead of “disposables” could save more than a thousand dollars per year – per child!

Check out some of the great resources at your library for more information on the waste we all create, and how to reduce it—along with saving your wallet!          

March 22, 2015


Today is the perfect day to get working on that garden – you know – the one you dream of having someday?  Well, someday is just around the corner!  Spring is knocking loudly – encouraging us to think green and to get planting!

Do you long for gorgeous hydrangeas or lust after red ripe tomatoes?  Do you want to see what catci will survive here on the Palouse or challenge yourself to learn five native plants that will require little to no care once they’re up and growing?

Whatever your gardening dream, we can help you find just what you want and need!  Not sure where to look? Come by, call or send us an email.  We have highly trained staff waiting to be of service.  Let the dreaming growing begin!
Kathleen Ahern
Children's Librarian