Observing Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021

In January, a team of library staff began conversations about how to observe Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month this year through library events and resources. In Skokie, 28 percent of residents identify as AAPI, and there is a great diversity of ethnic backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and traditions among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in our community. While we strive to include AAPI stories, voices, and topics at the library throughout the year, we specifically highlight AAPI heritage in May in conjunction with the national observance. Our staff has planned events and curated lists to center and uplift the diversity of Skokie’s AAPI population. We invite you to enjoy and explore a range of online events, activities, books, and more for every age as we explore Asian American and Pacific Islander stories, traditions, pop culture, diaspora, and more.

Staff-favorite books and movies include the following:

More staff-favorite books for families and kids:

Listen to our staff-curated Spotify playlist for AAPI Heritage Month.

Find out about the joy and cultural significance of K-Wave pop culture, or learn about the cultural significance of sandalwood fans as you meet the library’s laser engraver. Kids can explore the traditional significance and aesthetic enjoyment of Japanese origami in hands-on workshops creating flowers and birds.

If you’d like to be part of social discussions, our Civic Lab this month will focus on Asian American activism. We’re also bringing back two sessions of Diasporadic, a space for sharing multicultural and multilingual experiences. Discuss traditions and customs in the first session and seeking acceptance in the second. For teens, both new and longtime fans can share at our Hallyu fan meetup.

We know book and movie discussions are a particular community favorite and have planned several events for May. Our adult book discussions--on Goodreads and Instagram Live--are about Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu this month. Our Talking Books discussion on Zoom will focus on How Much of These Hills Is Gold? by C. Pam Zhang, and our evening Pages through History group will discuss How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr. If film is more your thing, make sure to watch To Be Takei on Kanopy and then join our Zoom into the Movies discussion.

We’ve also created several at-home activity kits. For all ages, while supplies last, you can pick up a Pen to Power: Writing Letters to AAPI Heroes kit from the library's west entrance. The kits include materials and prompts to write and share a letter with a person who means a lot to you. You can also explore this activity on your own with our video guide. For families, sign up for Family Art Party to reserve your kit to learn about and make kites, or reserve a kit for our Navigating the Marshall Islands activity.

We cannot center our AAPI community, including many library staff members, without acknowledging the increase of anti-AAPI hate in our country over the past year. On March 16, in a series of three mass shootings in Atlanta, the shooter targeted Asian spas, in which six of the eight victims killed were Asian women. On April 15, a gunman killed eight at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis; four of the eight victims killed were Sikh. These violent tragedies shine a national spotlight on the histories and legacies of anti-AAPI racism.

As we stated last summer, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May brought anti-Black racism to the forefront of national conversation and action, “Racism has deep, long-lasting roots that have caused harm for generations. Such structural violence requires us to work together to speak up and be actively anti-racist.” The library has added to our calendar of events bystander intervention training for community members--and while one of these workshops takes place during the May observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, these workshops and the need for ongoing anti-racist learning and action extend throughout the year. This is ongoing work we must do together.

To our Asian American and Pacific Islander community members and neighbors, we care about you. We appreciate and value all that you bring to our community. We hope you see Skokie Public Library as your library, a place you belong, and we invite you to reach out to us to let us know how we can improve. We are committed to ongoing learning and doing better for and with our community, so that the library can truly be a welcoming place for all--the heart of our vibrant village.