Democracy 2020: Letter from the Director

Portrait of Director Thomas - Democracy 2020: Cleveland Public Library - Prepare. Participate. The People's University.

The Winter 2019-2020 issue of UpNext serves as a bridge between our 150th anniversary year of 2019 and our focus on civic engagement in 2020. In fact, Cleveland Public Library’s yearlong theme for this coming year is Democracy 2020.

What does Democracy 2020 mean, and why are we dedicating a year to this theme? In short, Democracy 2020 speaks to our role as a public library in encouraging thoughtful, informed civic engagement. This year, we strive to help our patrons prepare for and participate in major events such as the 2020 Census and the U.S. presidential election. Throughout the year, programming focusing on the census and election will help educate the public while fostering deeper discussions surrounding what it means to vote, to be counted, and to participate in an active democratic system.

Civic engagement and awareness will be integrated throughout our coming year of programs and events. On January 20, 2020, our 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative program will honor not only the legacy of Dr. King, but also 150 members of the public who have contributed positively to their communities through charity work, community engagement, neighborhood beautification, youth outreach, sustainability initiatives, or simply by being dedicated citizens who consistently spread goodwill. Recognizing this group of everyday Clevelanders is our way of celebrating how we can all work to improve our neighborhoods and city at large.

The articles and programs in this issue of UpNext also highlight our theme of Democracy 2020. Browse these pages to find book clubs, eSports events, children’s programming, open mics, technology education, and other programs that bring people together and help form cohesive communities.

Speaking of community, an update about the Library’s Facilities Master Plan on page 6 provides a glimpse of the large-scale changes we’ll be making to all our branches in the coming decade. This process will ensure our neighborhood libraries are transformed into innovative, aesthetically pleasing spaces that best serve those who matter most: our patrons.

If you haven’t already view the photographs from our special Cleveland 20/20 project, which is spearheaded by the Cleveland Print Room. Through the work of a diverse range of local photographers, this project helps document our city, its people, and its neighborhoods to present a holistic look at Cleveland in 2019. These pages also offer two excerpts from the CPL150 Storytelling Project, an ideastream project that captures Clevelanders’ stories in their own words. Both of these community projects give a boots-on-the-ground look at the people and places that make up the communities that surround us.

The latest event in our esteemed Writers & Readers series will center a conversation on race, racism, and bias with the acclaimed authors Robin DiAngelo and Jennifer Eberhardt. Their books—White Fragility and Biased, respectively— illuminate how race and bias impact our lives while providing avenues to help us talk to one another about these issues. This discussion is sure to engage our audience in conversation surrounding timely and culturally relevant topics—which is, of course, at the heart of civic engagement. Learn more on page 8.

Finally, this issue includes a profile on one of our young patrons: Joswen Colon, a teenager who uses South Branch’s sound booth to learn how to play the guitar and piano. Joswen is perhaps the best example we have of our contributions to the democratic process: providing a curious young person with the tools and education to learn, grow, and find his place in the larger world.

Felton Thomas, Jr. signature

Felton Thomas, Jr.
Executive Director and CEO
Cleveland Public Library