Library Name Change (Episode 5, part 2)

As you hopefully know by now, we have been working with Ms. Cheryl Williams of the Oberlin Community and with the Wake County Commissioners to change the name of our local library in the Village District Shopping Center. We are proud to say that we have finally done it! It was a long process but well worth it. To illustrate this long process, we have created a graphic organizer at the bottom of this “article.” We also added our thoughts about how the final meeting went, so you can know what we were thinking in that moment. 

ADALIA: The whole time we’d been petitioning, I’d had this present-moment mindset, where everything we’d been doing was items on a checklist. I didn’t really understand the importance of #ORVL. Then, Leeya and I got up to give our speech with Ms. Williams and as I was saying my part, I had this sudden anxiety that this would all be for nothing—maybe the name wouldn’t be changed…even though Leeya had expressed her growing confidence that it would several times. When Ms. Williams began speaking, the importance of what we were doing hit me—this name change would teach more people about Oberlin Village’s beautiful and rich history…It would encourage our community to learn more about the past, and…it would be doing it through something other than that usual white-washed lens that history is told through! I kept thinking, How have I never realized this before? because it seemed so stupidly obvious once I did. This was something that people were working towards all across our country and the world, and we, Adalia and Leeya, two high schoolers (when we started we were middle schoolers), neither of whom can drive or have a college degree did something that makes a difference! We did something that is important to a whole community, and especially, I think, to Ms. Williams.

LEEYA: The County Commissioner meeting couldn’t have gone better. The date was symbolic, the meeting was special, and the discussion of the library renaming led to so much more. As one of the commissioners stated, “This library renaming is an example of how citizens can very much bring things forward. This is truly democracy in action.” Personally, this process has taught me so much as we’ve learned very young about how to be effective in getting something done on behalf of the community. For everyone reading, I want you to know that no matter how young or old you are, you can get things done. That is one of the things I love about democracy. The date of this meeting was also very special. It was 54 years ago on the day of the meeting when Dr. King was assassinated. As one of the commissioners explained, “To see that the legacy of inclusion and celebrating communities is continued, is really heartwarming. Libraries are where education happens. Libraries are where dreams happen.” I want to conclude my thoughts of this name change by sharing a story. In 2015, Pearl Thomson, a resident of Wake County and student at Shaw University during segregation, was denied a library card and access to a book. The librarian broke some rules and let her in the basement where Ms. Thompson was allowed to look at the book but not allowed to check it out. In 2015, she was invited back to the library and given a library card. As the library director said, it was a “… chance for us to right a wrong, chance for us to educate people, chance for us to help heal. Seven years later, we are back here. If there is a way we can help celebrate a community, educate, and heal in a small way, we should do it. By renaming the library, it can be done.”

Below is a timeline of our experience petitioning from when the idea was sparked to the final decision for the name change: