Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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Washington Parish — Washington Parish Library has been selected as one of 240 libraries to participate in Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities, an American Library Association (ALA) initiative that provides community engagement and accessibility resources to small and rural libraries to help them better serve people with disabilities.

The competitive award comes with a $20,000 grant that will help the library install handicap accessible doors at the Franklinton Branch and the Bogalusa Branch.  This is the first step in a long-term Library project to eventually offer Homebound Services to those residents who need it.

“We are absolutely thrilled to receive this amazing grant,” said Library Director Sonnet Ireland. “This grant will allow our library to improve our branches and, eventually, our services to ensure all residents feel welcome and comfortable in our space.”

As part of the grant, Washington Parish Library staff will take an online course in how to lead conversations, a skill vital to library work today.  Staff will then host a few public conversations with residents about how the Library can better serve all residents and use the grant funds to install handicap accessible doors.

This is a topic close to Ireland’s heart.  “Both of my parents were disabled by a horrific car accident on their wedding night about two years before I was born.  So I grew up around wheelchairs and walkers–and keenly aware of how hard it can be to enter buildings for people with mobility issues.  During my first year as library director, I noticed how heavy the front doors of our large branches were, and making them more accessible became a priority for me.  When this grant was announced, I knew it was meant to be.”

If you are interested in getting involved or taking part in the conversation, please contact Sonnet Ireland at 985-839-7805, or visit washingtonparishlibrary.info for more information.

Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has re-imagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types have utilized free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums; take part in anti-violence activities; provide a space for residents to come together and discuss challenging topics; and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff.

“Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) in collaboration with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL).”

Washington Parish Library strives to consistently discover new methods and improvements for better service for our community.  The Library has branches in Bogalusa, Franklinton, Enon, and Thomas with plans to open a branch in Angie later this year.