With the start of this new semester, let’s acknowledge the dedication students, staff, and all those supporting their efforts put into the last one. Congratulations on all your hard work!

Although finals were stressful for many, our librarian, Ginny Barnes, helped offer at least one saving grace during the final stretch of fall 2021.

Just to be able to slow down and let yourself sort of disconnect, go into your imagination, and escape to another world, that was so delightful!

Gina Zante, Live Mascot Program Coordinator 

Throughout December, Barnes held #OwnVoices storytimes, providing the opportunity for students to sit down, relax, and listen to specially selected children’s books from our Arne Nixon Center for Children’s Literature and our Teacher Resource Center. All readings in this event were Own Voices books, stories that include diverse characters with which the author also identifies. 

To take a break from their workload, students could make themselves comfortable in the library’s Diversity Lounge on the 2nd floor or from home on Instagram Live @MaddenLibrary. The motivation behind this event is to help students de-stress at the end of the semester. 

“For most,” as Barnes sees it, “it has been a long time since someone has read to us. We hope students can enjoy a short break from their work and feel the comfort of hearing a good story.” 

Fortunately, with a celebrity appearance by Victor E. Bulldog, incredible stories, and a lineup of the best readers Fresno State has to offer, the fall 2021 #OwnVoices storytime was a success! Mia Gamez, a pre-health major at Fresno State, found the event to be everything the library hoped for students.

 “I don’t remember the last time I’ve had someone read to me,” Gamez expressed, “Maybe childhood! It’s just amazing how calming it was to sit there and listen. Even Victor was relaxing!”

Victor enjoying Terry Lewis’s reading of Franco Bejarano’s Nuna and the Fog

Beyond the vital rest break the #OwnVoices storytime provides, it speaks to the need for diverse representation across all media, especially children’s books. For meaningful and accurate representation, these stories must come from creators of the same identity. 

As Barnes holds, “We are all experts of our own experience. When people tell their own stories, it can be empowering. Historically underrepresented people’s voices have often been silenced and ignored. This kind of event is meant to give their voices a platform.”

In addition to this event, the Library Diversity Committee has recently created a Diversity in Our Collections research guide and monthly display on the first floor to highlight books that support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA).

“It is the responsibility of our academic community to take accountability,” Barnes continues, “not only through symbolic change but systematic changes as well. Centering and uplifting marginalized voices in our library collections is one way we can practice this work of accountability.”

One of the first books to kick off this event was Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Deriving from her own experience of immigrating from Mexico to the United States with her infant son in 1994, Morales writes this story about family, capturing the dreams and strengths we all carry on our journeys.

When the new world their family enters becomes overwhelming and unwelcoming, Morales and her son find solace in a library. As the story reads, “Books became our language. Books became our home. Books became our lives.”

With those lines, a specific statement from Barnes — the dedicated organizer of this entire event — truly resonates.  

“As much as we like to remind our community that the library offers more than just books,” Barnes emphasizes, “they are no doubt at the heart of our work. The lessons about self-acceptance, compassion, and healing from our #OwnVoices storytime are ones that we can be reminded of at any age.”

Ultimately, this storytime effectively addresses some of the core values our library strives to uphold: improving the wellbeing of students and encouraging a diverse and inclusive community.

Written by Mallory Crow
Photos by Heather Parish