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'Palaces for the People' focuses on libraries' role in gathering people to learn and discover in a place where civility reigns.

WESTSHORE

There's plenty of talk about the loss of civility in our discourse. Community members can join a discussion about the potential to get it back at 7 tonight at Westlake Porter Public Library.

Library Director Andrew Mangels will lead an hourlong discussion about the main themes of Eric Klinenberg's book “Palaces for the People,” which was published in 2018.

Klinenberg, a sociologist, suggests that “social infrastructure” where individuals and families gather and make friends across group lines strengthens the entire community. He goes on to suggest that libraries are among the institutions that help build community and reduce isolation and incivility. Even the book's title emphasizes that belief. “Palaces for the People” is a phrase coined by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie deeply believed that all Americans, regardless of social standing or wealth, should read and have access to books and reading materials. He built 1,700 libraries across the country in testament to his commitment.

Mangels agrees with Klinenberg's view on the role of libraries. “We're more than a book repository; we're a place of community where civility still reigns, where people can meet, explore and do things together.”

He plans to ask attendees whether Porter is bringing people together and how the library can engage more people in both civic life and volunteering as well as addressing the issue of civility. He's looking forward to a discussion he thinks will be fun as well as hopeful.

Porter joined forces with eight library systems across Cuyahoga County to raise community awareness and increase engagement over the issue of incivility and how libraries might address it. Their collaboration is called One Community Reads, where each system encourages its cardholders to read a selected book and come together to discuss its message. Some libraries hold additional special events connected to the theme. In the past, the program focused on eviction leading to homelessness.

Participating libraries include Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, East Cleveland Public Library, Euclid Public Library, Lakewood Public Library, Rocky River Public Library and Shaker Heights Public Library Other partners are the City Club of Cleveland, Fairmount Temple, Ideastream, Playhouse Square and the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University.

Westlake Porter Public LIbrary is at 27333 Center Ridge Road.

Contact freelance writer Michele Murphy at avonlakemurphy@gmail.com.

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