Civility topic of series
Library hosts public discussion forum
By Angie Landsverk
The Waupaca Area Public Library will host a new public discussion forum this fall.
The goal of its Civil Discussion Series is to strengthen community through relationship and understanding.
“We want to create an environment of healthy community discussion in Waupaca,” said Patsy Servey, the library’s adult program coordinator and interlibrary loan librarian.
“Understanding Civil Discussion” is the title of the first program at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, in the library’s lower-level meeting room.
“The first one will talk about the guidelines for civil discussion and the definition of what ‘civility’ means,” she said.
The series is being moderated by Jessica Beckendorf, the community resource development educator in Waupaca County’s UW-Extension office.
“I think we have really seen evidence in the past 10 years or so – or longer – in the nation of civility breaking down and polarization,” Beckendorf said.
She said discussions with people of different viewpoints do not have to end in someone winning.
“It’s understanding and connection, and love for our community and our people in it,” she said.
The idea to host such a series is the result of Library Director Peg Burington attending a conference in which one of Beckendorf’s colleagues from another county talked about the subject.
For Waupaca’s library, the program follows the theme it had last year of building a better world.
“That is when we started thinking about library programming that would affect the community,” said Servey.
She said the goal of this series is not to educate the community about topics.
The goal is to encourage discussion.
Beckendorf said the format is intended to offer a safe place for dialog and asking questions.
“A lot of people feel they have to hide their political views,” she said.
Some make assumptions about people who have different views.
“We can’t have negative feelings toward each other because we disagree. We need to learn from each other,” Servey said.
This means the series is also not about changing opinions.
Instead it is thinking about the person behind the viewpoint, and how that person has feelings, Beckendorf said.
“These are conversations we would like to have as a community,” Beckendorf said. “We’re at this moment in history where these kinds of discussions in small communities have the power to move the whole country forward.”
Those interested in attending the series are asked to visit www.waupacalibrary.org/event/civil-discussion-series to register.
This is to aid library staff with seating plans.
People who do not attend the first program may still go to the others, Beckendorf said.
Each discussion begins at 6 p.m. and is scheduled to last about an hour.
The topic of discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 23 is climate change.
Minimum wage is being discussed on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
They plan to continue the series.
“We will have a microphone to take around to people,” Servey said.
She said they do not expect discussion to stop once the microphone is turned off.
“We want the community to feel like it’s their discussion,” Servey said.