Felicia Wilson remembers when she first discovered the library in the third grade. Her parents had fifth grade education levels, and this finding suddenly gave her access to loads of information, pictures of sights worlds away and new perspectives.
“The discovery of walking in there, being able to pick up books and look at different places and seeing all this new information, was really something that impacted me,” Wilson said.
Wilson is the regional manager for the King County Library System, overseeing the Federal Way, Federal Way 320th, Woodmont, Des Moines and Valley View libraries.
Part of her role includes informing the community of the libraries’ programs and planning services to meet community needs. Prior to working with KCLS, Wilson spent over 30 years in the collections and technologies realm of the library world.
When it comes to curating book lists or library collections, Wilson says the information must be relevant and up-to-date. It also needs to focus on addressing key issues impacting the community.
This year’s Black History Month book list includes 25 titles, ranging from “Black Boy Joy” by Kwame Mbalia showcasing happiness in Black children to “America on Fire” by Elizabeth Kai Hinton, which shares the history of police violence and Black rebellion.
“One thing I think is important to mention is: Black history is American history,” Wilson said. “When I think of curating a list, I want it to be something that it’s not just for this month, it’s for things that can be learned throughout the year.”
Racism is a complex and hard subject to discuss, she said, but this book list allows people of all ages and of all backgrounds to focus on addressing racism through a topic that interests them. For example, a celebration of Black women in pop culture, exploring self-love and Black mental health, or the history of Black hair culture, among other topics.
“It’s something that has interests for everybody,” Wilson said.
KCLS is committed to having diverse library collections and this mindset guides their process when selecting new materials for library patrons to borrow, she said.
It also allows each library to have a collection which reflects the immediate local community and the larger global community.
“It’s still important for kids and adults to see other cultures that are not necessarily reflected in their own community,” she said.
Through stories told on book pages, people have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of others’ lived experiences. What starts on a page can turn into a new patron visiting the library for the first time to find other available resources.
“People sometimes forget the impact libraries can have on lives,” she said. “Beyond just Black History Month, libraries are a year-round resource; we’re here, we care … We are part of our communities.”
The theme of this year’s King County Library System Black History Month reading list Black health and wellness. The included books explore resilience, joy and embracing ancestral rituals, traditions and healing modalities. To view the full list of books, visit kcls.org.