Divine timing at the Public Library
In this week’s blog Sadie Mills ’23, double major in Marketing and Entrepreneurship & Innovation, amplifies the extensive resources and opportunities that the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) offers to all of their local community. Sadie worked alongside SFPL as a McCarthy Fellow for the One City One Book (OCOB) campaign. Learn more about her passion for supporting the incarcerated community and how she uses her skills in marketing to reimagine a just world.
How would you reimagine a just world? This complex question was posed to me last semester in my Community Empowerment Activist course. Unsure where to begin to answer the question, I imagined what that might look like. A world where those of all facets and intersectionalities of oppression are liberated. I believe the simplest pathway to that world would be: a world in which every person has equal access to resources. Resources not only needed to survive, but thrive. Resources that are not privileges, but rights. This includes everything from housing to healthcare, clean water to nourishing food, transportation to radical education, and more. For the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), an organization that champions accessibility to education.
The SFPL encapsulates accessibility beyond the millions of books, vinyls, periodicals and movies they offer, as well as access to technology, various databases and e-learning tools. Between the 28 branches throughout the city, their bus turned portable library Bookmobiles, their Jail and Re-entry Services program, and their Deaf Services Center, the SFPL strives to bring the endless number of resources to all communities. Beyond all this, the SFPL offers a variety of events, programs and workshops for people of all ages. Offering over 1000 events a month, they have panels, author spotlights, cover letter workshops, financial literacy programs, film features, art classes and more. In addition to a vast arsenal of educational resources, the library cultivates and celebrates community, all at an accessible cost: free.
While I was ecstatic just to be supporting the library, divine timing sweetened the opportunity. I would be assisting with the SFPL’s One City One Book (OCOB) campaign. OCOB is a program where one book is chosen to be promoted, like a city wide book club. This year’s feature: This is Ear Hustle. Based on the first podcast to be created and produced within prison, Ear Hustle features stories from the formerly and currently incarcerated community about life in prison. With over 60 million downloads, the Peabody nominated and Pulitzer Prize finalist podcast has been recognized worldwide. This is Ear Hustle discusses the origin of the podcast, the rewards and challenges that arose creating such a phenomenon, and mass incarceration.
In divine timing, the world got smaller. Prior to this fellowship, in my organizing work I’ve uplifted the formerly and currently incarcerated community through teaching in tech classes, petitioning to repeal California’s Three Strikes Law, and held space with the No More Tears organization in a healing circle at San Quentin State Prison. Little did I know, friend, mentor and co-founder of No More Tears, Lonnie Morris, was a guest on Ear Hustle many times and good friends with Earlonne Woods, the co-host/founder of the podcast. After many conversations with Woods, I would come to discover that during my time gathering signatures to repeal the Three Strikes Law, I was doing so on behalf of the organization he founded, CHOOSE1. My vision of accessible resources, as well as my passion for supporting the incarcerated community, had beautifully aligned in this fellowship.
I began the fellowship assisting with writing press releases for upcoming exhibits and events. I also managed their weekly email blast that would go out to their email list of over 300,000 people, marketing a variety of events, programs and workshops that week. I then began planning for the OCOB campaign. I met with all the parties involved in the campaign from the SFPL, Radiotopia & RPX, and the Ear Hustle team to discuss timelines and objectives. Based on that, I designed a multi-channel social media plan to encourage people to read the book and attend the OCOB main event. In addition to creating and posting content for the campaign, I accompanied the Ear Hustle crew on their SFPL book tours. We visited all 28 branches throughout the city, visiting different neighborhoods, getting to know every SFPL community that was uplifting their book. During the weeks leading up to the main event, I grew closer with the team as we drove throughout the city, took hundreds of pictures, and discussed behind the scenes secrets/fun facts about the podcast.
With a filled auditorium of over 200 seats, and even more attendees on Zoom, it was so fulfilling to see all of our work pay off. Moderating the discussion, Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman, led the event starring Ear Hustle co-founders/hosts Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor. With so much to talk about, they detailed how the podcast came to be, what makes them such a dynamic duo, and highlighted some of the chapters of the book detailing trust, visitation, the Three Strikes Law and more. It was an amazing night celebrating the book, podcast and stories that amplify voices that are silenced. Humanizing people in the confinements of dehumanization.
My time at the library has been beyond rewarding. In addition to my growth from this experience, I have a collection of beautiful memories: from the fans stopping the Ear Hustle team on tours, visiting the Restoration Office where they repair books, the youth engaged in coding classes at the children’s center, to seeing those experiencing homelessness with their head buried in a book or browsing the endless aisles of bookshelves. The library offers every individual the opportunity to learn and grow, with the newest technology to the earliest dates of text, and it’s magical to witness. Before my work with the library, I was oblivious to the extensive resources they offered. Now I find myself making notes of upcoming events that I plan on attending and encouraging those around me to take advantage of the abundance of things they have to offer. As a Marketing major with a love for community and organizing, this experience has shown me the beauty of how my passions and skills can align. This opportunity with the McCarthy Center and SFPL has given me a glimpse of what my reimagined just world looks like in real time.
Learn more about the San Francisco Public Library here.