GLADE SPRING, Va. — Tonia Kestner wants community members to know that every day is Black History Month at the Glade Spring Library.

That’s why the branch librarian is eager to showcase — especially during February — a large variety of books that honor the heritage, contributions and achievements of the African-American community.

“But it’s not just during February,” said Kestner. “These books help all of us to learn about and support the needs of our community every month — not just this month.

“You’ll find all of these books on the shelves throughout the year at the library,” she said.

Kestner said her role as a librarian, educator and responsible citizen is to make sure the library collection is diverse.

“This is something I’m very passionate about promoting,” said Kestner, as she leafed through a display of books that either feature African-American characters or are written by African-American authors. “I try to focus on providing books that focus on the minority populations because I think that’s an important part of my job.

“Last spring, a teen approached me in the library and asked if it was Black History Month. He thought it may have been in April because there were so many books displayed with African-American characters. This warmed my heart. I told him we celebrate African-Americans all year long.”

According to Kestner, at least one third of the library books at the Glade Spring branch are devoted to African-American themes, especially those for children. “There are probably 80 children’s books that deal with African-American history or stories that focus on African-American characters.

“I make an effort to find stories that are not as frequently noticed,” she said.

Kestner pointed to some of her favorite, less familiar books in the library’s collection, including “Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery,” “Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams” and “How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.”

“And I like this one,” said Kestner. “It’s called 'Can I Touch Your Hair: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship.'”

“These books on the shelves are my speakers. They honor our diversity in this community and throughout the country — every day.”

The Glade Spring Library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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