Press Release - Detail
Linda Wilson
Public Relations
Birmingham Public Library
(205) 226-3746

Birmingham Public Libraries Offer Citizens 17 Opportunities to Speak Up About Birmingham City Schools This Summer

July 9, 2008, Birmingham, AL—The Birmingham Public Library is partnering with Yes We Can! Birmingham to host 17 “Community Conversations” every Tuesday this summer and solicit feedback from local residents on how to improve public education in the city.

“We want the entire community to participate in the conversations – students, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, the entire family – because all voices are welcome,” said Pam Lyons, associate director of the Birmingham Public Library.

All library conversations are being held on Tuesdays from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. and from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., depending on the date and location. The complete listing of library conversations is available at or You can also pick up a bookmark with the complete schedule at any of the Birmingham Public Library’s 20 branch locations.

Yes We Can! Birmingham, a grassroots initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and Alabama Power, has hosted more than 60 “Community Conversations” since March, inviting citizens to share their ideas and explore the connections between quality public education and improved community life. The goal is to engage the entire community and restore a sense of civic ownership and participation in public education.

“What we’re trying to do is to capture the voice of the community by asking people in the community what they think will help improve their schools and then asking them to share their personal visions for achieving these improvements,” said Gary Grooms, an executive with Alabama Power who is serving as a coordinator for Yes We Can! Birmingham. “Once we have a clear idea of what that shared vision for the future is – in their own words – we will publish the ‘Voice of the Community,’ or Community Agreement that they helped create.”

Renee Blalock, associate director, said Birmingham’s extensive library network offered logical venues for hosting the conversations because libraries are where citizens naturally come together and they serve as a cornerstone of the educational system. She said she is hopeful the accessibility of the library conversations will encourage more citizens to take part in the brainstorming process.

“It’s important to hear from everyone in the community because everyone has a stake in our public school system. It’s important to every aspect of our community,” Blalock said.

Community Conversations are led by trained facilitators who guide the discussion so everyone can speak and everyone can be heard. Each conversation is documented by a scribe, and the results will be compiled into a Community Agreement that will serve as a roadmap to better schools. The Birmingham Board of Education has also agreed to incorporate this citizen input into its strategic plans for the future. In addition, a new educational foundation is being established to support the Birmingham school system in improving its performance and the results for its children.

“These Community Conversations are crucial in reclaiming the role of the community in our schools and empowering parents and families to play an active role in the future of the schools,” Grooms said. “Saying yes to our children means action, not rhetoric. Yes We Can! Birmingham is an investment in our economic future and the continued growth of our communities. We invite everyone to participate because every voice is important.”

Karen Rolen, vice president of community investment for the Community Foundation and Yes We Can! Birmingham’s coordinator with Grooms, said although the movement includes cooperation from several community and corporate sponsors without whom the campaign would not be possible, she considers the assistance of the Birmingham Public Library pivotal to increasing awareness.

“The Birmingham Public Library is one of the strongest partners we have because it is a symbol of democracy. In a lot of ways this entire Yes We Can! Birmingham campaign is symbolic of the great country we live in where everybody has an opportunity to voice their opinions and a stake in our children’s future,” Rolen said. “The Birmingham Public Libraries are a great equalizer: They offer a terrific opportunity for people to come and participate when otherwise they might not be able to.”

Yes We Can! Birmingham is an initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and Alabama Power Company. To learn more, visit, call (205) 327-3803 or e-mail


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