MCPL Community engagement librarian Erica Brown. Photo by Rodney Margison


Community engagement librarian Erica Brown says the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) wants to be a safe place for everyone in the community. That’s the motivation behind The Summit, a conference focusing on issues facing women, transgender persons, and nonbinary individuals.

“We want the library be a place where women [and] transgender and nonbinary individuals can meet and talk,” Brown says. She stresses that The Summit is open to everyone. “We want to have a community-wide discussion of these issues.”

To be held September 28, the free, all-day conference features panel discussions, workshops, and health screenings. “A number of panels will be titled ‘Gender and … ,’” Brown says. “There’s Gender and Health Care Access, Gender and Homelessness, Gender and Politics, Gender and Jobs. There will be 10 panels in all.”

Panelists will be specialists in their fields. “There will be specialists who work with people coming out of prison, people in recovery, and women running for political office,” she says. “And there will be a discussion of the prison pipeline for African American women. Some speakers are from the targeted communities; others are people who work closely with those communities.”

In addition to panels, there will be a workshop on how to set boundaries, and a drug screening and needle exchange program. The Monroe County Health Department will offer testing for sexually transmitted infections. 

The idea for the conference emerged from a staff conversation. “It started with a discussion with a colleague about trans men and the problems they were having with access to restrooms and personal products,” Brown says. That discussion led the library to address the broad range of issues facing transgender and nonbinary individuals as well as women, and to partner with a number of local organizations to produce The Summit.  

In addition to the Monroe County Health Department, partners include Monroe County NOW, the City of Bloomington Commission on the Status of Women, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Bloomington PRIDE, and a number of Indiana University departments. 

The conference runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a break for lunch. Coffee and snacks will be provided. 

Brown says the library’s engagement with women and transgender and nonbinary individuals doesn’t end with The Summit. “We want to continue that momentum and do more programs in 2020,” she says. 

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