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Happy New Year y’all! This month is National Braille Literacy Month and I just wanted to highlight a few things you may not know about Braille:
  • Many sighted people don’t realize most individuals who are proficient in braille learned it in school as children. It’s uncommon for people who lose their vision as adults to become fluent enough in braille to read large amounts of text, like an entire book.
  • Most legally blind children in the U.S. don’t use Braille resources. Believe it or not, 34% of the more than 59 thousand legally blind American children are considered non-readers.
  • Braille itself is not a language. Most languages have their own Braille system. Louis Braille created this system of reading around age 12. Braille became official in 1824.
  • Braille exists for feet, too! Businesses have to meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of those standards is to have Braille on the ground to alert the visually impaired that they are approaching a dangerous area. You know those big, bright, yellow strips you see at the ends of sidewalks and sometimes as you walk out of a store or restaurant? That’s Braille for your feet.
Another news item that I thought was worth discussing is the news that the original first uses of Mickey Mouse are now in the public domain which you can read about here. During Mickey’s initial run, Mickey starred in movies like Steamboat Willie, in which the character has some racist elements that you might not be aware of. There is a great NPR story from 2019 “From Blackface To Blackfishing” that discusses blackface today and its early American origins, in which Mickey’s early appearances were just layered with markers of blackface minstrelsy.


  • How Wisconsin Libraries Are Helping Meet the Needs of People Experiencing Homelessness : DPI received responses on how local libraries connect with the local community – one organization, one initiative, one person at a time. They hope that these small glimpses help provide inspiration for you and your local community.

  • Supporting Marginalized Patrons: Serving vulnerable populations in the library : recommended books that provide insight and advice for working with those who have been shuffled to the sidelines and offer practical information for providing services and support.

  • Reminder about Animals in the Library : Under Federal and State law, we must allow people to bring in trained service animals. Wisconsin’s law is a bit different than the Federal ADA law. State laws can be more permissive for the animal owner, not more restrictive. In this case, WI law allows us to ask only 1 question, not the usual 2, and a person can bring in a “service animal” not just a dog or miniature horse. This is explained in detail in this document.

  • American Indians in Children’s Literature Year In Review for 2023 : Our emphasis is books by Native writers and illustrators whose Nations are on the continent we know as North America. Most are ones that came out in 2023.

  • Wisconsin Historical Society Virtual Ojibwe Storytelling Series Starts in January : Tune in virtually each Tuesday evening from January 9-30 to hear from Ojibwe storytellers from the Lac Courte Oreilles, Sokaogon, Lac du Flambeau and Bad River Tribes. This is the third year the Wisconsin Historical Society is hosting this series, which has brought in listeners from across the state, country and globe to listen to and learn from Ojibwe narrators.

Continuing Education:

  • Information Access for Blind and Visually-Impaired People:  Leveling the Playing Field in Libraries – January 9, 10 am. Information access is vital for everyone, including people who are blind or visually-impaired. You will come away from this webinar with ideas that will help you provide better service to people who are blind or visually-impaired. Katherine Schneider will share specific ideas and examples to make library resources and services more accessible.

  • Moving from Allyship to Leadership: Agency, Accountability, and Emotional Intelligence- January 11, 2024, at 10 a.m. Register Here As organizations continue to build practical knowledge around addressing microaggressions, minimizing implicit bias, and developing allies, it won’t be enough to just create as many allies and champions as possible. Changing entrenched, biased systems and practices requires leadership at every level of an organization. And leadership around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) will require more than management skills. As DEI leaders (whatever our organizational role may be), we will be required to build agency for social change among our colleagues and model how to hold ourselves – and others – accountable. This can feel challenging when we are among friends, but even more daunting in a work setting. Using a frame of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), we identify how we’re already showing up as allies – and how we can develop as relational and brave DEI leaders. With an interactive focus, participants will practice having the challenging – and necessary – conversations that mark DEI work.

  • Providing Mental Health Information at Your Library – January 18, Noon. This presentation addresses increasing health information access and use, along with increasing health equity through information by highlighting resources from the National Library of Medicine and other government health information resources for patients, their families and friends.

  • Stronger Together: Challenges Faced By Historically Marginalized Staff – January 18, 3 pm. PLA Leadership Committee Hosted Conversation Series: Challenges faced by staff from historically marginalized groups: How do staff from historically marginalized groups find the support to grow and thrive in their careers?

  • Spring UW iSchool Classes:


Diverse Holidays in January:

January is National Braille Literacy Month. The observance raises awareness of the importance of Braille to the blind and visually impaired community. As audio technology progresses, the use of Braille dwindles. January is also National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month bringing together law enforcement and organizations across the nation in an strive to eliminate human trafficking.

January 4:  World Braille Day. World Braille Day commemorates Louis Braille’s birthday on January 4, 1809. This day highlights the importance of braille as a link to literacy for many people who are blind or visually impaired.

January 5:  Twelfth Night, a festival celebrated by some branches of Christianity that marks the coming of the Epiphany

January 17:  Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs who initiated the Sikhs as the Khalsa (the pure ones) and who is known as the Father of the Khalsa

January 6:  Epiphany or Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day), a holiday observed by Eastern and Western Christians that recognizes the visit of the three wise men to the baby Jesus twelve days after his birth

January 7:  Christmas, recognized on this day by Eastern Orthodox Christians, who celebrate Christmas thirteen days later than other Christian churches because they follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian version of the Western calendar

January 11: National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness was designated by the United States Senate in 2007. President Barack Obama increased awareness by declaring January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month in 2010.

January 13:  Lohri-Maghi, an annual festival celebrated by Sikhs commemorating the memory of forty Sikh martyrs

January 14:  Makar Sankranti, a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India

January 14: The Orthodox New Year is widely known as the Old New Year and is marked as January 1 in the Julian calendar, which was used before the Gregorian calendar

January 14: Pongal is a traditional South Indian harvest festival, and is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar year

January 15:  Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorates the birth of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and an activist for nonviolent social change until his assassination in 1968.

January 20:  Timkat, a holiday observed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians who celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River on Epiphany

January 21:  World Religion Day, observed by those of the Bahá’í faith to promote interfaith harmony and understanding

January 25: Tu B’shevat or Rosh Hashanah La’Ilanot, a Jewish holiday recognizing “The New Year of the Trees.” It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree usually coincides with this holiday, which is celebrated by planting trees and eating dried fruits and nuts.

January 25:  Mahayana New Year, a holiday celebrated by the Mahayana Buddhist branch on the first full-moon day in January

January 27:  The International Day of Commemoration to remember the victims of the Holocaust; the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945 and UN Holocaust Memorial Day  and (sundown to sundown):  Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time to “mourn the loss of lives, celebrate those who saved them, honor those who survived, and contemplate the obligations of the living.” — Former President Barack Obama

*Please note that I have a new name and new email address = sanderson@northernwaters.org​​
Sherry Anderson (she/her)
Director – Northern Waters Library Service (NWLS)