Animals and Art bring Community Conversations with Veterans to Life at Azusa City Library

Supporting our local veteran community and their families was the ultimate goal of the Azusa City Library’s endeavor to implement the Community Conversations with Veterans program from California Center for the Book. While deciding what programs to implement, Library staff contemplated an array of events. In fact, we became overwhelmed by all the possibilities. We asked ourselves how could we demonstrate our gratitude to both veterans and their families. From that point, we were able to settle on two very distinct programs.

The first event, a Service Dog Q&A, hosted by the Sam Simon Assistance Dogs Foundation, was designed to serve the needs of veterans who could use the support of a service animal. The need for a service animal can stem from post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, or hearing loss, among others. This program’s focal point was to connect veterans and their advocates to an assistance animal organization and provide information on how to work with VA benefits. An underlying component of the informational session was the social value animals bring to the lives of veterans, often acting as a link to other people and facilitating their daily activities. This truly was a conversation with the community, drawing in veterans, 3 generations of one family whose loved one served two tours of duty in Iraq, and a mental health service provider from a local non-profit.


The second event, planned the week before Memorial Day, was intended as a family day out at the Library. Veterans Paint Night featured an art instructor guiding a class along while creating an acrylic artwork on canvas. The audience consisted of a cross-section of veterans who served in Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, along with their partners, spouses, and children. One veteran in attendance remarked that she “felt supported by the Library” and many expressed how valuable it was to have an activity that was relaxing for adults and engaging for youth. Including families and thanking them for their commitment was a major highlight of this event. It was our way of showing that the Library recognizes them and wants to grant them a well-deserved place in the spotlight.

All of this was made possible by the California Center of the Book. The programming funds and materials were extremely helpful and most of all, inspirational. Even when programs funds are expended, the memories created during these events remain.


Thank you to Leila Hassen, Library Services Manager, Azusa City Library for writing this article and sharing photos.

About Community Conversations with Veterans
Community Conversations with Veterans is a partnership between California Center for the Book and Veterans Connect @ the Library. We offer California libraries the opportunity to connect more closely with veterans and their families, while also helping veterans and their families connect to the community and resources. 15 library systems were selected to participate in 2019. In 2020, we hope to be able to expand this programming opportunity to 20 libraries across California.


About California Center for the Book
Our mission is to help the librarians of California get their communities reading and connecting. We help librarians develop and expand programs that promote reading, community engagement, and lifelong learning for adults and intergenerational groups. We also offer professional development opportunities and share resources to help librarians and community partners achieve these goals. We value resource sharing, collaboration, community-building, and innovation.

California Center for the Book is a program of the California Library Association, supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.