An Online Panel DIscussion

October 5, 2023 | 6:00 – 7:30PM

Moderated by Marcela Peres

How do we keep talking with our neighbors, even when…

…even when they have ideas that frighten us?
…even when we live really different lives?

…even when it’s difficult?

Join us for an online panel discussion with a group of extraordinary people who work with and in Maine’s libraries, ready to share how they make room for curiosity and connection around difficult things, even when there’s fear and extremity in the air. 

Quick Links

Amid the welter of events and ideas and changes and challenges that confront us every day, it’s easy to feel afraid and isolated and vulnerable. Increasing levels of extremism and hate speech aimed at silencing people already pushed to the edge of American society—LGBTQIA+ people, Black, Brown, Indigenous people, and other people of color—are amplifying people’s fears and feelings of isolation. 

How can Maine people become aware of what’s happening? How can they keep strong connections with neighbors and co-workers and acquaintances when extreme ideas find voice in their own towns? How can we keep our equilibrium, and the equilibrium of our communities? 


Sonya Durney

Sonya Durney (she/her) is the President of the Maine Library Association and is a member of the American Library Association Policy Corp. She is the Scholarly Communication Research & Teaching Librarian at the University of New England. In this role, she liaises with the College of Business and the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She also serves on numerous university-wide committees, including the Community Equity and Diversity Council of Chairs and the University Faculty Assembly. Sonya earned her MLIS from Simmons College, a BA in Political Science from Framingham State University, and a doctoral degree in Public Policy with a focus on Educational Leadership from the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. She has completed ALA’s Leadership Institute (2017), ILEAD (2015), and the New England Library Leadership Symposium. 

Craig Freshley

Craig Freshley (he/him) is no stranger to extreme ideas. Or fire. When Donald Trump was President, Craig facilitated over 40 gatherings – called Make Shift Coffee Houses – where he brought together Republicans and Democrats to talk. Craig received the American Civic Collaboration Award for those efforts. As a professional meeting facilitator, he has run over 3000 meetings. Last year, Craig published his third book Together We Decide, An Essential Guide for Making Good Group Decisions. Craig has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management from the Muskie School at USM and studied Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Maine. 

Heather Perkinson  

Heather Perkinson (she/her) is a public high school librarian and the president of the Maine Association of School Libraries. She advises her school’s Civil Rights Team and is passionate about defending human rights and intellectual freedom. She lives in Brunswick, Maine with her family. 

Susan Preece

Susan Preece (she/her) began her career in the public library with her first job as a library page in New York in 1977. She became a library clerk and ultimately received her MLS from The Palmer School of Library and Info Science at Long Island University.  Moving to Maine in 2005, she is the Director of the Topsham Public Library in Topsham, Maine. She strongly believes in the public library ethic of access to information for all. She also believes that the key to understanding comes from respectful dialog and the ability to listen. 

Savannah Sessions

Savannah Sessions (she/her) has served as a school librarian and educator for more than a decade. She is passionate about promoting information access and literacy as well as advocating for libraries. When she’s not reading the latest YA or graphic novel, you can probably find her talking to anyone who will listen about how libraries are far more than books and structures; and that they are crucial epicenters of communities. Savannah is a first gen college student and earned her BA from Smith College, MLIS from the University of Washington, and a master’s in data analytics from the Roux Institute, Northeastern University. She is currently the Vice President of her local library board and Legislative Advocacy Chair for the Maine Library Association. 

National Endowment for the Humanities Logo

This program is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ United We Stand initiative.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the
National Endowment for the Humanities.