Read, Listen, Learn, and Dialogue Together

SPEAK is a lecture and discussion series that aims to bring in authors, thought leaders, and speakers each year.

Through the SPEAK initiative, EVPL hopes to further our vision of communities united through shared exploration and understanding by supporting and encouraging conversation. Empathy and compassion are grown through words, whether spoken or written. SPEAK encourages our community to speak up and speak together.

To financially support SPEAK, you can donate to the EVPL Foundation.

Support Speak

2023 Speakers

The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library’s SPEAK: An Explorative Lecture Series will feature three authors in 2023 who touch on our theme of Read, Connect, Explore.

DJ Savarese

DJ Savarese is an award-winning writer, public speaker, and activist who works to make literacy-based education, communication, and inclusive lives a reality for all non-traditionally speaking people. He is the author of A Doorknob for the Eye and his work has been published in several periodicals. He is the writer and co-producer of the Peabody-award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentary film Deej, which follows his inclusion journey.

He will discuss his history, work, and advocacy on Thursday, April 20, at 6:30 pm in the Browning Rooms of EVPL Central.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Mother, scientist, professor, and author Robin Wall Kimmerer will present on Thursday, July 13, at 7:00 pm at the Victory Theatre.

The author of the New York Times bestselling Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and Teachings of Plants, she is also the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. In 2022, she was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Brad Meltzer

The last presenter of 2023’s SPEAK: An Explorative Lecture Series is author Brad Meltzer. He is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with works for all ages. His titles include The Lightning Rod, The Escape Artist, and I am Dolly Parton. He is also the host of History Channel’s Brad Meltzer’s Lost History and Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.

Brad will discuss his works and research on Thursday, September 21, at 7:00 pm in the Ballroom of the Old National Events Plaza.


Prior to the SPEAK event, we will host several programs for library users of all ages to explore our theme of Read. Connect. Explore.

EVPL Programs

I Am… Activity
All September at all EVPL locations
Throughout September, all are invited to fill out an “I Am” card at any EVPL location in connection with Brad Meltzer’s I Am… series. Select cards will be displayed at the VIP Reception on Sept. 21!
Brad Meltzer is the author of the popular series, Ordinary People Change the World, with titles like I am John Lewis and I am Marie Curie.

Brad Meltzer Book Discussion | The Escape Artist
Monday, September 11 at 6:30 pm at EVPL North Park
Discuss The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer at EVPL North Park, then join us on Thursday, September 21, at the Old National Events Plaza as the author visits as part of EVPL’s 2023 SPEAK: An Explorative Lecture Series.

Live Forever Challenge
All September at EVPL Stringtown
Writer Brad Meltzer says, “If you help someone else you don’t just live a good life. You live forever.” Join Stringtown as we dream together about how we can live forever by helping each other.
Come into EVPL Stringtown and take the Live Forever Challenge! Write or draw your plan to help others! Take your plan with you for motivation or leave it to be displayed in the library as an inspiration for others!

SPEAK Braiding Sweetgrass Book Discussion
Wednesday, July 5 at 4:30 pm at EVPL Stringtown
Join us for a discussion of the SPEAK title Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer in anticipation of the author’s visit.

Braiding Sweetgrass – Teen Program
Friday, June 30 and Friday, July 19
A two-day free program for teens where they will get to personally meet with the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer. *Registration required
As part of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s visit to Evansville, registered teens get an exclusive two-day opportunity to learn about her book, participate in related activities, and meet personally with the author. Between these two programs, teens will get a chance to learn about gardening, hone their cooking skills, get a tour of Angel Mounds, and enjoy a specially prepared meal with the author. All teens will also receive a free copy of the Young Adult version of her book, Braiding Sweetgrass.

Cooking for All Ages – Braiding Sweetgrass Celebration
Wednesday, June 28 at 4:00 pm at EVPL Central
In anticipation of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s author visit, we invite all ages to flex their cooking skills using themes and ingredients from her book, Braiding Sweetgrass.
There will be a variety of activities including cooking demonstrations, herb butter making, and seed planting! Come learn about Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Don’t forget to hear the author speak on Thursday, July 13, at 7:00 pm at the Victory Theatre.

Deej | Documentary Screening
Wednesday, April 5 at 6:00 pm at EVPL McCollough
Join us for a screening of Deejprior to DJ Savarese’s SPEAK: An Explorative Lecture Series presentation on Thursday, April 20.
“Abandoned by his birth parents and presumed incompetent, DJ Savarese (“Deej”) found not only a loving family but also a life in words, which he types on a text-to-voice synthesizer. As he makes his way through high school and dreams of college, he confronts the terrors of his past, society’s obstacles to inclusion, and the sometimes paralyzing beauty of his own senses. In his advocacy on behalf of other nonspeaking autistics, he embraces filmmaking and poetry, and discovers what having a voice can truly mean.”

National Poet-Tree Month
All April at EVPL Red Bank
Everyone can share their own poetic skills by helping our tree of poems bloom. They will take a paper leaf, write a poem (maybe even include some artwork if you’d like), then turn it into a library staff member for it to be added to the tree for all our visitors to view.


Erika Qualls Barnett

Erika is a cardigan-loving Hufflepuff that enjoys the Cubs, reading, and walks with her husband.