Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us

August 12–13, 2019
Charleston County Public Library
Charleston, SC

October 28–29, 2019
Chicago Public Library
Chicago, IL

“Libraries across the country are making stronger commitments to equitable library services for all. Librarians, library administrators, library staff, and other stakeholders are encouraged to join us to grow the collective capacity and connections we will need to do this work.

During this one-and-a-half day symposium we will explore how power and privilege operate interpersonally and institutionally; identify how oppression shows up in our communities and libraries; and learn about historical and contemporary social justice movements. Participants will hear from libraries putting equity into practice, develop regional connections, and create local action plans to advance equity and social justice in our organizations and communities.

Day one will focus on building shared language, self-awareness and historical understanding. Day two will give us the chance to learn about successful racial equity initiatives and develop action plans to catalyze or strengthen equity work in our organizations and communities.”

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Berkeley Public Library Expands Access to Resources for Homeless People

Leonie Leonida file

“Residents who previously experienced obstacles in obtaining access to Berkeley Public Library resources and items will no longer face this issue with the implementation of a new Easy Access Card, which allows those without a permanent address to use and check out library resources.”

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Redwood City: Library Takes Novel Approach to Breaking Stereotypes

“‘Our intention is to provide opportunities for dialogue and getting to know people on a different level,’ said Derek Wolfgram, Redwood City library director. ‘It’s really an invitation for people to get to know their fellow community members. … It’s easy to demean someone when you don’t know anyone like them.’

The experiment, The Human Library, was developed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000, as an outgrowth of a youth organization called Stop the Violence. Stop the Violence was founded by a group of Copenhagen teens to raise awareness about a rise in violence against immigrants, particularly teens, after one of their peers was stabbed to death in 1993.

Wolfgram said the library decided to make the Human Library part of its ongoing Community Conversations series to celebrate Redwood City’s diversity and the aspiration of the city to be a welcoming and inclusive place.”

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Art at Peoria Public Library Gives Homeless a Voice

“Ford’s interactive display allows library visitors, many of them homeless, to express themselves anonymously. Panels hanging from the ceiling ask visitors ‘What do you need? What can you give?’ Paper, pens, and a drop box allow visitors to answer. Ford periodically empties the box and pins the responses on the five panels in the display.

She’s been surprised by what people have said. The vast majority didn’t ask for money or housing or food — they asked for empathy.”

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Homelessness Concerns Aired to City Task Force

“An employee at the main branch of the Worcester Public Library, speaking for herself and not the library, said the main branch serves as the city’s defacto day shelter for homeless people, but employees there often find themselves unequipped to help the homeless patrons. The employee, Elizabeth McKinstry, said the task force should look at staffing social workers at the library to help the homeless people who shelter there.

‘We really need someone onsite to help us do what we want to do as librarians, which is help people,’ said McKinstry.

She also added she was disappointed no one from the library was included on the task force.”

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With Homeless Increasingly Shut Out Elsewhere, Richmond Library Leans into Role as de facto Day Shelter

“But while some libraries have looked for ways to dissuade the homeless from using their facilities, leaders in Richmond have taken a different tack.

Over the past two years, they have eliminated rules that targeted people without housing by banning such items as large bags and bedrolls and begun adding services aimed at aiding the growing class of patrons. They made it easier for people without state identification to access the library’s computers, which are heavily used by homeless and low-income people for both job searches and entertainment. And, power outlets being an in-demand commodity among the homeless, this month they installed a cellphone charging station.

By April, they plan to hire a part-time social worker to work directly with homeless patrons.”

T.S. Barnwell, who said he visits the library every day, walked into Richmond’s main branch on Friday. Library staff have estimated recently that as many as 70 percent of the visitors are homeless. SHELBY LUM/TIMES-DISPATCH

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Why a New Zealand Library’s Books Kept Vanishing, Then Reappearing

“‘It was really odd and we couldn’t quite figure it out,’ Auckland Libraries manager Rachael Rivera told The Guardian. ‘We thought someone was playing with us, or it was bored kids.’ It was only in one of their regular meetings with the library’s homeless patrons that the solution revealed itself. Unable to get library cards without an address, or fearing damage to books that they checked out, many people had been tucking their books beneath couches or under shelves so that they could return to them without losing their place.”

“‘That community really values the services we offer and treats the books with a great deal of respect,’ Rivera told the British newspaper. ‘A lot of the guys that come in are extremely well-read and have some quite eccentric and highbrow literary tastes. People are homeless for so many different reasons, and being intelligent and interested in literature doesn’t preclude that.’ The library has since established a special bookshelf behind the front desk to store books for this group of about 50 homeless readers.”

Auckland Central Library
Auckland Central Library has a vast collection of books, as well as computers with free internet access. PARENTINGPATCH/CC BY-SA 3.0