EDI in Our Libraries

2019 President, Loida Garcia FeboAn initiative of ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo and her Diversity Advisory Board, this EDI video series gives visibility to a diverse representation of library workers, champions, and patrons to help deepen the understanding of the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion in action in our nation’s libraries. Each video is anchored by three core questions:

  1. How does equity, diversity, and inclusion factor into your daily life as a librarian?
  2. What's the single biggest challenge facing libraries when it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion?
  3. What are some effective ways that libraries can promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in our communities?

Multnomah County Library: Creating conditions for equity to flourish

Equity, diversity and inclusion may seem incongruous in a community as homogenous as Portland, OR, but Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehkle knows the work is necessary, especially when, as she says, public libraries have historically created systems that have privileged some people over others.  “The library has a role to play in ensuring that the people in our community, especially those facing the greatest barriers, have access and opportunities,” she said. To do this, she and her staff have been intentional in creating conditions for equity to flourish -- in hiring, in collection development and staff outreach programs, and in digital initiatives. Although they have achieved real results, the work is ongoing. “We still have a long way to go. That's what you'll hear me say every time I talk about this work. We stumble and we'll continue to stumble. But I think it's about making that commitment and articulating it loudly and clearly. The community understands that they can expect that of us and that's important.”

We recently visited three libraries across the 19-branch system and learned more about the efforts to embed principles of EDI in serving the people of Portland, OR, and beyond.

Share this story on social media using this sample text: Visit with @multcolib staff and @MultCoLib_Dir to learn about the programs and initiatives the 19-library system has prioritized around diversity in hiring, inclusive collection practices and programs, and digital equity.

Thurgood Marshall Middle School – The library is the heart of the school

Erika Long, school librarian at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Nashville, TN, knows that giving students a space that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive helps them succeed in the library and beyond.

As a first year librarian at TMMS, Erika has grounded her work in the interpersonal relationships she has built with fellow teachers, administrators, and students. Representation is one of her primary goals. She shares: “I was 34 years old the first time I could actually say, ‘That's me,’ in a book. Yes, I had read books by black authors before. Not a lot when I was growing up, but in the past years since I've become an adult, I have. But to actually say, ‘That character sounds just like me.’ That had never happened before and that was in The Hate U Give. So I want my students to be able to have that experience before they're 34. I want them to be able to have that experience now. I want them to know that, because if I provide that experience for them now, then that's going to keep them reading.”

We recently visited Erika and spent the day learning about her efforts to create a joyful and welcoming space for students of all races, orientations, religions, and abilities at TMMS.

Share Erika’s story on social media using this sample text: Visit with @erikaslong and the inclusive library space she’s created for the diverse students at @ItsallThurgood middle school in Nashville and learn how you can make change in your own school community.


JJ Pionke, librarian at University of Illinois - For me it's personal

JJ Pionke, Applied Health Sciences Librarian at the University Library of the University of Illinois, embeds the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion into his work in tangible ways.

As a disability rights advocate, he champions accessibility and inclusion in his campus library because, to him, it’s personal. As someone who identifies as disabled as well as transgender, JJ says it’s natural to take up this work: “That's how I got into this. I've always been in it, but I wanted to go forward and try to make my new home, librarianship, into a space that I really wanted to be in. And a space that really reflected who I am and not just the values of librarianship as a whole, or the values that I learned about in school, but about me. Because it is my community.”

We recently spoke with him about the value of doing this hard work and learned more about projects he’s undertaken, including the development of a series of disability libguides, the creation of reflection rooms for students, and his work with special populations, like veterans.

Check out JJ Pionke's Disability LibGuides.

Share JJ's story on social media using this sample text: Hear @jjpionke discuss embedding the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion into his work @IllinoisLibrary and learn how to make change in your own community.