In late spring 2020, amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world gathered in large and small demonstrations to protest the murder of George Floyd and draw attention to the ongoing systemic issue of police violence. The protests calling for justice give voice to trauma and justified anger in Black communities terrorized by centuries of police violence and anti-Black racism.
Although the pandemic-induced threat of layoffs and high unemployment, lack of health resources, challenges in education, and insecure housing are new to many, Black and Brown communities across the nation have had to contend with these challenges as daily facts of life.
The librarian profession suffers from a persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity that shows few signs of improving. In 2018, just 6.8 percent of librarians identified as Black or African American (Department for Professional Employees).
Many people are feeling helpless, but there are many ways we can center the voices and experiences of Black library workers, the Black community, support the broader Black Lives Matter movement, fight against police violence, and help the cause of racial justice.
Anti-Racism: Anti-racism is "the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts." (National Education Association - Racial Justice in Education)
BIPOC: "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The term BIPOC is used to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context." (BIPOC Project) We use the term BIPOC in this resource to identify opportunities that are not specifically for Black people, but Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Black Lives Matter: #BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, they are winning immediate improvements in their lives. (Black Lives Matter)
Racial Justice: "The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures." (Race Forward)
White Supremacy: White supremacy is "the belief system that rationalizes and reproduces white advantage in the political, social, and cultural institutions of society. This belief system holds that white people, white culture, and things associated with whiteness are superior to those of other racial groups." (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, page 138)
Plan for Action
Commit to doing everyday actions
- Educate yourself about anti-racism and racial equity efforts within the profession.
- Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries
- University of Madison-Wisconsin - Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship: A Reading List
- Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
- Publishers Weekly - Reading Is Only a Step on the Path to Anti-Racism
- Bazar - Why we need to engage with Black literature beyond racial politics
- Familiarize yourself with police reform and abolition efforts.
- Campaign Zero
- Autostraddle - How to Never Call the Cops Again: A Guide with a Few Alternatives to Calling Police
- The Marshall Project - Police Abolition
- Autostraddle - Police and Prison Abolition 101: A Syllabus and FAQ
- The Library Project - It’s not enough to say Black Lives Matter — libraries must divest from the police
- Identify grassroots abolition efforts in your community and consider how you can get involved
- Examine the language you use.
- Are Black Lives Matter groups considered 'protesters,' 'rioters,' 'looters,' or 'thugs'? The language used to describe this movement is rooted in white supremacy.
- Do you invoke the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther, King Jr. when describing effective ways to protest? Acknowledge that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s messages have been diluted and co-opted.
- Speak about injustices done to Black people specifically. Black people and People of Color (POC) are not interchangeable as all racial identities groups have different experiences and different needs.
Center and Support Black voices in LIS
- Amplify the voices of Black library workers and support their community spaces through donations and membership.
- Read about and promote the historic contributions of Black LIS workers and add books to your collection.
- Book Riot - Pioneering Black American Librarians
- E.J. Josey - Transformational Leader of the Modern Library Profession
- The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America
- Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian
- The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)
- American Libraries - Blazing Trails - Pioneering African-American librarians share their stories
- Train all staff on topics related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Consider hiring a local facilitator to speak to your staff about EDI.
- ALA - Webinars on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
- We Here Community School
- Commit to hiring Black library workers, connecting paraprofessionals to scholarship opportunities, and supporting residents and interns.
- Consider your workplace retention strategies.
- Host a book club on a book that explicitly talks about race relations in the United States and be prepared to have a frank conversation. Incorporate lessons on race and discussions on race during storytime and promote reading lists. If you aren't equipped to facilitate these conversations, see if there is a trained facilitator in your community that would be willing to host.
- Coretta Scott King Book Awards
- Great Stories Club Resources
- ALSC - Unity and Justice Book List
- ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table: Black Lives Matter Comics Reading List
- Anti-Racism Resources for all ages A Project by the Augusta Baker Chair | Dr. Nicole A. Cooke
- Reading for Change: Booklist-Recommended Antiracism Titles for All Ages
- Host a viewing party on a documentary that highlights systemic injustices. After watching the documentary together, encourage a respectful discussion about the themes. For more on facilitation, see ODLOS Webinar - How to Talk about Race.
- Celebrate the National Day of Racial Healing. Encourage library administrators to sign the proclamation.
- Partner with local Black community members on projects and initiatives.
- Seek out Black readers for your Reader’s Advisory Group.
- Ensure that the public knows the library’s stance. Understand that it is not a political stance to state that Black Lives Matter.
- Black Lives Matter at School
- Chicago Public Library - Black Lives Matter - A Booklist
- Oakland Public Library - OPL Responds: Working toward Racial Justice
- Penn State University Libraries - Black Lives Matter Libguide
- The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County - Back Joy Booklist for Children and Young Adults
- Schomburg Center Black Liberation Reading List
- University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis - Black Lives Matter Libguide
- Be prepared to respond to an All Lives Matter stance
- Be aware of the ways your library may not seem welcoming.
- Do you highlight materials featuring Black authors and main characters throughout the year (and not just during Black History Month or MLK Day)?
- Do you have a security guard in place? Understand that Black patrons may not feel comfortable with library security.
- Consider how your library fine policies present an economic barrier to access of library materials and services.
- Rethink patron Codes of Conduct.
- PLA Statement Condemning Systemic Racism and Violence Against BIPOC People
- ALA Executive Board stands with BCALA in condemning violence and racism towards Black people and all People of Color
- ALA president reminds members of professional EDI tools to address microaggressions, quash racial profiling
- ALA condemns racism and violence in Charlottesville
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