Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us

Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us - Training logo - raised fist clutching scales of justice - Public Library AssociationA regional symposium on equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice for public libraries

This symposium will be offered three times in 2019:

February 25–26, 2019 – Registration now closed
Denver Public Library
Denver, CO

August 12–13, 2019 – Registration now closed
Charleston County Public Library
Charleston, SC

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

Although the symposium scheduled for October 2019 has reached capacity, PLA plans to schedule additional symposia in 2020 (dates and locations TBD).

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.

"This was an amazing session. It gave me so much information and put so much in perspective. I think this is a conversation that needs to happen over and over again and cannot happen enough. Mia was amazing. Just so great."—Attendee, PLA 2018 Preconference "Understanding Identity, Power, Oppression + Liberation: A Justice + Equity Training," March 20, 2018

At the end of this event, participants will:

  1. Build shared understanding of equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice (EDISJ) concepts, including identity and privilege, institutionalized racism and oppression, solidarity, and liberation;
  2. Increase self-awareness, identify systems of oppression, develop strategies to address biases, and learn how to share this knowledge within your organization and your community;
  3. Develop regional connections that can help you create and sustain transformative work in your library and community; and
  4. Utilize case studies and equity tools to create an action plan for strengthening EDISJ in your organization and community.

Who Should Attend?

The event organizers have identified this session as appropriate for people with no previous knowledge of the topic, and for people with some knowledge who want to increase their understanding.

Registration is limited to 100. Participation in both days is required. This event is appropriate for individuals or small teams from libraries. PLA wants to make sure there’s space for attendees from many diverse libraries at each event, which will create a richer learning experience for everyone. Therefore we are discouraging any libraries from sending large numbers of staff. If your library is interested in sending 10 or more staff to one of these events, please contact PLA (Scott Allen, 312-280-5858 or to discuss it. Also, library participants are encouraged to invite community partners to attend as part of their team. Registration support may be available for a limited number of small and rural library staff. Watch this site for more information.

Pre-Symposium Preparation

The free PLA on-demand webinar, “Understanding Power, Identity, and Oppression in the Public Library,” is an excellent primer to this convening. Attendees are also encouraged to download and review the Government Alliance on Race and Equity report, Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries: Case Studies from the Field. These are not required but recommended.

Dates and Locations

This symposium will be offered two more times in 2019:

August 12–13, 2019: Charleston County Public Library, Main Library, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401

October 28–29, 2019: Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Public Library, 400 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605


  • Day 1 (Monday): Registration/Continental Breakfast 9:00 AM–9:30 AM; Training Session 9:30 AM–5:00 PM with lunch and coffee breaks
  • Day 2 (Tuesday): Continental Breakfast 9:00 AM–9:30 AM; Training Session 9:30 AM–12:30 PM


Registration Fees

Category Rate
PLA Member $175
Other $250

Registration includes attendance at both days of the training, training materials, and meals as noted above.

Registration Deadlines

Registration for the February and August sessions is closed. Registration for the October session has reached capacity. To be added to the wait list in the event of cancelations, please email

How to Register

Registration for the October session has reached capacity. To be added to the wait list in the event of cancelations, please email

Cancelations must be submitted in writing by September 23, 2019 for the October session. No phone cancelations will be accepted. A $50 processing fee will be deducted from the registration amount. Please mail registration cancellations to American Library Association, ATTN: MACS, Social Justice and Public Libraries Registration, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611; fax to 312-280-1538; or e-mail to Refunds will be processed after the event. PLA reserves the right to cancel a course or workshop for insufficient registration or other reasons.

Hotel Information

For the Chicago session, PLA is pleased to partner with the Silversmith Hotel to offer a 15% discount off the best available online rate. The hotel is located a mere 11-minute walk to the Harold Washington Library Center, where the training is located. To book a room with this special discount, please contact Alexis Romeo at 312-795-6515 or email and refer to the JEWELERS ROW RATE.

If you would like recommendations on additional area hotels, please contact Lian Drago, PLA Program Officer, at


Mia HenryMia Henry
Facilitator, Educator, and Tour Curator

Mia Henry (she/they) is the founder and principal of Freedom Lifted, a company providing Civil Rights tours to the U.S. Deep South and social justice trainings using a historical lens. Mia has more than 18 years of experience in leadership development, social justice facilitation, organizational management, and history education. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College and the founding director of the Chicago Freedom School.

Other Presenters

August 12–13, 2019
Charleston, SC

Christina Fuller-GregoryChristina Fuller-Gregory
Makerspace Librarian, Spartanburg County Public Libraries

Christina Fuller-Gregory (she/her/hers) is the makerspace librarian at Spartanburg County Public Libraries (SCPL) in South Carolina. She also serves on PLA’s inaugural Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force. In addition to her work with the PLA EDI Task Force, Christina leads SCPL's Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Committee, a committee that works to develop library policy and procedure supporting both internal and external equity, diversity, and inclusion. Before becoming a librarian, Christina worked for five years in the marketing and communications industry. She’s a firm believer that the willingness to start the conversation is one of the most important steps needed to support library-based EDI initiatives.

Andrew HarbisonAndrew Harbison
Assistant Director of Collections and Access, Seattle Public Library

Andrew Harbison is the assistant director of Collections and Access for The Seattle Public Library, where he oversees Technical and Collection Services, Materials Distribution Services, and Circulation Services. Andrew is the former co-chair of the library’s Race and Social Justice Initiative Change Team, a cross-divisional, cross-classification internal committee charged with advocating for and facilitating equity-based analysis and outcomes. He also serves on the GARE Library Interest Group and is a member of the Public Library Association Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Lois Langer ThompsonLois Langer Thompson
Executive Director, Sno-Isle Libraries

Lois Langer Thompson (she/her/hers) recently assumed the position of executive director with the Sno-Isle Libraries in Marysville, WA. Previously, she was the Hennepin County (MN) Library Director for nearly 10 years, where she and her team worked on the intersection of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice by looking at policies and practices to see where the library may have put barriers in place. She is a member of the PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

October 28–29, 2019
Chicago, IL

Jessica Anne BrattJessica Anne Bratt
Youth Services Manager, Grand Rapids Public Library
Jessica Anne Bratt brings a high level of passion to her job as youth services manager at the Grand Rapids (MI) Public Library. She began the DigiBridge partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools, and received national recognition as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. She writes reviews for library trade publications, serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Library Association and on the ALA 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Award Jury Committee, and presents nationwide on “Let’s Talk About Race in Storytimes.” The coolest millennial thing for her was being interviewed for MTV’s article “In Trump’s America, Activist Librarians Who Won’t Be Shushed.” Her newest adventure revolves around trying to balance her gaming life with motherhood.

Katie Dover-TaylorKatie Dover-Taylor
Reference Librarian, William P. Faust Public Library
Katie Dover-Taylor (she/her/hers) manages website and Facebook content, coordinates digital literacy training, and chairs the staff union at William P. Faust Library in Westland, Michigan. In 2015, she was a founding co-coordinator of what is currently the "Radical Libraries, Archives & Museums" track at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. She is particularly interested in how to both approach and practice anti-racist librarianship, especially in the public library setting. She is a member of the a member of the PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Richard KongRichard Kong
Director, Skokie Public Library
Richard Kong (he/him/his) is co-chair of the PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and a director-at-large on the PLA Board of Directors. At the Skokie (IL) Public Library, he serves a very diverse, vibrant community and has made significant strides in the pursuit of equity and social justice through lots of dialogue and education. Richard has his degrees from Oberlin College (BA), Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv), and University of Michigan’s School of Information (MSI).

Sarah LawtonSarah Lawton
Neighborhood Library Supervisor, Madison Public Library

Recognized as a 2019 LJ Mover & Shaker, Sarah Lawton was a founding member of the City of Madison (WI) Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative. She has served as a coordinator for the Government Alliance on Race and Equity Library Interest Group since 2015 and contributed to the 2017 issue paper, Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries: Case Studies from the Field. Sarah was appointed to the PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice in 2017. Her most recent article, "Reflections on Gender Oppression in Libraries," was published in the social justice issue of Public Libraries in 2018. Sarah has her degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (MLIS) and Macalester College (BA).

Equity Starts with Us Resources for Symposium Attendees

If you attended one of PLA’s Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us events, please visit to access presentations, exercises, flip chart notes, handouts and other information from the training. This page is password protected and only available to individuals who registered for and attended the PLA symposium.