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
Charleston County Public Library
Charleston, SC

October 28–29, 2019
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.

"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: Chicago area location to be determined


  • 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

Register by August 2, 2019 for the August session; or by October 11, 2019 for the October session. Registration for the February session is now closed.

How to Register

To register with a credit card, click here to begin the online registration process. On ALA’s Online Registration page select the “Register” link next to the event you wish to attend. You will need to enter your ALA ID and password. If you do not have an ALA ID and password, you will be asked to create one. Please note: Once your registration is processed, you will receive a receipt/confirmation email.

Cancelations must be submitted in writing by July 15, 2019 for the August session; or 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

Hotel information for the Charleston, SC and Chicago, IL sessions will be available later in the year.


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

One or more of the following presenters will also participate in selected sessions. Additional presenters will be announced.

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.

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.

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).

Amita LonialAmita Lonial
Principal Librarian, San Diego County Librar
Amita Lonial (she/her/hers) is currently the Learning, Marketing and Engagement principal librarian at San Diego County Library. She is also serves as co-chair for PLA’s inaugural Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Taskforce. Prior to becoming a librarian she spent 8 years in the non-profit sector organizing for racial and economic justice. She is deeply committed to exploring how libraries can create racially just and equitable communities through public programs and services.

Amy SonnieAmy Sonnie
Senior Librarian, Marin County Free Library

Amy Sonnie is a senior librarian with Marin County (CA) Free Library, where she leads educational initiatives and manages an innovative library-makerspace. From 2010–2017 she coordinated civic engagement, adult literacy, and youth leadership programs for Oakland (CA) Public Library. As a co-founder of the Center for Media Justice (CMJ), Amy helped build a national network advancing media rights, access, and representation for youth and marginalized communities. She continues to serve on CMJ’s Board of Directors, and is a member of PLA’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. Amy is the author of two books on 20th century social justice movements, and recently published the report Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries: Case Studies from the Field (GARE, 2018).

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.

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.