Engaged and Inclusive: Libraries Embracing Racial Equity and Social Justice

Racially diverse audience image for PLA On-Demand WebinarsPublic libraries across the country readily embrace their role as centers for democracy and civic participation. But what role should libraries play in advancing social justice and addressing persistent racial inequities? When it comes to community transformation, how can a social justice lens and racial equity tools guide us to be more engaged and inclusive at all levels of our work?

Whether your community is a site of major political action or feels a million miles away from Ferguson or Baltimore, issues of current and historical injustice are present in your community every day. Learn how public libraries can engage in meaningful social justice and racial equity work by leveraging their existing strengths, supporting transformational relationships, and developing new tools to support social change.

Hear from three librarians who are working to center social justice and racial equity in their day-to-day work. Core principles of diversity, equity, and social justice will be defined. Whether you are management or front line staff, you’ll gain concrete resources and ideas that will help you feel empowered to step into these conversations and deepen community engagement.

This archived webinar was originally presented June 8, 2016.

Running time: 1 hour, 3 minutes


At the conclusion of this on-demand webinar, participants will:

  • Understand the role public libraries have to play in social justice, including how this approach relates to and differs from civic engagement and community outreach;
  • Take away concrete programmatic ideas and inspiration for ways public libraries can operate as a platform for social justice action and learning; and
  • Know tools libraries can use to advance racial equity and social justice within your institution, and to better understand and inform outward-facing initiatives and internal culture.

Who Should Attend

Public library staff at all levels. Appropriate for those with no, little, or some previous knowledge of social justice topics.


Sarah LawtonSarah Lawton has worked for public libraries in Colorado, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and is currently neighborhood library supervisor at Madison (Wis.) Public Library. A 2009 ALA Emerging Leader, Sarah's recent work focuses on collaborating with diverse communities, community organizations and local government agencies to foster greater social cohesion and promote equitable access to opportunity.


Amita LonialAmita Lonial is currently the learning experiences manager at Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, where she oversees public programming for birth through seniors. She is passionate about the role libraries play in creating resilient and equitable communities and was recently named a Library Journal "Mover and Shaker." Prior to becoming a librarian she spent eight years in the non-profit sector advocating for racial and social justice.



Amy SonnieAmy Sonnie coordinates civic engagement and adult literacy programs for Oakland (Calif.) Public Library. She is a co-founder and board officer of the Center for Media Justice, a national network advancing media rights, access, and representation for marginalized communities. She is the author of two books on 20th century social movements for LGBTQ rights, feminism, economic justice, and racial equity.




As ALA transitions to a new, centralized eLearning site, PLA’s on-demand webinars are temporarily unavailable for purchase. If you’d like to purchase access to an on-demand webinar, please contact PLA at plawebinars@ala.org and we will follow up with you when these products are available on the new eLearning site. However, many of PLA’s on-demand webinars are free, each denoted with a green “Free!” icon below the title.

How to Register

Please note: As ALA transitions to a new, centralized eLearning site, this on-demand webinar is temporarily unavailable for purchase. If you’d like to purchase access to this on-demand webinar, please contact PLA at plawebinars@ala.org and we will follow up with you when this product is available on the new eLearning site.

Tech Requirements

To playback this on-demand webinar you should have either the latest version of Flash running on your computer, or use a browser with native HTML5 support. Please use the most up-to-date version available of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer. A fast Internet connection and computer is recommended.

We suggest that groups, especially larger groups, plan ahead to use an LCD/LED projector in the room to project the webinar recording. Groups will also want to have speakers capable of amplifying the webinar audio for the entire room.

Credits or CEUs

PLA does not award certificates of completion, credit hours, or CEUs for its on-demand webinars and cannot verify participation.


If you have questions or problems accessing a recording, send a message to plawebinars@ala.org, or call 800-545-2433 ext. 5PLA.