Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice

See also:

PLA Statement and Call to Action for Public Library Workers to Address Racism

The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), calls on public library workers to commit to structural change and to taking action to end systemic racism and injustice. PLA thanks members of its Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice for their guidance and leadership in development of this statement and call to action. The statement recognizes and supports ALA’s statement condemning violence against BIPOC, protesters and journalists, and ALA’s statement acknowledging ALA's role in perpetuating structural racism. PLA applauds the creation of a working group to create recommendations on restorative justice practices and the use/presence of police in libraries. Read the full statement and call to action…

Resources on COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis is hurting everyone, but communities of color are suffering even more. In addition to the many COVID-19 resources posted by PLA, the PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice is sharing the following resources for help understanding and fighting the impact on  Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

Public libraries have a unique and unparalleled ability to bring people and knowledge together, and PLA is committed to helping libraries achieve their mission through the core values of openness and inclusiveness. In February 2017, PLA formed a Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice (EDISJ), which will work to strengthen the organization’s commitment to its core values, while ensuring issues of EDISJ remain a top priority. (the task force became a standing committee in October 2020.)

About the PLA Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice

The American Library Association and PLA offer a wealth of resources in support of EDISJ goals.

In addition to these free resources, members of the PLA Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice created an EDISJ Challenge. This interactive site shares specific activities, Lib guides, reading lists, and reflection questions. Create a months long challenge, working through each item or simply share with your staff and patron as part of your library’s EDISJ work!

The committee has been charged with developing a strategic and coordinated approach for PLA related to EDISJ issues. The committee explores methods and considers resources that will allow PLA to take a multifaceted approach. Task force activities include but are not limited to:

  • Identify the action step in our charge that we are collectively best positioned to address during our next year of work and develop concrete recommendations for PLA to advance racial equity and organizational change in libraries;
  • Evaluate the structure of the Committee with the aim of creating a more diverse and representative entity with the capacity to move this transformative work forward; and
  • Embrace discomfort as we navigate challenging and emotional subjects. To uproot racism and white supremacy within ourselves and our institutions will require immense courage, compassion, and the honest desire for accountability.

Updates on the PLA EDI Initiative

Library Case Studies

Across the country, dozens of libraries are taking practical steps to dismantle institutionalized racism through collaboration with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), which is a national network of city, county, and state agencies working to advance racial equity. With a specific focus on institutional change, GARE provides an essential framework for action within the broader equity, diversity, and inclusion movement. In 2016, GARE formed a Libraries Interest Group to support racial equity initiatives within libraries and library associations. Composed of librarians from GARE municipalities nationwide, this committee meets regularly to share best practices for institutional change, collaboration, and community impact. Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries: Case Studies from the Field, an issue brief written by EDISJ Task Force member Amy Sonnie and published by GARE, provides a brief overview of the GARE model for institutional change and shares case studies from public libraries in Seattle, Saint Paul, Multnomah County, Marin County, Madison, Hennepin County, and more.

Continuing Education

On-Demand Education

Re-Weaving the Culture through Inclusive Norms in the Public LibraryRe-Weaving the Culture through Inclusive Norms in the Public Library
FREE on-demand PLA panel discussion
Panelists: Derek Wolfgram (moderator), Chantel L. Walker, James Allen Davis Jr., Lalitha Nataraj & Sonia Falcón

The history of public libraries is deeply rooted in white supremacy, and white cultural norms still dominate management practices in public libraries today. In order to create more inclusive workplace cultures in public libraries, new norms must be established by creating decision-making processes and modes of communication that honor the cultural norms of BIPOC staff members. As libraries emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with an increased awareness of racial inequities in the communities we serve, the time has also come to look inward at the ways our own management systems and structures perpetuate inequities among those who work in public libraries. By dismantling and re-weaving organizational culture norms to decenter whiteness, we can work together to create a better, more inclusive future. This panel discussion will provide background on white cultural norms in librarianship, illustrated by examples from the lived experience of the panelists. Attendees will develop a deeper understanding of the way that these norms marginalize, silence, and harm BIPOC library staff members. More…

Advancing Racial Equity in Your LibraryAdvancing Racial Equity in Your Library
A FREE on-demand webinar
Panelists: Gordon F. Goodwin & Andrew Harbison

Libraries strive to serve their communities with important services and programs, and they also contributed to our nation’s history of creating racial inequity by enforcing racialized laws. Although racial discrimination is illegal, many long-held library practices perpetuate racialized outcomes and maintain libraries as white spaces—often unintentionally. This webinar, presented by the Race Forward Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), presented an overview of concepts and approaches libraries are using to reduce racial barriers in their work. More…

Understanding Power, Identity, and Oppression in the Public LibraryUnderstanding Power, Identity, and Oppression in the Public Library
A FREE on-demand webinar
Panelists: Katie Dover-Taylor, Jody Gray & Amita Lonial

In alignment with ALA’s strategic direction on equity, diversity, and inclusion, this on-demand webinar provides an introductory understanding of the concepts of power, identity, and oppression, and how they impact public libraries’ staff, services, programs, collections, and spaces. Through presentation and dialogue, the panelists discuss the role of allies in addressing these concepts. More…


Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with UsSocial Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us
The PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice presented the one-and-a-half day symposium, Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us, three times in 2019. The symposium explores how power and privilege operate interpersonally and institutionally; identify how oppression shows up in our communities and libraries; and share information about historical and contemporary social justice movements. in 2020, PLA made the difficult decision to postpone its upcoming 2020 regional training workshops—including Social Justice and Public Libraries: Equity Starts with Us—due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More…

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 https://docs.pla.org/edisj-resources/ 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.

PLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Interest Group

Join PLA’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) interest group to connect with members interested in building skills and organizational capacity to address issues of EDI. Please note that participation in PLA interest groups is limited to PLA personal members and login is required.*

Additional Resources

*You will be asked to login with your ALA website login and password to confirm your current PLA personal membership. If you’ve forgotten your login information, you'll be able to retrieve your username/password or create a login if you don't have one from the "Login" page.