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We Must Do Better

June 24, 2020 11:00 AM

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Last week, Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera released a statement, “We Have Work to Do,” that expressed his outrage “that George Floyd’s murder is just the latest incident in a multi-generational history of ignored brutality.”  To counter this, the Secretary committed himself and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to “denounce and speak out against racism and inequities.”  He went on to list just a few of the actions that the department would be taking “to use this moment, this outrage, this commitment to move forward.”

I, too, share Secretary Rivera’s anger and pain over George Floyd’s death and the deaths of many others like Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.  As Deputy Secretary for Libraries, I support his declaration that this must stop, that racially unjust systems must be dismantled, and that each of us must be change agents for a better future.

The Office of Commonwealth Libraries also acknowledges that many societal structures exist that prevent individuals from living lives free from oppression and violence, and able to access services, programs, and resources that would support them in leading happy, successful, and productive lives. Further, these structures are not only present in society broadly, but also within libraries, thereby impeding our ability to serve all members of our communities well. 

With this in mind, the Office of Commonwealth Libraries makes the following commitments to begin its work to develop equitable and inclusive libraries in Pennsylvania.  We will:

  1. Listen and work with our library board members, librarians, and library staff of color to create an environment where opportunities to work and achieve exist for all;
  2. Work with our library directors, staff, board members, patrons, and professional associations to ensure Pennsylvania’s libraries provide equitable, diverse, and inclusive services for all our communities;
  3. Provide training and guidance to assist libraries in equity, diversity and inclusion work;
  4. Review our own policies and procedures through an equity lens to learn where we can improve in the areas of staffing, collections, and services; and,
  5. Make equity, diversity, and inclusion a top priority as we prepare our next five-year Library Services and Technology Act plan.

We must do better.

We must create an inclusive and welcoming profession for all people of marginalized identities.

We must lead by example and strive to provide library services for learning and advancement for all people, not just those historically privileged.

Change starts with me, and with each one of us. Thus, I urge all librarians and libraries in Pennsylvania to join me in sincere reflection, learning, and determining the ways in which each of us can create equitable, diverse, and inclusive libraries for all Pennsylvanians. This work may be uncomfortable and challenging, but it must be done in order to create a better future for us all.

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