Advancing Racial Equality in Public & Academic Libraries

Black lives have always mattered. Only now are the library system’s standard operations undergoing scrutiny in order to address universal human rights; to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people in the US. In the wake of America’s boiling point from racial profiling, systemic racism, microaggressions, and far too many murdered from police brutality the American Library Association finally responded. They released a plan of action to center the voices and experiences of Black library workers, support the Black community and the broader Black Lives Matter movement, fight against police violence, and help the cause of racial justice. While my local joint-use branch, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library currently offers an array of online events, they can stand to add programs and services year-round, focused to further advance the Black Lives Matter movement. Of the American Library Association’s recommendations, a few interesting programs and services not currently offered are as follows:


  • Community conversations – highlighting the demands of local Black Lives Matter groups or similar Black-led community organizations (such as San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, African American Community Services Agency (AACS), African American Jewish Partnership Project (AAJP), or Black Lives Matter Bay Area). This initiative would encourage dialogue for combating acts of violence, creating space for Black innovation, and centering Black joy.
  • Host a Hip Hop Architecture Camp promoting Hip Hop Culture as a catalyst to effectively engage underrepresented youth and encourage them to explore architecture and design. This creative community engagement initiative would capture the voices of the underrepresented African American population within this culturally diverse community.
  • We Speak Your Language program fosters meaningful, ongoing engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This initiative would provide knowledge, skills, and abilities to serve the Chinese, Vietnamese, Latinx, Filipino, Ethiopian, and African American patrons within this community.


  • Material Highlights- Showcase materials featuring Black authors and main characters throughout the year and not just during Black History Month or MLK Day. Be mindful of observances such as the National Day of Racial Healing.
  • Online Webinars providing training on topics related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Black Lives Matter at School– providing guidance to teachers on BLM lessons and assisting the university in organizing school rallies, facilitating students, developing curriculum, and rallying at school board meetings.

Again, I believe these programs and services would be good additions to the programs and services currently offered by this library in proactively seeking to eliminate racial inequities and advance equity. Additionally, the use of these tools can increase objectivity, deepen dialogue, and keep the focus on institutional change. They support the mission and goals of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. library by fostering lifelong learning, providing timely accurate information assistance that will inform, and empowering the public.

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