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Meeting with new officers, the Library Board of Trustees on July 19 heard City Equity and Empowerment Coordinator Patricia Efiom describe the process she envisions for the Library.

The new officers are Benjamin Schapiro, President; Tori Foreman, Vice President; Vaishali Patel, Secretary; and Shawn Iles, Treasurer. Although the terms of three trustees – Mr. Iles, Margaret Lurie, and Ms. Patel – expired on June 30, Mayor Steve Hagerty has said he would not make any new appointments or reappointments until after the Library has undergone its equity evaluation and training.

Mr. Schapiro began the meeting by praising the work of trustee Michael Tannen, who retired last month as President and who was unable to attend the meeting.

Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons said she has interviewed seven consultants and hopes to be able to bring a recommendation to the bBoard in August. She said the consultant will likely find things the Library is doing well and things that could be improved. Recruitment, retention, and communication will be key issues. “We will relate this work to our strategic plan and our ongoing work,” she said.

 “It’s important that we have a thought-leader, and one who has experience around equity, to describe the process and look internally [and externally] to engage the community in conversation,” Ms. Lyons also said. She added that she expected the equity consultant and process to be part of the budget decisions for 2018 and 2019.

Conversations about equity must involve the entire community, Ms. Lyons said, noting that the American Library Association has put equity, diversity, and inclusion at the top of its national agenda.  

Ms. Lyons also said the consultant would work “every step of the way” with Dr. Efiom. Equity work takes time and patience “to engage in the process of healing … so Evanston will be what we want it to be,” Dr. Efiom told the Board.

Turning to the West Branch Library planned for the new Robert Crown Center, Mr. Schapiro read a declaration from the Board honoring Delores Holmes for her long-time support of the Library and its efforts. In her honor, the new branch will have the Delores Holmes Community Meeting Room. Ms. Holmes retired from her position as Fifth Ward Alderman earlier this year.

“The honor is wonderful,” Ms. Holmes said. “I have always been in support of the Library. I’m very proud of the way you’re moving now. We have to let people speak for themselves. Most people of color can speak for themselves – they are willing to speak as long as you give them a chance. … Robert Crown is a good location – it may not be the best location but it is a good location. … Just remember, there’s always this side and that side, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...