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October 19, 2018

10/3/2018 3:26:00 PM
Together, We Are the Library
A Guest Essay by Karen Danczak Lyons

At the Sept. 26 meeting of the Evanston Public Library Board, we shared recommendations and views from an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) study of the Library undertaken from January 2018 through September 2018. Consultant DeEtta Jones, principal of DeEtta Jones and Associates, discussed her methodology and summarized the feedback she received during conversations with more than 100 community members and leaders. We undertook this study in response to community concerns regarding EDI at the Library.

We are absolutely and continuously committed to meeting the diverse expectations and needs of Evanston residents. Over the next 30 days, our residents are invited to read the report and share their thoughts, comments and suggestions either online or via a paper comment form available at all EPL locations. Only through working together, engaging in an honest and respectful dialogue, listening to all residents and finding meaningful ways to provide library service can we establish trust with our residents who have most deeply felt the burdens of racism and oppression. I look forward to hearing from both new voices in the community and our patrons. Building upon our strengths, celebrating what is working and thinking about new ways to serve the unserved will result in refinement of our programs and services.  

EPL is committed to providing equitable access to information, library services and programs. Viewing the work of the EPL through an equity lens will be continual. This important work has no end date. Specifically regarding a study recommendation, I look forward to working with our residents, partner institutions and the City of Evanston to find new ways to engage with our African American and LatinX residents.

Systemic and meaningful change will take time. A regular cycle of evaluation, reflection upon results and refinement will not end.  Honest discussion about resources and the need to reallocate efforts to meet the needs of the unserved will result in changes to our services – changes in content, targeted audience and expectations for results.

The Evanston Public Library is an active institution that doesn’t wait for patrons to come to the library to ask a question or check out a book. We are constantly exploring the frontiers of what equitable access to resources means to Evanstonians so everyone has the opportunity to improve themselves through the various forms of literacy. Along with welcoming everyone within the walls of our libraries, we bring our free-to-participate programs, services and books to locations throughout the community.

I invite you to join me in our work so that we can serve the needs of you, your family and all of your neighbors. The Evanston Public Library, like all public libraries, offers countless opportunities for learning, growth and civic engagement.  Let’s work together for a better future built upon trust, honesty, respect and the desire to provide opportunities for all. Together, we are the library.

Ms. Lyons is Director of the Evanston Public Library.

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