Libraries promote equity, diversity and inclusion

June 17, 2016 3:42 pm
by 

By J. Gordon, Chair, and Rachel Myers, Vice-Chair, Bellingham Public Library Board of Trustees

Libraries can be places of comfort and support during sad and challenging times, and serve as powerful forces for change by promoting equity, diversity and inclusion.

On behalf of the Bellingham Public Library, we wish to take this opportunity to affirm these values and our commitment to providing services that are free of charge and welcoming to all. We celebrate inclusion and opportunity for everyone, we encourage an environment where diverse ideas flourish, and we oppose discrimination in all its forms.

This affirmation comes on the heels of the tragic loss of life in Orlando, Florida. By remarkable coincidence, the American Library Association (ALA) hosts its annual conference this week in Orlando. Shortly after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the ALA committed to supporting that community as some 25,000 librarians, library workers and others gather there June 23-28.

“Our nation’s libraries serve communities with equity, dignity and respect. ALA will carry this legacy to Orlando. In defiance of fear, ignorance and intolerance, the library community will continue its profound commitment to transforming communities by lending its support.” ALA President Sari Feldman said.

“Librarians and library workers are community leaders, motivators and social change agents… Like the libraries we represent, the profession’s commitment to supporting communities, social justice, and abolishing intolerance is unwavering.”

Our commitment is unwavering

We, too, are deeply saddened and stunned by the tragic events in Orlando. Our thoughts remain with the victims, their families and friends, and the LGBTQ community, along with all others who face barriers, intimidation or violence due to inequity and intolerance. We join the ALA and libraries across the country in our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion for all.

Along with our colleagues meeting in Orlando this week, our commitment is unwavering. The ALA statement below describes long-standing values to which we steadfastly commit:

Libraries in America are cornerstones of the communities they serve. Free access to the books, ideas, resources, and information in America’s libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment, and self-government.

Libraries are a legacy to each generation, offering the heritage of the past and the promise of the future. To ensure that libraries flourish and have the freedom to promote and protect the public good in the 21st century, we believe certain principles must be guaranteed.

To that end, we affirm this contract with the people we serve:

  • We defend the constitutional rights of all individuals, including children and teenagers, to use the library’s resources and services;
  • We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve;
  • We affirm the responsibility and the right of all parents and guardians to guide their own children’s use of the library and its resources and services;
  • We connect people and ideas by helping each person select from and effectively use the library’s resources;
  • We protect each individual’s privacy and confidentiality in the use of library resources and services;
  • We protect the rights of individuals to express their opinions about library resources and services;
  • We celebrate and preserve our democratic society by making available the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions and ideas, so that all individuals have the opportunity to become lifelong learners – informed, literate, educated, and culturally enriched.

Change is constant, but these principles transcend change and endure in a dynamic technological, social, and political environment.

By embracing these principles, libraries in the United States can contribute to a future that values and protects freedom of speech in a world that celebrates both our similarities and our differences, respects individuals and their beliefs, and holds all persons truly equal and free. (Libraries: An American Value, adopted by the Council of the American Library Association, 1999)

Communities must rally against intolerance

Too often we mourn loss of freedom, dignity and human life. Recent tragic deaths in Orlando and elsewhere further underscore the need for our communities to rally against discrimination and intolerance.

Public libraries are in a unique and special position to promote equity, diversity and inclusion for all. At the Bellingham Public Library, these responsibilities shape everything we do and form the core of our mission: Connecting our community with each other and the world to read, learn, meet and discover.

J. Gordon serves as Chair and Rachel Myers serves as Vice-Chair of the Bellingham Public Library Board of Trustees.