Aspiration to Action | Diversity 2016

What can we do? This has to be one of the most commonly asked questions in America—even before the recent presidential election brought a wave of hate crimes more pervasive than the one that followed the September 11 attacks. The ongoing impact of bigotry in America is, perhaps, the quintessential “wicked problem.” A legacy of housing discrimination continues to shape neighborhoods—and how they are served by schools, police, and, yes, libraries—to this day. Studies continue to show implicit bias along lines of race and gender that impacts hiring, promotion, compensation, and retention—and explicit bias is still with us. All of these factors feed one another, eluding simple solutions to any that leave the others out of the equation.

ljx161201webdiversityslugbig2What can we do? This has to be one of the most commonly asked questions in America—even before the recent presidential election brought a wave of hate crimes more pervasive than the one that followed the September 11 attacks. The ongoing impact of bigotry in America is, perhaps, the quintessential “wicked problem.” A legacy of housing discrimination continues to shape neighborhoods—and how they are served by schools, police, and, yes, libraries—to this day. Studies continue to show implicit bias along lines of race and gender that impacts hiring, promotion, compensation, and retention—and explicit bias is still with us. All of these factors feed one another, eluding simple solutions to any that leave the others out of the equation.

We don’t claim that the initiatives that follow will allow the libraries that invented them, or their replicators, to solve racism, or transform what Alden E. Habacon calls “bento box diversity”—(mostly) peaceful coexistence of groups side by side but not a lot of interaction—into a truly equitable society.

Still, each example is an answer to the question, “What can we do that will make a difference?” They have in common a determination to grapple with the challenge in a truly concrete way, to take on one part of a problem and move the needle in their own communities with not just aspiration but action.

Of course, these are far from the only projects that fit those criteria, among them the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Social Justice Symposium for teens, covered by our sister publication School Library Journal, and programming that tackles opening dialog on gentrification in Brooklyn and Seattle. If your library is taking on these issues, please share your approach with us.

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