We were all horrified to learn about the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis last week, and along with a long list of other recent racist incidents and the disproportionate affect of COVID 19 on African American communities, our country’s past and present issues with systemic racism are again front and center.  I’ve been trying to sort out what to do and say about that on this blog for several days.  In the meantime, others have pulled together some useful resources and ideas–see below for some links.

The thing to remember is that systemic racism affects ALL of our children every single day, and we as librarians have a responsibility to think about our work in light of it, no matter where we work or live.  As Wisconsin’s favorite librarian/pediatrician Dr. Dipesh Navsaria writes about so compellingly in his recent opinion piece What Would Emmett Till Think of Us Today?  in the CapTimes,  we have to look at our policies, our collections, our programming, our hiring practices, our everything in light of this.  How can we be antiracist?  Racism can be uncomfortable to think about, and white people in particular need to lean into that discomfort and live with and work with it beyond the few days it is front and center in our national consciousness.

I’d be happy to talk with you more about this one-on-one or in a small group.  I’m definitely in need of lots of work, learning, probing, and continued nudging to think and act about racism–to be an antiracist.  More posts coming about this, so let me know if you have thoughts or resources or questions to add!  For now, here are some things I’m considering:

Educate ourselves.  Here are some options to consider that are specifically library-related:

Check out (and think about) what professional organizations that matter to us are saying:

Look at your collection!  REALLY!

  • Be sure you have a whole range of books that are by and about BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).  Both about antiracism and racism, but also about joyful parts of life!  There are so many places to look for these, here are a few:
  • Remember to feature these books once you purchase them in displays, programming, booktalks, and more.  They might not go out or be used unless you promote them!  Check out this booktalking toolkit from We Need Diverse Books.
  • Lori Roholt reminded me today that there is a way for staff to create Staff Pick Lists about a variety of topics!  [Brief detour to see all the cool lists that are currently featured.]  Make sure to include materials by BIPOC and other diverse creators in all of your lists, and maybe create some lists for kids, families, and adults who are trying to make sense of our current situation.
  • I just looked and the recent book by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi Stamped:  Racism, Antiracism, and You has 23 holds on 13 copies in MORE.  Note:  There are only 5 copies of the adult version of this book, Stamped from the Beginning, in MORE.  I’m anticipating increased demand for both books.
  • The post I wrote about Soft Censorship earlier this year didn’t have much effect on collection development.  Womp, womp.