Posts in topic: social justice

Let’s talk race: The power of conversations

For many people, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has had great personal importance since its origins in 2013—especially in the past year. But in South Carolina, where I work as Manager of the Richland Library Edgewood, this important issue took on even greater local consequence with the murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston and the Charleston church shooting in 2015.

Many people were angry, confused, and frightened. There was a need for reliable news and information and for constructive local discussions. As a community-driven organization, we saw this as a humanitarian crisis, and so we asked, “How can the library help our community heal?”

Our answer was, “Let’s talk race”—a simple but powerful set of programs open to anyone in the community. We’ve now facilitated more than 90 conversations with 4,000+ community members from all backgrounds on a variety of topics explicitly convened to discuss race, social justice, and inequality.

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Racial and social justice: A blueprint for constructive conversations

Issues of racial and social justice impact all facets of our communities, and therefore, all our libraries. As we continue to look for ways to increase racial and cultural equity, we are buoyed by our activist efforts to support privacy, equitable access, and intellectual freedom, and sobered by the realization that our histories and the ground upon which they have been built have not always demonstrated support of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is critical that global libraries engage in ongoing discussions to surface concerns, share insights, and help lead our community efforts.

During a recent OCLC Global Council roundtable, we used a structured discussion format to share perspectives and gather insights around current environments, library reactions, and what our responsibilities as libraries should be going forward. We didn’t come up with all the answers, but the discussion was rich and informative.

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Supporting racial equity—in individual steps toward common goals

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Earlier this month, I wrote about the killing of George Floyd and about the necessity for a response. While that post itself was one kind of a response, I know that hundreds of millions of other people, in communities all over the world, are responding in many other ways, too. It’s an extraordinary outpouring. It is a moment and a movement unlike any other in my lifetime.

I also said that an event such as this requires time to reflect, to understand, and to learn from each other. Something this important is worthy of our resources, and one of those resources is time. For that reason, OCLC dedicated Friday, 5 June 2020, for staff to take the day off and reflect, engage, be active, and support the African American community in a way that is in line with our values.

I’d like to share with you some of the very personal ways that OCLC team members are engaging.

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We must remember George Floyd. And we must do more.

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We sometimes refer to libraries, archives and museums as “memory institutions.” That’s not a bad description. But it’s not complete. Because memory implies something that is in the past. Something that isn’t active. And so much of what happens in the work we do for our communities happens now, today, this very minute.

What is happening now requires a response. We must speak out against racism and injustice.

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