Results from an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) study conducted this year by the Evanston Public Library (EPL) reinforced community wishes for a greater library presence in the neighborhoods. While many of the recommendations put forth by consultant DeEtta Jones and Associates (DJA) are in motion, others are new and getting immediate attention.
Community members are encouraged to read the report which is posted online at epl.org/equityreport and available in hard copy at all library locations. Community members are also encouraged to offer comments/feedback through November 30 online or via paper comment form at all Library locations.
“While the study validated some of our strategies and activities, it also pointed to new ways for connecting with all of our communities,” says Karen Danczak Lyons, director of the EPL. “We are absolutely and continuously committed to meeting the diverse expectations and needs of Evanston residents. A priority for us now is exploring how to more effectively engage and support the African-American community. We recognize that a history of racism and ongoing racial disparities in our country, in our community, and in our institutions creates real trust issues that require a longstanding commitment, thoughtful action, constant work and honest dialogue to overcome. More effectively engaging with Latinx residents will be another continual area of focus. A new Latinx Community Engagement Librarian, Mariana Bojorquez joined the Library staff in August after an extensive search. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to co-create a Library that best serves all of our residents.”
The most visible request sought by community members participating in the assessment is a library footprint in the Fifth Ward. Beyond existing Library programs and partnerships there, and EPL wi-fi hotspot usage in the area, Jones recommends that the Library find a way to ‘establish a meaningful presence in the Fifth Ward, one that is informed by people who live in that community…and with community partners.
“Ensuring the Library is addressing all of its constituents’ needs or desires requires candid conversations,” says DeEtta Jones, principal of DJA. “For this study, we made sure to gather insights not only from the community, but also from inside the library. Those voices helped paint a picture of readiness to engage the diverse communities, as well as identifying the obstacles to doing so.”
Other recommendations from the study include:
- Embed EDI metrics into the Library’s practice; use the organization’s values and metrics to drive decision-making
- Embed EDI into the Library’s communication strategy
- Increase the representation of people of color on staff
- Shift the focus of programs and services from passive to active engagement
- Work directly with the Equity and Empowerment Officer to create a city-wide engagement assessment process
- Offer professional development experiences that enhance the cultural competence of EPL staff
- Engage members of diverse communities to help inform and shape Library offerings
- Establish an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) committee comprised of EPL staff
- Create a group focused on equity, race and diversity composed of Library staff and community members.
The study was conducted between January and September of 2018. DJA interviewed more than 100 community members and leaders, individually and in small and larger groups, from across Evanston’s racially and economically diverse spectrum. Questions posed included:
– What is the EPL doing particularly well related to how they serve and collaborate with the diverse communities in Evanston?
– What are the/your unmet needs/expectations?
– What would a satisfactory outcome of EPL’s current focus on an equity, diversity and inclusion assessment and strategy look like for you?
– Are there specific areas where you would like them to focus new or different energy?