Library Awarded RAILS Grant to Create Video Series to Advance Equity in Library Services / Biblioteca Otorgada Una Subvención Para Producir Series de Video Para Avanzar en la Equidad en el Servicio de Biblioteca

By taking the recommendation of the Evanston Public Library’s Racial Equity Task Force (RETF) to create an innovative outreach video series and running with it, Evanston Public Library is now the proud recipient of the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System) My Library Is… Grant. This grant provides an opportunity for libraries to tell powerful stories that increase their visibility and express their value to the community.

Through this video project, the Library aims to increase its visibility among historically marginalized communities; raise awareness of all the resources that are available at the Library; and engage in deeper conversations with underrepresented voices in our community. One of EPL’s primary goals is to remove as many barriers as possible for equitable access to the Library’s materials, programs, and resources. The videos will highlight some of the ways that the Library is accessible to underserved populations, such as the availability of bilingual staff and materials and to showcase the Library as a dynamic, useful, and reliable source of information and programming for all.

About a year ago, Evanston Public Library founded its first Racial Equity Task Force.  Their counsel and advice is invaluable and provides not only an ongoing opportunity for underrepresented voices in the community to be heard, but also provides the Library with new ideas and perspectives. The RETF works to ensure the voice of the community is being heard with respect to how EPL fulfills its mission to serve our diverse community. Current RETF members represent a cross-section of the Evanston community and Library staff.  This committee includes eight (8) community members, four (4) staff members, and two (2) Library board members with members of the community representing Wards 2, 4, 5 and 9. The RETF typically meets once a month and makes recommendations on integrating equitable content into EPL programs, identifies ways EPL can expand equity and inclusion throughout the Library’s work, and helps EPL serve its diverse communities and staff.

“As the Evanston community becomes even more diverse, this work will continue to be a critical part of the Library’s DNA,” said Karen Danczak Lyons, Library Director of Evanston Public Library. “This video series will be an ongoing project, as a way to keep the community informed about the library’s work and progress.”

Stereotypes of libraries as dusty old buildings with no-nonsense librarians persist today, even as librarians and libraries have become much more diverse in their staff, who they serve, and how they serve them. Not only are these images inaccurate, they are actively harmful to underrepresented people in our community, who may feel that the Evanston Public Library is not for them, adding unnecessary barriers to access.  The result is that people miss out on the resources and services they are entitled to, and the Library misses out on robust, well-rounded engagement with the entire community.

The racial equity outreach video series is a direct offshoot of the RETF’s suggestions. Part of the mission of the RETF involves increasing the Library’s visibility amongst historically underrepresented and marginalized communities. To better market our services to these communities, the Library in collaboration with the RETF will get the project underway by producing three videos that demonstrate EPL’s services and resources to the Latinx community and reintroduce all underserved populations to the resources and services EPL provides today.

In awarding the grant, RAILS Member Engagement Manager Dan Bostrom had this to say to Evanston Public Library: “We look to you to be a model for the rest of the library system.”

Al tomar la recomendación del Grupo de Trabajo de Equidad Racial (RETF) de la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston para crear una innovativa serie de videos, le queremos informar que la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston es la orgullosa receptora de RAILS (Sistema de Bibliotecas/Reaching Across Illinois) My Library is … subvención. Esta subvención brinda a las bibliotecas la oportunidad de contar historias poderosas que aumentan su visibilidad y expresan su valor para la comunidad.

A través de esta serie de videos sobre la equidad racial, la biblioteca tiene como objetivo aumentar su visibilidad entre las comunidades históricamente marginadas; crear conciencia sobre todos los recursos disponibles en la biblioteca; y entablar conversaciones más profundas con voces poco representadas en nuestra comunidad. Uno de los objetivos principales de EPL es eliminar tantas barreras como sea posible para que la gente tenga más acceso a todos los materiales, programas y recursos que la biblioteca ofrece. Esta serie de videos destacarán algunas de las formas en que la biblioteca es accesible para las comunidades marginadas en Evanston. Por ejemplo, los videos mostraran el crecimiento de personal y materiales bilingües y como la biblioteca es una fuente dinámica, útil y confiable, dando información sana y programación para todos.

Hace aproximadamente un año, la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston fundó su primer Grupo de Trabajo de Equidad Racial (RETF). El consejo y asesoramiento de este grupo es invaluable y brinda no solo una oportunidad continua para que se escuchen voces poco representadas en la comunidad, sino que también brinda a la biblioteca nuevas ideas y perspectivas. El RETF trabaja para garantizar que se escuche la voz de la comunidad con respecto a cómo EPL cumple su misión de servir a nuestra comunidad diversa. Los miembros actuales del RETF representan una sección de la comunidad de Evanston y el personal de la Biblioteca. Este comité incluye ocho (8) miembros de la comunidad, cuatro (4) miembros del personal de EPL y dos (2) miembros de la mesa directiva de la biblioteca—con miembros de la comunidad que representan a los barrios 2, 4, 5 y 9 de Evanston. El RETF generalmente se reúne una vez al mes y hace recomendaciones sobre la integración de contenido equitativo en los programas de EPL, identifica formas en que EPL puede expandir la equidad y la inclusión en todo el trabajo de la biblioteca, y ayuda a EPL a mejor servir a sus diversas comunidades y personal.

“En cuanto la comunidad de Evanston se vuelva aún más diversa, este trabajo continuará siendo una parte crítica del ADN de la Biblioteca”, dijo Karen Danczak-Lyons, Directora de la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston. “Esta serie de videos sobre la equidad racial será un proyecto continuo, como una forma de mantener a la comunidad informada sobre el trabajo y el progreso de la biblioteca”.

Los estereotipos de las bibliotecas como edificios viejos y polvorientos con bibliotecarios sin sentido persisten hoy, incluso cuando los bibliotecarios y las bibliotecas se han vuelto mucho más diversos en su personal, a quién sirven y cómo los sirven. Estas imágenes no solo son inexactas, sino que activamente daña a las personas poco representadas en nuestra comunidad, que pueden sentir que la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston no es para ellos, lo que agrega barreras innecesarias para el acceso de información y recursos. El resultado es que las personas pierden acceso a estos recursos y servicios a los que tienen derecho, y la biblioteca se pierde un compromiso sólido y completo con toda la comunidad.

Esta serie de videos es una rama directa de las sugerencias del RETF, o el Grupo de Equidad Racial. Parte de la misión del RETF consiste en aumentar la visibilidad de la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston entre las comunidades históricamente poco representadas y marginadas. Para comercializar mejor nuestros servicios en estas comunidades, la biblioteca en colaboración con el RETF pondrá en marcha la producción de tres videos que demuestren los servicios y recursos de EPL a la comunidad Latina y también introducirá a todas las poblaciones poco representadas los recursos y servicios que EPL brinda hoy.

Al otorgar la subvención, Dan Bostrom, Gerente de Participación de Miembros de RAILS, dijo esto a la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston: “Esperamos que usted sea un modelo para el resto del sistema de bibliotecas”.

Evanston Public Library Has a Lean Budget But Expansive Outreach and Long-Term Plans

by Shawn Iles and Karen Danczak Lyons (as previously published in the Evanston Roundtable)

The work of the Evanston Public Library is far-reaching, multi-dimensional and personal and is best developed through direct input from those we serve. We are dedicated to meeting the diverse needs and expectations of our residents both within the walls of our libraries and in locations around the community where our residents gather – from schools and parks to community centers.

Our services are available 24/7 through the online resources on our website at  We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to improve themselves through the various forms of literacy.

Through an equity lens, we are committed to serving the un- and under-served residents in Evanston, especially in the Fifth, Eighth and Ninth wards.  As we pilot new service models at new locations, we will be realigning our resources. This may mean adjusting service hours at our libraries and redeploying staff to address service equity. With an operating budget significantly leaner than comparable area libraries, EPL meticulously budgets and works diligently to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.

As we continue to explore the definition of equity in Evanston, it is our goal to co-create our library services with the residents we seek to serve. By listening, building relationships and engaging in honest, respectful dialogue, we hear from both new voices and long-time patrons. We take feedback seriously and encourage you to connect with us through any means: whether that’s talking directly to library employees, filling out a “comment” form on our website or calling on the phone. We are absolutely committed to experimenting and finding new ways to provide library service throughout Evanston.

There are many ways we work to encourage dialogue. Trustees attend community meetings and reserve time before board meetings to meet with the community.  Our Executive Director and engagement staff visit businesses, library partners and residents throughout the City seeking input and convening community conversations. Residents are invited to complete surveys.

The EPL was founded in 1873. Over the passing years, our City has changed and so has the business of the Library as we continuously evolve to meet new needs. When we opened the doors of the new Main Library 25 years ago, we looked for books and other materials through a card catalogue. Online databases, streaming video, E-books, computers with internet access, free Wi-Fi within the library, and circulating Wi-Fi hotspots to take home – none of these services was available in the past.

Today we bridge the digital divide and provide a safety net for our most at-risk residents, including those who suffer with memory loss, and individuals struggling with homelessness or mental illness. We have a full-time social worker, one of very few libraries providing this service. We provide spaces and programs for our teens to explore the boundaries of their curiosity and talents. We support new parents and help grow the next generation of readers. All of these services and too many to catalogue here are available to everyone each day.

As community needs and issues evolve, we continue to develop and sustain an engaged relationship with the Evanston community so that we can evolve organically along with you. We have not always gotten this right. We are trying new approaches including learning together about Asset Based Community Development: creating new library services by recognizing the existing strengths inherent in our community and letting those strengths guide us towards how we can do better for all of Evanston. We have convened a joint Board/Staff/Resident Racial Equity Task Force to review our library through an equity lens.

We are committed to doing a better job of engaging with you – finding out what you want to share; learning about your aspirations; listening to your observations and uncovering your unmet needs.

These efforts are intended to bring our work into alignment with your vision of library service and constantly affirm that we are working alongside you and contributing to your vision for a more equitable Evanston.

One hallmark of a good library is that the work it does reflects the needs and aspirations of the community. We will keep holding up that mirror. We count on you to let us know what you see there.

Mr. Iles is President of the Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees and Ms. Danczak Lyons is the Executive Director of the Evanston Public Library.

Racial Equity Task Force Begins Its Work

Based on a recommendation in the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion report prepared last fall by DeEtta Jones and Associates, the Evanston Public Library has created a Racial Equity Task Force. The task force is designed to represent the voices of people of color in the community as the Library continues to work toward becoming an equitable organization. The Task Force has met regularly since August and meets twice a month on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

The Racial Equity Task Force is made up of eight community members, all people of color. Some are educators who deal daily with the issues of equity and inclusion in the schools where they teach. Four Library staff members and two members of the Library Board of Trustees also serve on the task force.

The task force has begun by reviewing the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion assessment, and identifying barriers that exist across the community. A primary intention is to reach under-served residents, especially in the 5th, 8th, and 9th wards. On the Library’s part, the goal is to own its portion of the institutional racism that exists in Evanston, which was acknowledged by this summer’s resolution adopted unanimously by the Evanston City Council to affirm the City’s commitment to end structural racism and achieve racial equity.

“We are listening to what the task force is telling us about how people of color perceive the library and its relevance to their day-to-day lives. Our growing understanding is that this community wants us to better understand their needs and tailor our efforts to meet them where they are. We are using their equity lens to help identify and break down the barriers that exist to provide greater access to those who need the most,” says Assistant Library Director Teri Campbell. “We are excited by their willingness to brainstorm thoughts and ideas about how to become a more inclusive organization.”

EPL intends to use the work of the task force to create a more welcoming atmosphere in the Library for those who may be uncomfortable within it, or to become more enticing for those who may not yet use Library services. The task force will also help determine how the Library can best present itself while working outside library walls in the broader community. The overall goal is to expand the library’s reach in a way that is most sensitive to the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The member of the Racial Equity Task Force are:

Community Members

Jenna Arceneaux: Ward 5 resident

Juan Campoverde: Ward 9 resident

Nicholas Davis: Ward 2 resident

Tracy Fulce: Ward 2 resident

Joshua Hall: Ward 9 resident

Linnea Latimer: Ward 5 resident

Lisa Montgomery: Ward 3 resident

Amanda Richardson: Ward 4 resident

Board members:

Rachel Hayman: Ward 3 resident

Terry Soto: Ward 9 resident

Library Staff: 

Carmen Francellno: Ward 9 resident

Jose Maldonado

Lorena Neal: Ward 7 resident

Teri Campbell

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