Call to Action for Public Library Workers to Address Racism

Call to Action for Public Library Workers to Address Racism

PLA Statement Condemning Systemic Racism and Violence Against BIPOC People

The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), calls on public library workers to commit to structural change and to taking action to end systemic racism and injustice. PLA thanks members of its Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice for their guidance and leadership in development of this statement and call to action. The statement recognizes and supports ALA’s statement condemning violence against BIPOC, protesters and journalists, and ALA’s statement acknowledging ALA’s role in perpetuating structural racism. PLA applauds the creation of a working group to create recommendations on restorative justice practices and the use/presence of police in libraries (ALA CD #45).

The Public Library Association shares the nation’s anger, sadness, and frustration over the epidemic of violent acts perpetrated against Black people. We demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, and for their families and communities. We stand in solidarity with Black people engaging in collective action against systemic racism, oppression, and injustice. Across the country, the pattern of police violence in response to protests — coupled with a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting communities of color — further reveals our country’s disgraceful legacy of state-sanctioned violence against Black people. We join the chorus of voices demanding an end to this violence and insisting that Black Lives Matter.

Because we believe that #LibrariesTransform, we also commit to honest reflection and structural change. We acknowledge that public libraries have been — and still are — complicit in systems that oppress, exclude, and harm Black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC). The library profession remains overwhelmingly white, despite decades of emphasis on diversity and inclusion. We see incredible examples of self-determination and resilience by BIPOC librarians and educators, yet the profession has largely failed to improve conditions and ensure pathways for advancement among library workers of color. We commit to dismantling white supremacy in libraries and librarianship. We recognize the urgency of this collective work, and commit to hold ourselves, our colleagues, and our institutions accountable when we fall short.

Call to Action for Public Library Workers

We call on public library workers to join us in taking the following action steps:


  • Study, amplify, and align with the policy demands of the Movement for Black Lives. Ask yourself: What can the movement’s call to divest from punishment and policing — while investing in long-term safety strategies such as schools, libraries, employment, health, and housing — mean for your library and your community?
  • Change library policies that punish and criminalize patron behavior. Invest in alternatives to policing and security guards within library spaces. See, It’s not enough to say Black Lives Matter.
  • Evaluate the messages about police and policing libraries promote to children and families in programs and collections. See, Policing Doesn’t Protect Us, and Evaluating Children’s Books about Police.
  • Create a Plan of Action for addressing racism and working toward collective liberation. Start where you are, engage others, and make a long-term commitment to listening, action, and reflection.
  • Address structural racism. Work with BIPOC communities to identify and implement structural changes that must occur within libraries. Build staff investment at every level, while shifting resources to support racial equity initiatives in libraries and staff-led action teams. Evaluate policies and procedures using racial equity tools and develop racial equity action plans to sustain this work.
  • Develop and fund programs, services, and collections that center the voices and experiences of people of color and shift power to communities for co-curation and co-creation.
  • Materially support organizations that provide resources and build community for BIPOC working in libraries, including We Here, the Spectrum Scholarship ProgramBCALA, and JCLC.


PLA and the PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice commit to do the following:


  • Convene meaningful conversations about EDISJ in public libraries. In the next few months, we will be hosting a series of Twitter chats. The next chat will be on Creating Inclusive Communities on August 5 at 12:00 p.m. Central.
  • Identify the action step(s) above that we are collectively best positioned to address during our next year of work and develop concrete recommendations for PLA to advance racial equity and organizational change in libraries;
  • Evaluate the structure of the Task Force with the aim of creating a more diverse and representative entity with the capacity to move this transformative work forward; and
  • Embrace discomfort as we navigate challenging and emotional subjects. To uproot racism and white supremacy within ourselves and our institutions will require immense courage, compassion, and the honest desire for accountability.

SELCO Releases Anti Racism Statement

The SELCO board recently approved the following anti racism statement:

“SELCO commits itself to not only ensuring that its policies and practices are anti racist, but also to promoting equity and diversity within the organization. In addition to our role of helping libraries provide services, we also pledge to educate, foster dialogue, and provide resources so that our member libraries have the tools to address any inequities that they may see in their communities.”

As we continue to listen, learn, and grow, this statement will guide SELCO’s policies and procedures. You can find the statement at any time on the policies page of our website. 

ALA Condemns Police Violence

In a June 11 statement, the American Library Association condemned police violence against people of color, protesters, and journalists. The full statement reads as follows:

The American Library Association is deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as the killings by police or vigilantes of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others. We are in solidarity with the statements of BCALA [the Black Council of the American Library Association] and APALA [the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association], and affirm our earlier statement [on June 1] condemning violence and racism toward black people, indigenous people, and all people of color.

We recognize “that institutionalized inequities based on race are embedded into our society and are reinforced through social institutions,” and we condemn the systemic racism and violence that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experience on a daily basis in our inequitable society.

We also condemn the violence that protesters and journalists across the country are facing while exercising their First Amendment rights. The former raise their voices to demand justice; the latter seek to document and share history as it is being made. Both have been subject to gratuitous attacks from police. The First Amendment promises freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government, all of which are essential freedoms of our democracy and vital components of intellectual freedom.

ALA has long sought to safeguard the rights of library users, libraries, and librarians, in accordance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and ALA has pledged to “[s]upport antiracism work within the broader society by monitoring, evaluating, and advocating for human rights and equity legislation, regulations, policy, and practice.” Furthermore, as stated in “The Universal Right to Free Expression: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, ALA “opposes any use of governmental prerogative that leads to intimidation of individuals that prevents them from exercising their rights to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas. We urge libraries and librarians everywhere to resist such abuse of governmental power, and to support those against whom such governmental power has been employed.”

As such, ALA calls upon its members to support initiatives to end police violence against Black people, to combat the systemic racism that infects our society, and to speak out against all attempts to restrict First Amendment rights. ALA further calls upon federal, state, and local governments to uphold, preserve, and respect the constitutional rights of protesters, of journalists, and of all people who want to make their voices heard and to share their words and ideas with the rest of the world and future generations.

Approved by the ALA Executive Board June 9, 2020

Original Statement drafted and approved by ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee

Endorsed by the Social Responsibilities Round Table

Niche Academy now offering free COVID resources

The training platform Niche Academy is now offering free online training and resources on a variety of COVID-related topics. Whether it’s myths and facts about the virus itself, or information regarding the ripple effect the virus has created, there are plenty of resources to choose from on the Niche Academy COVID page.

Some of the classes you can expect to find on the page include the spread, symptoms, and prevention of COVID. However, there are also a number of classes that address mental health, job searching, and other issues that have arisen as a result of the COVID pandemic. 

Niche Academy will be curating this collection of training and resources, so check back frequently for new courses!

OverDrive to donate ebooks and audiobooks for simultaneous use library lending

In response to the unprecedented demand for digital books for your readers, OverDrive paid participating publishers and authors for rights to a growing collection of ebooks and audiobooks that will be provided for unlimited simultaneous use, at no cost for your library. Created to help your library deliver more titles to more readers, OverDrive’s COVID Response Collections will supplement your catalog with titles that can be used for student summer reading programs, digital book clubs, community reading events, and general inventory support.
Libraries are working to meet urgent demand for Juvenile and Young Adult content to serve remote learning during shutdowns. The first set of titles donated by OverDrive will be a Kids & Teens bundle including over 200 ebooks, audiobooks, and Read-Alongs from Rosen Publishing, Lerner Publishing Group, Britannica Digital Learning, Triangle Interactive, and other participating publishers.
OverDrive is also acquiring rights from leading publishers for Adult Fiction and Nonfiction collections to support your library. We will update you as new collections are confirmed.
The Kids & Teens bundle of donated titles will be added to your OverDrive collection during the last week of June 2020. All ebooks and audiobooks will be available in simultaneous use, at no cost to your library, through August 31, 2021. When new titles are added to this program, we will automatically add them to your collection. As with all OverDrive-supplied content in your collection, you will be able to curate these donated titles in any way you’d like.
We will follow-up when the first titles in the OverDrive COVID Response Collections are live. Until then, please feel free to reach out to your Account Manager with any questions, or if you wish to opt out of receiving this donation.

$15 Million in IMLS CARES Act Grants Now Available for Museum and Library Services

May 8, 2020

$15 Million in IMLS CARES Act Grants Now Available for Museum and Library Services
Applications for Pandemic Response Funding Due June 12, 2020

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced two new funding opportunities for museums, libraries, federally recognized tribes, and organizations that primarily serve Native Hawaiians. The combined $15 million federal investment will provide direct support to these institutions, equipping them to respond to community needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Museums and libraries have never been more essential to their communities,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “COVID-19 has not only created a public health emergency, but it has also created a deep need for trusted community information, education, and connection that our libraries and museums are designed to provide.”

The CARES Act allocated funding to IMLS to enable libraries, museums, and organizations serving tribal communities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including by expanding digital network access, purchasing Internet accessible devices, and providing technical support services to their communities. The $15 million available through these new grants follows previous phases of funding announced over the past few weeks.

The deadline for submitting applications to either funding opportunity is June 12, 2020, with award announcements anticipated in August.

IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries support museums and libraries in addressing their communities’ immediate and future needs caused by the pandemic. Projects may focus on preserving jobs, training staff, addressing the digital divide, planning for reopening, or providing technical support and capacity building for digital inclusion and engagement. Applicants are encouraged to prioritize services for high-need communities.

IMLS CARES Act Grants for Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum and Library Services assist tribes and organizations that primarily serve and represent Native Hawaiians in responding to the urgent and future needs of their communities. Applications focused on digital inclusion, technical support, rehiring or retraining staff, reopening planning, and other pandemic-related priorities are welcomed.

“Access to and use of all kinds of health, job, government, educational, social, and cultural resources are necessary to weathering the current situation, beginning efforts to reopen, and providing services to sustain communities,” said Kemper. “Together, we can brighten the future for museums, libraries, tribal communities, and people across America.”

Upcoming Webinars

Interested applicants are invited to attend free informational webinars to learn more:

These webinars will be through GoToMeeting, and advance registration is required. Recordings will be made available on-demand on the IMLS website.

For More Information
To apply for these grants, as well as to IMLS’s other available funding opportunities, please visit the IMLS website.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries
IMLS CARES Act Grants for Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum and Library Services

ALA releases 2020 State of America’s Libraries report

CHICAGO – Today the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2020 State of America’s Libraries report, an annual summary of library trends released during National Library Week, April 19 – 25, that outlines statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries during the previous calendar year.

Although the report focuses on 2019, libraries are shown to be on the frontlines addressing societal and community challenges – a role they are certainly playing during the COIVD-19 pandemic today. Many libraries serve as first responders who take on roles outside of traditional library service that support patrons’ needs and community development. Functioning at various times as career counselors, social workers, teachers and technology instructors, library staff give special care to adopt programs and services that support the most vulnerable and curious.

The report found that the popularity of libraries in 2019 continues to soar. According to a recent Gallup poll, visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips per year to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in other common leisure activities like going to the movies, a museum or the zoo.

The best proof that public libraries are about more than just books is their evolution into libraries of things, offering nontraditional collections that are community-specific and imaginative. The wide array of items available to check out includes mattresses, dolls, bicycles, binoculars, and accordions.

Our nation’s academic libraries have a major impact on student success. Statistics gathered by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, demonstrate how academic libraries support many types of high-impact educational practices (HIPS) that have beneficial effects on student retention, graduation rates, time to graduation and grade point average. Academic library staff provided instructional sessions (both face-to-face and electronic) to more than 7 million students. More than 57% of the almost 800,000 instructional sessions were digital or electronic.

School librarians have focused on instructing students in information literacy to ensure they are ready to use data in decision-making. The perception is that youth growing up with access to ubiquitous technology can easily and effectively use data; however, a recent report on data literacy found that “60% of US workers 16 to 24 years old—people who had been raised surrounded by technology—are overwhelmed by the data they must read and analyze as part of their jobs.”

Additional report findings illustrate a 17% increase in the number of books targeted for removal or restriction fueling library staff efforts to protect the freedom to read. Hundreds of attempts from the public to remove or restrict materials, cancel programs, and dismantle displays and exhibits took place in public, school and academic libraries. The majority of library materials and services targeted for removal included or addressed LGBTQIA+ content.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Overall, 566 books were targeted. Here are the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019,” along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

1. “George,” by Alex Gino

Reasons: to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

2. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

3. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

4. “Sex is a Funny Word,” by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

5. “Prince & Knight,” by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis Reasons: featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.

6. “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

7. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

8. “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

10. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: LGBTQIA+ content

Access to a video announcement and infographics regarding the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019 are available at Previous lists of Top 10 Most Challenged Books dating back to 2001 are available at

Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2020 report, available at .

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is observed each April by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country. National Library Week celebrations include National Library Workers Day, April 21; National Bookmobile Day, April 22, and Take Action for Libraries Day, April 23. For more information on National Library Week, please visit or follow #NationalLibraryWeek.

American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

Connecting Kids to Books While Your Building is Closed

By blogger Abby Johnson | abbylibrarian

Many of our library buildings are closed to the public right now (including mine). So how can we connect kids to the great books we have in our digital collections? I have some ideas for marketing digital books to kids and I would love your suggestions in the comments.

First step? Make sure they are there.

This sounds simple, but I know my library’s e-book collection is mostly comprised of adult and teen books because those are traditionally the e-books that have circulated for us. With the astronomical cost of digital books, it didn’t make sense for me to buy too many kids’ titles because they simply weren’t used at the rate that our books for older readers were. Now, with kids out of school and unable to access our physical books, I’m beefing up our e-book offerings for younger readers.

The good news is that even though prices are still very high, sometimes kids’ e-books are not as expensive as adult e-books, which can help you bulk up the collection. If you’re really starting from scratch, reach out to your rep who can help suggest ways to find less expensive books that might allow you to quickly build up your collection.

Next, tell your patrons about your digital collection in general.

This is definitely something that’s a work in progress for all of us, I’d guess. What avenues have you used to get the word out about your digital collection? We have done email blasts and frequent social media posts. This week I started adding some reviews of digital material to our weekly New Books email along with our general information email and a note to shoot me an email if anyone needed help getting set up with digital books. Our local newspaper is doing a COVID-19 edition and we’re taking out a full page ad to promote our digital services.

Then, promote titles! Curate lists on Overdrive.

Screenshot of a Libby digital booklist for marketing digital books

If your library uses Overdrive, you have the ability to curate lists of materials that appear on your Overdrive site and on Libby or Sora. Utilize curated lists to share staff recommendations, seasonal “displays” or lists that coordinate with school assignments to help with nontraditional instruction. Creating digital “displays” is a way of marketing digital books that mirrors the physical displays you’re familiar with making. You already know how to do this!

During typical times, I try to switch out my lists about once a month, but now that we’re All Digital All the Time, it may be a good idea to change the lists more often depending on how much your families are using them. I like to set them to display all titles, but display available titles first so readers see available books right away.

If you’ve never curated lists before, reach out to your Overdrive rep and I know they will be happy to help you get started.

Create Collections on Hoopla

Example of a Hoopla digital booklist screenshot for marketing digital books

Did you know that you can create your own Collections on Hoopla? In the library dashboard, click on the Collections tab and you can create private collections. Check the box to show them to your patrons when you’re ready. These will show up in the large list of categories (which are a little hard to find), but (more usefully) you can also link directly to them. Here’s another place where you can do staff picks, seasonal lists or lists that tie in to your local schools’ curricula. Hoopla’s giant catalog can be intimidating to navigate, so marketing digital books on Hoopla by creating collections can really help your patrons out. If budget’s a concern, rest assured that the price per download is shown directly in the search when adding items to a collection so you can easily limit the books you’re promoting to the less expensive titles or formats if you wish.

Add lists in your OPAC or a staff blog

Screenshot of an Overdrive digital booklist for marketing digital books

Does your patron-facing catalog allow you to add book lists? Consider switching them over to items that are available digitally. I honestly don’t know how many people I’m reaching with these catalog lists, but my hope is that I’m capturing SOME patrons who might not already know about our ebook offerings and whose first instinct is to head to our library catalog instead.

We’ve also shifted gears with our staff blog and are completely focusing on promoting digital services and materials, as well as links to curated resources from outside the library. I’m also mobilizing our team to post more frequently while our buildings are closed since the blog is one of the few ways we have to communicate with our patrons. Our blog posts can be shared on our Facebook page to reach even more folks.

If you’re not a person with permission to curate lists directly on your e-book platforms, you can potentially create lists linking directly to e-book titles on a website, blog, or even a Google doc that you could share with patrons or in response to reader’s advisory questions.

No E-Books? No problem.

Don’t have an e-book collection of your own? There are many publishers and platforms offering free trials or free limited collections this spring in response to school and library closures and there’s no reason you can’t look for your favorites and be marketing digital books on those platforms with patrons. The Indiana State Library has a pretty good list of some of the resources available, as well as links to other state libraries with additional resources. Even if you yourself don’t have the authority to add any of the platforms currently offering free services, it may be worth a look to see if there are e-books or e-audiobooks available for free that you would want to booktalk or highlight for your patrons.

IMLS Announces New Stimulus Funding for Communities Across America

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced measures to award the first $30 million of $50 million appropriated to the agency in the CARES Act.

The $30 million in the funding phase announced today will be distributed to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, and the Freely Associated States based on population. The agency is allocating these grants through its most significant in-place funding vehicle for all states and territories, State Library Administrative Agencies (SLAAs), who are encouraged to use all available mechanisms to reach museum and tribal partners, as well as traditionally eligible libraries.

These funds are in addition to previously announced measures to support the urgent needs of museums, libraries, their staff, and the communities they serve. On April 6, IMLS authorized new flexibilities for its nearly 1,300 open awards in response to the impact of COVID-19.

“Together, we must address this challenge in the places most affected by coronavirus,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “This pandemic has highlighted the fact that people in rural and tribal communities, as well as those in high-poverty areas or remote regions lacking access to broadband, have been disproportionately affected. We must target these funds to provide job, health, economic, and other high-impact relief, and this funding round focuses on providing efficient, urgent help to citizens across the nation.”

States and territories will be able to use the funds to expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices, and provide technical support services to citizens to address digital inclusion efforts and related technical support, using the following types of data to prioritize efforts:

  • Poverty/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  • Unemployment; and
  • Broadband availability.

“The urgent expansion of broadband access and digital services enables people to connect to the health, community, government, and job information so critical today, and to the other programs and services that play an enhanced role in the current health emergency,” said Kemper. “While we are distributing these funds through State Library Administrative Agencies, we urge museums and related organizations to partner with libraries in this vital endeavor.”

The state allotment tables can be viewed here; IMLS will provide additional details and anticipated timelines of this funding availability directly to SLAAs. The agency also plans to announce additional measures to aid museums and libraries, both through its current funding and that received through the CARES Act.

More information is available at For the latest information, subscribe to IMLS news updates.

Updated information from IMLS/CDC

Hello Library Directors,

I hope this Monday finds you and yours well. Today I’m just passing along a couple of resources. First, from the CDC/IMLS webinar this morning, please visit this page for information from IMLS.  It includes the links that the CDC referred to in the presentation this morning. A recording of the presentation will be posted there when available. There were a couple of takeaways from the session: first, be in close contact with your local public health authority as you are decision-making; second, hand hygiene is critically important; third, the CDC does not consider library materials to be at high risk for transmitting the virus. However, if you are particularly concerned about specific items, use an approved cleaner and disinfectant to the extent that the material allows, and if additional concerns, quarantine materials for up to 24 hours.


This next resource is from Gigabit Libraries Network. They are hosting a series of webinars on digital services that you may find of interest. You can access the first one (Internet Access) at this link: Recording from 3/26: Part 1: Internet Access–


Finally, I’ll be sending along a Skype invite for an MDE  meeting with library leaders on Thursday at 1pm.  Please feel free to forward it on to others who may be interested or want to have a conversation.


With my warm regards,


Jennifer R. Nelson

Director, State Library Services and Charter Center

651-582-8791 |