Libraries are often considered neutral spaces and librarianship a neutral profession, but Brooklyn Public Library is far from neutral on the issue of racism in America. We unequivocally condemn all forms of violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC). Loud and clear, we believe that Black lives matter.

We welcome the tens of thousands of protestors who continue to gather on the steps of Central Library, and we answer their call to face the history of our nation—a history of systemic racism from its very founding—and take action toward a genuinely equitable future. 

With them, we mourn the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many others by unaccountable police. We stand against the white woman who weaponized a 911 call against a Black man in Central Park and the systems that enabled her to do so. We refuse to accept the disproportionate loss of Black life in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the violence faced by Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, Layleen Polanco, and so many other Black transgender people. We commend both the activists who have labored for decades and the ones who have taken to the streets for the very first time to demand equity.

Equity has long been at the heart of BPL’s mission. We endeavor to provide Brooklynites of every race, age, gender, class, and physical ability with a safe, welcoming space, as well as the educational resources and technology they need to participate in and advance a democratic society. In order to practice what we profess to value, we must foster a consistent culture of anti-racism in all of our locations and the neighborhoods they serve. 

Reading will play an essential role in dismantling white supremacy, as Michelle Alexander, Ibram X. Kendi and many others have recently pointed out. We have begun to compile relevant reading lists and resources; offered unlimited simultaneous checkouts for a few of the most popular titles, including Kendi’s own How To Be an Anti-Racist, Layla F. Saad's Me and White Supremacy and Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility; and pledged over $200,000 to grow our collection of materials by and representing Black people, and Indigenous people, and other people of color. To continue the dialogue off the page, face to face and neighbor to neighbor, the Library will also invest in systemwide programming that elevates the viewpoints of BIPOC writers, artists and leaders and digs beneath white denial, discomfort and defensiveness.

Of course, we cannot combat racism in our communities unless we address it head-on within our own institution. We seek to better understand the traumatic racial oppression our BIPOC colleagues have experienced, in both explicit and subtle guises, and to be more effective allies. We have begun a series of virtual all-staff forums called Real Talk: Race, Truth, and Transformation in an effort to establish an ongoing, honest, cross-racial conversation, disrupt white complacency at BPL and generate ideas for long-term culture change.

We will establish a Diversity Council, which will engage a variety of staff to assess relevant data, set goals, measure results, and hold ourselves accountable. Informed by the findings and recommendations of additional taskforce teams, the Council will reevaluate our policies and practices related to recruitment and hiring to ensure our organization is representative at every level, including leadership. It will also continue to develop BPL’s diversity, equity, and inclusion training so that all of our employees receive training in areas such as implicit bias, microaggressions, and active bystandership. 

All of this work and more will be outlined in an action plan collectively developed by our staff, patrons, and partners, and integrated into our strategic plan. It is long overdue. The Library was established in 1896, three decades after slavery was abolished, to "improve the quality of minds of the people and lay the foundation of a better civilization for the future," and surely there will be no better civilization until all of us can, finally, partake in it equally.

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