Guest post submitted by Cole Zrostlik
In early 2022, Wisconsin public library staff interested in learning about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in and outside of their libraries participated in Wisconsin Libraries Talk About Race. The series was planned in response to input from the entire Wisconsin library community and a need for dialog around issues of race, inclusion, and community. Organizers of the series worked to gather input from Libraries Talk About Race participants and it became clear that not only was there a need for Libraries Talk About Race to continue, but that voices of BIPOC, neurodivergent, disabled, LGBTQ+, and other historically marginalized/unheard library staff members needed to be amplified.
An advisory committee consisting of ten Wisconsin library professionals, each with unique perspectives on racial equity, was formed in late 2022. Applicants were offered compensation for their time, and library workers with diverse identities and backgrounds were encouraged to apply. Applications to participate were distributed statewide.
Over the course of four meetings, each advisory committee member reviewed feedback from the previous series and worked with continuing education consultants in the state to determine ways Wisconsin library workers could take action against racism and white supremacy while supporting their BIPOC colleagues. Members discussed the best ways to spend Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding for continuing education purposes.
The group recognized a need for greater support for BIPOC library staff in the state. Professional learning topics for 2023 were identified and discussed; they included allyship, LGBTQ+ topics, supporting BIPOC staff, and creating a sense of safety for all library staff and users. ”Active Allyship,” or being engaged, and prepared to take consistent and meaningful action to ensure communities are safe and inclusive for all, was identified as a focus for this year’s Libraries Talk About Race series.
In the coming months, the information provided by the advisory committee will shape further events and workshops in the Wisconsin Libraries Talk About Race series.
Thank you to the advisors, who joined from all across the state: Rusk County Community Library, Brewer Public Library, La Crosse Public Library, Plum Lake Public Library, Beyond the Page (Dane County Library Service), Milwaukee Public Library, Argyle Public Library, Ben Guthrie Lac du Flambeau Public Library, Oak Creek Public Library, and McMillan Memorial Library.