“What’s the number one thing we need to remember? Be a GOOD HUMAN.”
~ Auntie Plum, Haliburton County
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” The topic at hand for this post is to consider how Ontario’s public libraries support those freedoms in relation to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and Intellectual Freedom. Every community is different and unique; therefore the application of EDI may vary slightly from one library to the next. It is important to regularly reflect on and review the library’s position and communication about EDI as understanding develops and new information is presented.
EDI work within the public library reaches every level of the organization including the Board and its policies and planning, HR practices, programming, collection development, customer service, spaces, online activity, and much more. This can lead to uncertainty about where to begin this work and what processes to follow. Consider starting with a critical review of the Library’s mission, vision, and values statements. Do they represent the Library’s commitment to Intellectual Freedom and EDI? Do they represent all of the Library’s users and community members?
“Some of the books we read have some very important topics that some parents or kids may not know how to talk about; gender, race, bullying, the importance of protecting water, being kind to one another, the list goes on. We read the stories, but the adults take the kids home, and then the conversations happen, or they don’t. But for one hour we plant seeds of inclusion, acceptance and freedom to be yourself. Those seeds go on and perhaps spread and open the mind and hearts of those who need it and help keep open the ones of those who already get it.”
~ Fantasia LaPremiere, Thunder Bay
Next up are the Library’s policies – there is great value in having a foundational policy that establishes and communicates the Library’s position BUT it is important to also review all other policies to determine how Intellectual Freedom and EDI can be incorporated within policies related to programming, collection development, meeting room use, HR, social media and communications, and more. There are implications to be considered at every level and up to date policies provide library leaders / staff with solid support during the delivery of service.
Providing talking points or key messaging notes for staff and library leadership will also help to support the library in maintaining a safe and welcoming environment. Consider the ways in which the library’s EDI work will be shared online through the library’s website or social media and how staff will interact with comments or questions. Effective communication about programming, collections, and other library services supports strong relationships with local media and individuals when discussing these nuanced and sometimes challenging topics.
Ontario Library Service (OLS) recently had an opportunity to deliver a live webinar on the topic in partnership with the Haliburton County Public Library focusing on the public library experience in hosting and delivering Drag Storytime programs (you can access the recorded webinar on LearnHQ). Some of the most valuable resources to help your library’s development can be gained through talking with colleagues at other libraries, borrowing or adapting effective practices and procedures, bringing questions to networking events, and of course the OLS Consulting Team is always available for questions and support.
For anyone looking for more context and resources for Ontario public libraries incorporating EDI practices into their organizations, the OLS has released a new professional resource guide on this topic. This guide includes lists of further resources and a link to the recording of the live webinar mentioned earlier in this post.