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Action Team: Anti-Racism

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New Leadership Brief Produced by This Team

ULC’s new Leadership Brief, Anti-Racist Executive Leadership for Public Libraries, focuses on the power of self-aware and committed public library executives in ensuring racial justice. It calls on all library executives to own the challenge and impact of enduring racism, acknowledge their own biases and use their leadership to dismantle structural racism, starting in their own library systems.

ULC thanks Gale, a Cengage company, for their sponsor support of this Leadership Brief. Learn more at gale.com/equity.

Gale Cengage

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About This Page

This web page highlights the latest developments from ULC's Anti-Racism action team, which is one of six member-led teams spearheading ULC's Going Forward from the Pandemic initiative.

This page receives ongoing updates. Please contact crogers@urbanlibraries.org with questions or feedback.

Learn more about ULC's action teams

Hear from Leaders of This Team

    [Webinar] Finding Our Way Forward Together: Advancing Libraries as Anti-Racist Leaders

    Originally hosted July 14, 2021

    ULC hosted library leaders from across North America for this critical conversation with members of the ULC Anti-Racism action team, including:

    • Michelle Hamiel (Chief Operating Officer for Public Services, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System)
    • Karyn Prechtel-Altman (Deputy Director of Public Services and Community Engagement, Pima County Public Library)
    • Roosevelt Weeks (Director of Libraries, Austin Public Library)

    ULC Director of Strategic Initiatives Tandra Turner moderated this discussion and an introduction was provided by ULC Anti-Racism action team member and ULC Executive Board Chair Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi (Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Professor of Communication, University of the Pacific; President, San Francisco Public Library Commission).

    This webinar was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant LG-246440-OLS-20.

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    A Message from the Team

      No one has all of the answers when it comes to dismantling the systems of racist inequity and injustice that are so deeply ingrained in our societies. However, none of us can remain on the sidelines when it comes to the human rights issues of racism and race equity.

      As highly-trusted public institutions and deeply connected community anchors, libraries have an especially critical role to play in uprooting systemic racism by convening diverse voices, reaching out to marginalized communities and ensuring free and open access to information for all.

      Representing diverse perspectives from libraries across North America, our team is dedicated to identifying and helping to create actionable steps and key resources that can help all libraries achieve tangible, immediate progress in shaping an anti-racist future.


      Current Guiding Questions

        Measuring Progress

        What are the key data metrics that libraries should be using to measure and demonstrate anti-racist and race equity work?

        Internal Work

        How can our libraries address racism and equity gaps in our organizational cultures and internal structures?

        The Words We Use

        How can libraries clearly communicate our fundamental role in advancing race equity and social justice?


        Meet the Team Members

          At Sonia

          Sonia Alcántara-Antoine

          Baltimore County Public Library

          Director

          Sonia Alcántara-Antoine is the director of Baltimore County Public Library in Maryland. She previously served as the director of libraries and information services for the City of Newport News, Va. Before becoming a director, she held leadership positions at Virginia Beach Public Library and Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md. She is a 2004 American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and is active in a number of professional association groups including the Urban Libraries Council. She holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Florida State University and is currently working towards a master’s degree in public administration from Old Dominion University.

          Leticia Cotto Profile

          Leticia Cotto

          Hartford Public Library

          Customer Experience Officer

          Leticia Cotto has served as customer experience officer for the Hartford Public Library since 2017. She has over 27 years of experience developing and delivering equitable access to quality programs and services in early childhood literacy, adult education and computer literacy. Before serving in her current role, Leticia managed one of the busiest branches in the system for 14 years in addition to co-owning of a small coffee house and bookstore specializing in the sale of books by Latinx authors and about Latinx themes. Leticia strongly believes in the power of libraries to effect change in communities in support of democratizing access to critical information and resources that help improve and enrich lives and communities.

          At Michelle Hamiel

          Michelle H. Hamiel

          Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

          Chief Operating Officer for Public Services

          Michelle Hamiel is known and respected throughout Maryland Libraries as an extraordinary leader with enhanced leadership skills and exceptional judgment. As Prince George's County Memorial Library System's chief operating officer, Michelle leads the mission, vision, innovation and operations of the library's 19 branches and the county detention center. Her seasoned experience, dedication and leadership skills have contributed to some of the library's most high-profile initiatives.

          Lisa Hathaway

          Lisa Hathaway

          Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach

          Library Director

          Lisa Hathaway has worked in school and public libraries for the last 20 years. She began her career as a youth services librarian where she was known for her out-of-the-box storytimes, character impersonations and commitment to providing free homework assistance and free lunches to the library’s youngest patrons. She is currently the library director of the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach where she encourages a love of literacy for people of all ages and backgrounds, while supporting jobseekers, small businesses, economic redevelopment and lifelong learning. Mandel Public Library is known for its distinctive programming, activities, lectures and workshops that are focused on inspiring an equitable, informed and enlightened community.

          Gayathri Headshot

          Gayathri Kanth

          Palo Alto City Library

          Interim Library Services Director

          In addition to serving as the interim library services director of the Palo Alto City Library, Gayathri is also a MidPeninsula Media Center Board member. Prior to this assignment, Gayathri was the community librarian of the Cupertino Library and the Saratoga Library. Gayathri is a Fellow of the 2017 national leadership cohort in the Public Library Association and a 2010 Fellow of the California Eureka Leadership Institute. Gayathri believes that the library’s critical role is to collaborate and partner with community stakeholders and local government departments to facilitate community engagement and wellness.

          330Rhea

          ​Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson

          Houston Public Library

          Director

          Since 2005, Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson has served as director of libraries for HPL, the largest public library in the state of Texas. A strong and passionate advocate for public libraries, Dr. Lawson is keenly focused on ensuring that public libraries are equitably accessible, highly visible and vibrant organizations that provide leadership for, and remain essential to, the quality of life in their communities.

          Pamela Mc Carter

          Pamela McCarter

          Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

          Equity Initiative Leader/Outreach Coordinator

          Pamela McCarter's efforts at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library are geared to develop and promote equitable and inclusive programs for marginalized citizens in our community. She also leads diversity, equity, inclusion and social equity efforts for the library. With more than 20 years of experience working with youth, adults, older adults and non-traditional library customers, she also champions the importance of equitable library access and opportunities for Charlotte’s underserved populations.

          Alison Mc Kee

          Alison McKee

          Contra Costa County Library

          County Librarian

          Alison has worked for the Contra Costa County Library in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 18 years. She was appointed as county librarian in February 2021 after serving as deputy county librarian in 2015. Alison is responsible for overseeing the library budget as well as many big projects including an upgrade of the Library's IT security system and moving the library to a state sponsored broadband network that will increase internet speed at the libraries ten-fold. Her particular passion is working to provide equitable, innovative services and opportunities to underserved residents of Contra Costa County.

          At Karyn

          Karyn Prechtel-Altman

          Pima County Public Library

          Deputy Director of Public Services and Community Engagement

          As Deputy Director, Karyn supports all 26 Pima County Public Library locations and most of its programs and services. She works with talented staff who have designed and implemented new initiatives to expand the library’s reach into the community.

          At Heather Robertson

          Heather Robertson

          Calgary Public Library

          Director, Service Design

          With experience in both academic and public library environments, Heather Robertson has been with the Calgary Public Library since 2005, working in various leadership roles including manager of diversity services, manager of community services and as the functional program lead for the new Central Library project. In her current role, she oversees the Collections, Information Technology and Service Design departments.

          Mary Wardell

          Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi

          University of the Pacific; San Francisco Public Library Commission

          Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Professor of Communication, University of the Pacific; President, San Francisco Public Library Commission

          An educator, executive, author and thought leader on implementing broad-based diversity strategies, Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi (she/her) serves as the president of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, stewarding a $160 million budget for a system of 28 city libraries. Through her leadership, SFPL won the coveted National Public Library of the Year in 2018. Mary also serves as the Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Professor of Communication for the University of the Pacific. She previously served as the inaugural vice provost and chief diversity officer at the University of San Francisco and is a leadership, organizations and diversity studies lecturer in the USF School of Education and School of Management. Mary is the founder of the Latinas in Leadership Forum, an annual empowerment and leadership conference for emerging Chicanx-Latinx leaders based in San Francisco, and the founder and principal of The DEI Leadership Group, a leadership development, diversity solutions and crisis management firm based in San Francisco.

          Roosevelt Weeks 330

          Roosevelt Weeks

          Austin Public Library

          Director of Libraries

          Roosevelt Weeks has served as the director of Austin Public Library since 2017, where he leads a dynamic team and library system of 20 branch locations, the History Center and a new Central Library. He came from the Houston Public Library, where he serve, most recently, as the deputy director of administration overseeing the following units: organizational development, financial services, fleet inventory/distribution services, digital inclusion and community engagement. He is a member of and serves on several committees within the Texas Library Association, American Library Association and Public Library Association.

          At Donna Z

          Donna M. Zuiderweg

          Columbus Metropolitan Library

          Community Engagement Officer

          Donna is the Chief Community Engagement Officer for Columbus Metropolitan Library, a 23-location library system serving the people of Franklin County, Ohio. A member of the Executive Leadership Team, Donna leads the Development, Marketing, Collection Services and Strategic Initiative & Advocacy teams. She is responsible for planning and executing a comprehensive and collaborative strategy for engaging the community in the important work of the library.

          Deep Dive Resources

            All resources in this section have been recommended by members of this action team.

            Identifying and Adddressing Gaps in Organizational Culture

            Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves (article)
            In the Library with the Lead Pipe

            The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture (article)
            Showing Up for Social Justice

            Eight Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits (article)
            The Nonprofit Revolution

            Talking with Youth About Anti-Racism
            The Library's Role in Anti-Racism

            More from ULC on Anti-Racism

              Beyond this action team, a commitment to dismantling structural racism and advancing race and social equity is central to all of ULC's work. Use the links below to learn more about how ULC and our members are actively leading the way toward a more inclusive, just and equitable future for the communities we serve.

              From ULC's Website

              From ULC's Social Media

              From ULC's Member Knowledge Exchange (🔒 ULC members only)