About This Page
This web page highlights the latest developments from ULC's Race and Social Equity 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or feedback.Learn more about ULC's action teams
A Message from the Team
No one has all of the answers when it comes to dismantling the systems of 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, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia or transphobia.
As highly-trusted public institutions and deeply connected community anchors, libraries have an especially critical role to play in uprooting systemic bias 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 a more fair and equitable future.
Current Guiding Questions
What are the key data metrics that libraries should be using to measure and demonstrate race and social equity 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 and social equity?
Meet the Team Members
Newport News Public Library
Director, Libraries and Information Services
Sonia Alcantara-Antoine has been the director of libraries and information services for the City of Newport News since 2017. Before becoming a director she held leadership positions at Virginia Beach Public Library and Enoch Pratt Free Library. She is a 2004 American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and is active in a number of professional association groups including the Urban Libraries Council and the Virginia Library Association.
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.
Michelle H. Hamiel
Prince George’s County Memorial Library System
Chief Operating Officer for Public Services
Michelle Hamiel has spent the last six years helping to position PGCMLS as a national leader in the library world. Michelle currently serves as the facilitator for the Maryland Library Association Equity Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce. Michelle has also served as the facilitator for the Maryland State Libraries diversity and Inclusion taskforce.
Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach
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.
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.
Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson
Houston Public Library
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 or public libraries, Rhea 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.
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.
Contra Costa County Library
Deputy County Librarian
Alison has worked for the Contra Costa County Library in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 18 years. She has served in her current position of deputy county librarian since 2015. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the Library's IT team and virtual services, as well as nine out of 26 branch libraries. Her particular passion is working to provide equitable, innovative services and opportunities to underserved residents of Contra Costa County.
Gwinnett County Public Library
Director of Branch Services
Margaret is the director of branch services for Gwinnett County Public Library in metro Atlanta, leading the library’s 15 branches and four learning labs. Margaret’s work includes the renovation and expansion of GCPL’s public programming and outreach services, the integration of health and social services with the library’s core services and the professional development of library staff.
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.
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.
Oak Park Public Library
Director of Social Services and Public Safety
Rob Simmons started his role as director of social services and public safety at Oak Park Public Library in March of 2016. Rob is one of the first library social workers in the United States. His innovative work has resulted in programs that provide resources such as: free mental health assessments, educational support for low-income students, supportive housing advocacy and employment assistance. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s degree in Social-Service Administration from The University of Chicago.
Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi
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 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.
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.
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
More from ULC on Race and Social Equity
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
- ULC Statement on Race and Social Equity
- ULC Statement on the Role of Libraries in Dismantling Systemic Racism
- ULC Innovations Initiative submissions
- Entries on the ULC blog
- Results from the most recent ULC Race and Social Equity Flash Poll
From ULC's Social Media
- ULC's #TakeAPageFromLibraries social media campaign
From ULC's Member Knowledge Center (🔒
ULC members only)
- Anti-racism resources
- HR Policies
- Non-Discrimination and Respectful Workplace - Hennepin County Library
- Job descriptions
- Diversity & Inclusion Officer - Indianapolis Public Library
- Partnership and service models
- Community CARES Career Labs - Saint Paul Public Library
- Race and social equity strategic planning examples
- 2019-2021 Strategic Plan - Anchorage Public Library (see pg. 2-3, 7)
- Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Charge - Skokie Public Library
- iCount: Removing Barriers to Equity @ Your Library - LA County Library