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Action Team: Race and Social Equity

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 crogers@urbanlibraries.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

      Measuring Progress

      What are the key data metrics that libraries should be using to measure and demonstrate race and social 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 and social equity?


      Meet the Team Members

        At Sonia

        Sonia Alcántara-Antoine

        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.

        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 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.

        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 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.

        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

        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.

        Margaret Penn Profile

        Margaret Penn

        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.

        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.

        At Rob Simmons

        Rob Simmons

        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.

        Mary Wardell

        Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi

        San Francisco Public Library Commission

        President

        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.

        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

          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

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

          Talking with Youth About Racism and Social Equity
          The Library's Role in Race and Social Equity

          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

            From ULC's Social Media

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