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Saint Paul Public Library Racial Equity Initiative

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Saint Paul Public Library Racial Equity Initiative

Saint Paul Public Library, Minn.

Equity and Inclusion | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

Saint Paul Public Library launched a racial equity initiative in 2014 as part of a citywide effort focused on equity in its workforce, policies and services. Recognized as a leader among city departments, the Library changed hiring practices to double staff of color and changed programs because of their impact on guests and staff of color.


Racial inequities in policies and practices are difficult to see and address, especially in predominantly white organizations. With a citywide workforce that is 82 percent white, a large part-time workforce and challenging promotion rules, the Library has struggled to diversify and promote staff of color. Yet the school age population is only 22 percent white. The library has advanced strategies, such as using a racial equity assessment tool and staff training, to address institutional and structural racism as part of a citywide initiative, and has been a leader in changing practices that may unintentionally discriminate in hiring, promotion and services.

Key Elements of Innovation

Workforce: Improved recruitment, hiring panels must have staff of color; allow part-time staff to “stack” multiple jobs to achieve full-time work.

Training: Staff trained in day-long racial equity foundations, follow-ups twice annually, orientation training; director is citywide training coach.

Assessments: Evaluate practices for disproportional impact — Storytimes (“equalized” English to eight other languages); monitor race/ethnicity of presenters for diverse representation; eliminated library card requirement to access services. Annual racial equity plans by branch and library department; quarterly dashboard report to Mayor.

Racial Equity Change Team: Advises on annual plan and policies/practices for assessment; surfaces workplace climate issues; broad staff representation.

Achieved Outcomes

Doubled staff of color from 2014-2016 to 40 percent staff of color, 60 percent white, matching city population. Allowed part-time staff to attain full-time hours, eliminating disproportional impact with 15 percent increase to full-time staff of color in three months. All staff trained in racial equity foundations in first year, twice annual follow-ups. One hundred and fifty staff attended Race: Are We So Different and talking circles. Eliminated library card requirement for computer use because disproportionate impact on patrons of color. Our five-part interactive Conversations on Race series, which included talking to children about race, government's role in racism, what is bias, and institutional/structural racism, received an "Excellent" rating among 60 percent of participants.