Equity Work at the Library
In support of our mission, we seek to ensure that everyone feels welcome, valued, respected and safe in our spaces; to promote intellectual freedom and protect the rights and privacy of all patrons; and to celebrate the diverse cultures, experiences and perspectives in our community through our spaces, collections and programs.
On May 25, 2023 the Library Board of Trustees formally adopted a new statement on equity, race and social justice. This statement will guide the work of the entire organization.
Statement on Equity, Race and Social Justice
The Seattle Public Library’s mission is to bring people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. In support of this mission, we seek to ensure that everyone feels welcome, valued, respected and safe in our spaces; to promote intellectual freedom and protect the rights and privacy of all patrons; and to celebrate the diverse cultures, experiences and perspectives in our community through our spaces, collections and programs.
We distinguish between equity and simple equality, and strive for the former in all aspects of our work. Equity recognizes relevant differences between people and works to overcome the disadvantages and obstacles that prevent some people from accessing or fully benefitting from Library programs and services. Simple equality, however, requires treating all people in exactly the same way, regardless of the relevant differences between them, and tends to perpetuate injustice by maintaining those disadvantages and obstacles. We are committed to advancing our core values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility at all levels of our organization and in all aspects of our work. In alignment with the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), we work to uncover and dismantle institutionalized racism in our organization and to advance racial, social and economic justice in the Seattle community.
We stand with our colleagues in public libraries across the country as a signatory to the Urban Library Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity, which calls for the elimination of racial and social inequities in library programs, services, policies and practices; and its Declaration of Democracy, which opposes institutionalized racism and its corrosive effects on democracy and calls for the full political and civic enfranchisement of all people.
We are committed to removing barriers to accessing Library programs and services, particularly those barriers that result from racial, social or economic oppression. In pursuit of this goal, our priority is to engage with, listen to, and address the unmet needs of people of all ages who have been historically marginalized on the basis of race or who remain subject to racial, social or economic injustice. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Indigenous peoples
- Black communities
- Other communities of color
- People who are experiencing housing insecurity or difficulty meeting basic needs
- LGBTQ+ people
- People with disabilities or need for accessibility accommodations
- Immigrants and refugees
- English-language learners
- People who are currently or formerly incarcerated.
Although this work is difficult and evolves as new challenges and opportunities arise, it is fundamental to our mission and urgent for our community. When more people are empowered and more voices are heard, everyone benefits and the whole community is strengthened. We approach this work with humility and transparency, focusing on building the authentic and transformative community relationships that make lasting progress possible.
Through this work, we aspire to become a library where Seattle’s many diverse communities can find their identities, cultures, and interests represented; where their experience and expertise is valued; and where they can easily and equitably access what we have to offer and feel a sense of belonging.
2023-2024 Equity, Race and Social Justice Priorities
In 2023, we are working with community partners and external consultants to develop a strategic plan that will represent our collective vision for the future and lay out our short and long-term goals and priorities in centering equity, race and social justice.
While we develop our strategic plan, the Library will be working to advance the following equity, race and social justice priorities:
- Build and strengthen community relationships through outreach, listening sessions, and direct support for community-led programs.
- In collaboration with community partners, expand the reach and impact of the Library by offering programs and services in the community, directly to underserved populations.
- Develop new ways to center and amplify the voices of diverse communities through our collections, programs, services and partnerships.
- Continue the development and implementation of the Library’s Language Access Plan, which provides language support to patrons who speak languages other than English.
- Build the infrastructure and staff capacity needed for full engagement in equity, race and social justice work.
- Provide space, support and opportunities for staff to connect and discuss issues of equity, race and social justice through voluntary racial caucusing.
- Prepare for a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility assessment of Library culture and operations performed by an external consultant in 2024.
- Expand the use of Racial Equity Toolkits to inform and support equitable public policy, project development, community engagement, implementation and assessment.
Putting Equity Into Practice
We put our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility into practice through the work we do every day. Below, we highlight some recent and current projects, programs, and partnerships that exemplify this commitment.