A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Creating Cultural Change: Bringing DEI to Life – a Reflection

by Charlene Hsu Gross, Branch Manager, DeKalb County (GA) Public Library, PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on June 27, 2024

The Stark Library in Canton, Ohio presented Creating Cultural Change: Bringing DEI to Life at the PLA 2024 conference.  When I came to the conference as a scholarship recipient, I was especially interested in learning from other public library systems about their experience with equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Since I have been serving on my library system’s EDI Committee, I have wanted to understand how we can further our values to the benefit of staff and patrons alike.

In Creating Cultural Change, the leadership of the Stark Library presented one story of a successful, focused, and cohesive effort to build DEI into the DNA of the organization.  They started with their inclusion statement  to be “open to all” and to “continue to build and nurture an inclusive environment that represents, supports, values, and celebrates the community we serve.” Through their intentional collaboration, the leaders across all departments came together to create a foundation and structure of activities to expand DEI initiatives throughout the organization. Their ten locations included urban, suburban, and rural libraries that would meet their communities and their needs in a united way.

Mary Ellen Icaza, Library Director, and her team including Jen Welsh, Public Services, Marianna DiGiacomo, Community Services, Megan Del Corso, Collection Development, and Stephanie Cargill, Marketing and Communications, proceeded with a global diversity, equity, and inclusion audit and sought to provide foundational documents to link DEI values to the work of the library. Accountability and system-wide participation were essential.  The focus was not about changing hearts and minds, but advancing the values of DEI as it related to the work of the library in a comprehensive way.  The leadership team created an action plan, targeting specific cultural heritage months and building programming around the cultural heritage focus. A programming manual furnished support to staff and clearly expressed expectations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.

There were challenges at the beginning, and the leadership team got help, but the impressive thing to me was the commitment of the leadership team to stay united in their DEI goals and to present to the entire organization the desire for a cultural change.

Tags: , , ,