Racial Equity Commitment & Action Plan

March 24, 2021

Read President David Leonard's reflection on what happened in Atlanta.

August 31, 2020

Today, the Boston Public Library formally commits itself to the following statement and action plan in response to systemic racism, inequity, and injustice prevalent in our society, and to becoming an anti-racist organization.

We begin by affirming that Black lives matter.

We honor the names of those who have lost their lives in violent deaths and have risen to prominence as symbols and victims of systemic racism, brutality and injustice. We name just some of them: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.

We honor also the other unnamed, untold victims of 400 years of systemic racism. We acknowledge that a history of white supremacy, slavery, and colonization shapes our past and our present as a country and a society.

We acknowledge also that the Boston Public Library’s Central Library stands on land that was once a water-based ecosystem providing sustenance for the indigenous Massachusett people. We recognize the devastating effects of settler colonialism on their communities and their contemporary presence and commit to land acknowledgements for all locations at which we operate.

We recognize that Black, Indigenous and People of Color all experience racism, xenophobia and oppression in our society, whether it be individually or systemically.

We acknowledge as well that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black communities and communities of color.

As a cultural institution, we recognize that our own inherited organizational legacy includes institutional and systemic racism.

To this end of becoming a truly anti-racist organization, we now formally commit to actions that will lead to an equitable future, because words without actions are empty promises.

The route to meaningful and sustained change is not always direct. It must include listening, reflection, planning, acting, and evaluating.

No plan should take final shape without the explicit contributions of people of color, starting with our own staff members from across the whole organization.

We will act with a sense of urgency, but believe that a deliberate approach will bear the most fruit for a better society.

We will realize this commitment by following two concurrent paths. One path will be focused internally, on our operations and our organization. The other path will focus on the institution’s external practices and services. Each of these paths is equally critical to our success, and work in these areas will take place in parallel.

Our first path or phase of actions includes the following actions:

Conduct a thorough, action-oriented review of both Mayor Walsh’s 2019 Executive Order on Racial Equity & Resilience and the 2020 order declaring racism a public health emergency. These documents will serve as a guide to developing specific actions for the library to act on immediately.

Fully engage the Board of Trustees in this work, both at the strategic and policy level.

Convene a comprehensive set of staff conversations on these topics, to include a specific focus on the lived experience of staff who identify as people of color and their ideas for change.

Analyze the library’s recruitment and hiring practices. Using this analysis, we will develop better practices and programs to ensure more equitable recruiting and hiring across all organization levels and departments, including the leadership layers of the organization. One such program could include a relaunched pre-professional program, recognizing that diversity of our candidate pools is an ongoing challenge for both the library and the library professions.

Review internal department and team level demographic composition in order to understand where particular challenges of diversity and representation occur, and design and execute appropriate mitigation strategies.

Engage a consulting partner with deep expertise in racial equity work in large organizations. The scope of service will include anti-racism and anti-bias training for all BPL staff members, contractors, partners-in-residence, volunteers, and interns.

Conduct a review of any existing and future reopening plans with an equity lens to ensure upcoming waves of services focus on those who need us most and who may not yet be well connected to us.

Identify and execute on opportunities to become an institutional member of caucuses or affinity groups within professional library organizations such as the American Library Association.

Formalize opportunities for increased collaboration with the following departments of the City of Boston, to align our work with that of our peer departments who have this charge as part of their formal mission and work:

      • City of Boston Equity Cabinet
      • City of Boston Office of Resiliency
      • City of Boston Office of Diversity
      • Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement
      • Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement
      • City of Boston Disability Commission
      • City of Boston Human Rights Commission
      • City of Boston Office of Language Access

Our second path or phase of actions is expected to include a broader and deeper focus on the Library’s collections, artwork, programs, services, outreach, partners, operational, and procurement practices. Specifically, this phase will include:

A review of protocols for engaging with first responders and public safety organizations, ensuring the right response for the right situation. We will work to ensure that responses are based on the needs of the patron in difficulty, include opportunities for de-escalation and referral, and are appropriately balanced with the safety and security needs of staff, patrons, and library property.

We will recommit ourselves to increased and sustained outreach and community engagement work, focused on communities in the greatest need, particularly Black communities and communities of color; to our schools, the incarcerated, the vulnerable, and to the youth of the city of Boston.

The Library, through the office of the President, will report publicly on this work on an ongoing basis, following the immediate development of initial timelines for all of the above actions.

Ratified by the Board of Trustees for the Boston Public Library on September 29, 2020.

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