Break the Library Institutional Reliance on Unpaid BIPOC Labor!
We, the undersigned, represent the Oregon library community and Oregon library community supporters. We are library workers, patrons, volunteers, and library contributors who understand the need for fostering Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Antiracism (EDIA) in Oregon libraries. We agree that the communities of color we serve and/or represent suffer tremendously by the need for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) representation in public agencies, professional associations, institutions, and organizations. We recognize there is a great reliance on the unpaid services of professionally qualified BIPOC in the attempt to obtain EDIA best practices and consulting services for advocacy, problem-solving, organizational change, cultural competence, and all library EDIA matters. The burnout and unrecognized emotional labor placed on professionals of color when they must include unpaid EDIA work alongside their professional obligations is one of the reasons libraries are failing to retain their best professionals of color. The solution for this challenge is not to replace our best BIPOC library leaders with outside consultants who use universal solutions, as this will foster a temporary compliance fulfillment and fail to produce ongoing EDIA results, and the cultural workplace changes our libraries seek. We recognize library professionals of color alert us of issues as the dominant culture cannot see, understand, or feel the damaging effects of systemic racism and oppression. These workplace issues are overwhelmingly met with limited EDIA understanding and therefore libraries miss the opportunity to demonstrate excellence in EDIA within libraries and communities.
We, the undersigned, recognize the State Library of Oregon attempts to assist libraries on EDIA issues. However, we must acknowledge the current Oregon Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) 2018-2022 five year plan lacks the support we need and deserve in EDIA. The continuous reliance on our colleagues of color for immediate assistance and/or on the Oregon Library Association’s (OLA) EDIA volunteers to help libraries find solutions for issues such as, but not limited to: funding discrepancies for underrepresented and underserved communities, safety for our patrons and staff of color, workplace inequities, EDIA training, EDIA advocacy for staff of color, EDIA advocacy for marginalized communities, EDIA processes and procedures, EDIA communication, and EDIA best practices. Ways to address these issues are asked of outside, paid consultants. Why is it then that our EDIA volunteers are expected to provide continuous, unpaid consultation?
We want to ask the State Library of Oregon (SLO) to create an EDIA Consulting position within their institution and provide the opportunity to our colleague Marci Ramiro-Jenkins to lead us in this effort. Marci has worked as an unpaid EDIA consultant for Oregon libraries. An accomplished professional, Marci is celebrated, awarded, and recognized by academic, public, and school libraries for the work she led as a volunteer for the OLA EDI Task Force and OLA EDIA Committee. As the primary project leader responsible for the creation and development of the Equity Diversity Inclusion and Antiracism Toolkit for Oregon libraries, Marci is the main contact regarding EDIA questions, inquiries, concerns, she is a mentor and confidante to many library staff of color. Marci’s work and dedication is evident by her election as the first person of color to serve as Oregon Library Association president. Her election demonstrates a willingness to build a path of reparation for our library professionals of color, and with it, an understanding that this conscientious effort needs to start within our own library community. We want to see other colleagues of color emerge, evolve, and receive equal opportunities. This reparative process is needed to recruit, encourage, support and retain talented BIPOC in this profession.
EDIA challenges are continuous, intense, strenuous, and seldom fully rectifiable. As long as social inequities exist, there will continue to be a need for EDIA. Therefore a long term solution is required for Oregon libraries. We know Oregon Libraries are overdue in EDIA specialized support, and that is why we want the State Library of Oregon to create and finance a paid EDIA staff consultant position.
Oregon Library Association Executive Board
OLA EDI Antiracism Committee