Equity, diversity, and inclusion are fundamental values to be advocated for by libraries. These are important values for libraries because we are meant to provide accessible resources and safe spaces for all people. Kirkwood Public Library has made a commitment in our Strategic Plan to work toward becoming more diverse and inclusive of communities that need our support now.

Part of our library’s values are: Engagement – we are an active part of community life where diverse voices shape the library’s offerings to reflect community needs and Learning – we value learning, and we inspire our patrons to be lifelong learners. We create spaces that both foster and satisfy a hunger for learning. It is our responsibility to actively engage with what is going on in the world, to challenge ourselves to learn and grow, and to support all of our patrons.

Kirkwood Public Library supports the Black Lives Matter movement because we must uphold our values as a library to stand beside our vulnerable populations and help in the ways we can to have their voices heard. That’s why we stand committed to creating collections that reflect diverse voices. Black communities have been deeply and severely affected by racism. They must be heard and things must change. To learn more you can access our book list here, and access information in the Hot Topics section of Newsbank with your Kirkwood Library card.

The Civil Rights Movement sought an end to institutionalized racism, segregation, and disenfranchisement for Black people. The Civil Rights Movement did not imply that the civil rights of others did not matter but rather expressed to the nation, “We do not have these rights and protections like everyone else, and we deserve them as citizens and human beings.” The Suffrage did not imply that men’s vote did not matter or should be abolished but that women wanted to be counted too. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is expressing to the nation, “We are not saying that your life does not matter but that our lives [Black lives] have been treated as if  they do not. We want you and institutions to see that we matter too and that we are suffering.” Read more here about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

There may be misconceptions about the Black Lives Matter movement that make people wary of supporting it. The phrase of “Black Lives Matter” is not to say that only Black lives matter but that they are being disproportionately affected by racial violence in the U.S. 

Upholding KPL’s values, we have created a list of ways you can help support Black communities.

Vote

Voting allows for major changes to happen on a national, state, and local level. Don’t just vote in presidential elections; get informed and involved in other elections that occur in your hometown. You can see the 2020 election calendar and previous election results for St. Louis here. Along with voting, you can get involved in your town hall/public meetings. These public meetings are specifically for giving citizens the space to speak and be heard by their local officials. You can contact St. Louis County Government here for more information.

You can get involved by writing letters to and/or calling your local officials so that your voice is heard and other voices are amplified. Leave messages about how you want things to be changed. Letting local officials know which policies you want enacted is an effective way to induce change too. 

Volunteer

If you want to be more actively involved outside of protesting, volunteering is a great option to give your time and energy to those who need it. You can volunteer toward specific organizations that help vulnerable communities and people. You can volunteer for your local community garden, shelters for those struggling with homelessness, correctional facilities, and food outreach. Check out this list of volunteer opportunities in St. Louis that you can get involved in. Being involved locally is just as important as being involved on a national, or even state, scale because change often starts small. If one person is committed to being involved and making a change, others are bound to follow.

Donate

There are organizations that need donations and funding in order to give support to protesters and help rebuild Black communities and Black-owned stores affected by Covid-19. You can also donate to organizations that advocate and support racial equality and racial justice. Charity Navigator is a great resource for understanding the impact and transparency of an organization you may want to donate to. 

One other way to give support with your dollars is to prioritize local Black-owned businesses. Find a list of St. Louis Black-owned restaurants here, or a broader business directory here.

Protesting

Protesting can be an effective way to create change. Protesting is meant to influence public opinion and have your voice, among many others, be heard. Protesting is protected by the First Amendment and is critical to keep our democracy functioning. Protests have been, and still are, successful, as demonstrated in notable historical events such as the Boston Tea Party, the Suffragette Marches, the Civil Rights Movement, and protests against the Vietnam War. Because of people gathering to protest, we have freedom of speech, the right to vote, labor unions and workers’ rights, and much more. The protests for the death of George Floyd have already resulted in changes, including plans to completely overhaul the public safety systems of Minneapolis and shifting funds from the police department into social services in New York.

Educate yourself and others

Sometimes change begins within ourselves and our own personal circles. Educate yourself on racism and the debilitating effects of racism on people of color, read memoirs from people of color talking about their experience, learn how to actively be anti-racist, etc. We have a book club hosted at the library called Community for Understanding and Hope – which focuses on reading books that will help bring greater understanding. It has been around since 2008. You can always join us!  

The library also provides databases for academic articles and news for you to stay informed:

  • NewsBank – You can research reliable news articles with topics like the U.S. election or social issues. You can also find local and national news articles. 
  • MOREnet – Provides available databases for research and news.
  • EBSCOHost – Provides databases for academic articles, news, and resources for specific age groups. 

Once you have started expanding your knowledge, have those uncomfortable conversations and encourage each other to grow. There are a lot of resources available, and we have compiled a list of books for you to explore and read.

If you have a program request for the library that you feel we should do, you can fill out a form here. The library is always here to accept any questions or concerns you have, and you can find our contact information here.

To make the world a better place for everyone, we have to care for and support each other because we all deserve to live fulfilling lives. We have to engage in our communities and encourage change, even in ourselves. Extending our empathy and support to those who need it can make a huge difference. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

 

Mariah Pugliese is a Reference Librarian at the Kirkwood Public Library. When not at the library, she enjoys reading and writing sci-fi/fantasy and taking care of her 25+ houseplants who are all named after fictional characters in literature.