Dedicated to Building a More Equitable World | Editorial

SLJ examines how librarians are working to promote equity in their communities. When you think about who you serve and how, are you looking through a lens focused on equality or equity? What can you do about what you see?

A heart sits front and center on the cover of our May print issue, which is dedicated to examining how librarians are working to promote equity in their communities. The symbol represents a key element of that service: kindness. And, as you will see, that is transformational for the people it reaches.

That heart jelled the cover composition. How it got there, though, indicates the evolving nature of the conversation around equity. While designing the cover, SLJ creative director Mark Tuchman searched for an icon that would immediately anchor the reader in the concept. You’ve likely seen the most prevalent depiction of equality vs. equity—which illustrates three people of differing heights who want to watch a game over a fence. When they each get the same thing (equal treatment)—a box to stand on—the smallest still cannot see. But when each is offered the right number of boxes needed to see over the fence (equitable treatment), even the smallest can. The complexity of this image, in contrast with the ubiquitous equal sign, challenged Tuchman to craft an equity symbol. See if you can find it: an arrow shape moving equality forward.

When so much effort historically has been focused on treating everyone the same—say, by offering “access to all”—what changes when one offers “equitable access to all”? The simple heart trumps all because it clarifies what’s needed to create a more fair world. To be fair, one must be kind.

At the core of kindness is compassion, empathy, and the ability to put others’ needs first. That can mean learning how to listen, as Elisa Gall did with her third graders around #OwnVoices books, and addressing internal or baked-in biases, as Jane Eastwood did at the Saint Paul Public Library. It also can mean applying Universal Design principles toward inclusivity or securing fairness in your approach to maker spaces. There is much more.

In each case, the answer lies in doing something about inequality when it is identified. “Action oriented.” That’s how Sarah Bayliss, SLJ’s associate editor, news and features, describes the various strands that make up the Equity Issue. “We all know that equity is a critical issue right now. Our coverage isn’t just about people talking but people going out there and making change.”

There are some “obvious situations of inequity that everyone can see, like racial inequity and gender inequity,” adds Bayliss. “But there are lots of other types that are not obvious, and you need to dig deep. You have to look in the mirror and be aware of your own biases and see how you can serve everyone in your community well, taking into account their circumstances.”

The efforts covered here “are rooted in data, and that could be why there are so many doers in here—they’re not just going on a hunch,” says Bayliss. “Their initiatives are anchored in research, analysis of the community, and what it needs from the library—from each community member’s point of view.”

Then, of course, there’s Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, whom Bayliss recently interviewed. “My conversation with her was extremely inspiring, because she has so many ideas for bringing the Library of Congress to kids and bringing them into the library. She is a great exemplar of a library leader—smart, modest, imaginative,” says Bayliss. “It also resonated with me that she wants kids to write their own history—to figure out who they are in the context of this country and its history.”

I couldn’t agree more. So, when you think about who you serve and how, are you looking through a lens focused on equality or equity? What can you do about what you see?


Rebecca T. Miller Editor-in-Chief

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So many nice words, and so little sacrifice. Want to know what we can do about what we see? When PTA voluntary donations to schools are equalized across school districts so that public school libraries in the South Bronx are as complete as school libraries on the Upper West Side, and when rich leftist private schools require a surcharge to donate to poor public schools up the street, we'll know that people are serious about this subject. Until then, it's mostly talk.

Posted : May 18, 2017 08:27


Or what about consideration of Christian values and voices. The widespread rejection of those does little to promote equalization.

Posted : May 23, 2017 08:12



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