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PA Forward: Elevating libraries Means Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion

Brandi Hunter-Davenport
Brandi Hunter-Davenport

 

Brandi Hunter-Davenport
PA Forward Project Manager
PA Library Association, 

In a day and age when people are not readily accepted for their differences but ridiculed or shunned for them, it is important now more than ever to continue to have safe, inclusive spaces and our libraries are safe and inclusive spaces.

Let me share a bit of my personal perspective with you. When I took this post, I did so for several reasons. But I must say one of the very first reasons I fell in love with the PA Library Association and the work undertaken by each of you is because our libraries accept people as they are. Our libraries do not look at a person’s ethnicity, acumen, religious outlook or sexual identity. Our libraries simply say these are our hours, come in and join us.

I think it’s important that our libraries demonstrate to communities everywhere the value in celebrating one another’s heritage and our individual backgrounds. When we don’t acknowledge those differences, we are disregarding a portion of our individual identities – whether intentional or not. Personally, I enjoy learning about another’s life and his or her cultural makeup. In those interactions, I am given a momentary glance into the depths of who that individual is. And the receipt of that knowledge adds to my overall collective experience as a person of color. Essentially, I see you and you, in turn, see me.

I believe the library community is there. There isn’t a question otherwise in my being. As libraries, we can provide programming and learning experiences to help others engage in the conversations to get there as well. What do those opportunities look like? You could offer programs which promote women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. You may offer human library events where individuals can share their life stories directly with others. Another activity may be to host a program where you highlight foods from various cultures and have a pot luck. Each of these activities ties into PA Forward’s literacies. And they are each conversation starters. I realize sometimes these conversations can begin with a bit of awkwardness. But today is the day where you must be OK being a little bit uncomfortable because we won’t get to any level of comfort without these moments.

So let’s have the conversations. Let’s host the programs. Let’s engage in the thought. Let’s continue working to ensure that our libraries remain representative and welcoming to all and not just some. Doing this does not mean we favor one political ideology over another. It means we favor people. Period.

Libraries open a world of possibility to each of us. We can go and get lost in a book for hours and find ourselves so enthralled with the characters that we begin to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Our libraries offer services that allow individuals to apply for jobs, file their personal income taxes, partake in financial literacy programs or gather for activities that promote healthy, holistic lifestyles. They serve as summer feeding sites and boasts teen reading lounges. They are inclusive spaces for the patrons they serve.

We should embrace that and celebrate all our libraries have to offer, today and every day. And that means celebrating ourselves and those we serve.

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