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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Addressing barriers created by racial, social, and economic oppression is essential to meet the needs of everyone.

The library is for all. Serving everyone requires more than treating all people the same way, regardless of differences in advantages or challenges. Equity in action recognizes the relevant systems and obstacles that stand in the way of historically marginalized communities and offers additional resources to overcome them.

Institutions like libraries and philanthropic organizations have played a role in forming, perpetuating, and benefiting from societal inequities. We have the obligation – and the opportunity – to address past and present harms. The Foundation must ensure that the library has the resources it needs to help remove barriers caused by systemic racism, poverty, ableism, ageism, lack of language access, and other factors.

Most programs currently funded by Foundation donors have a direct equity focus. Many are designed with or prioritized by members of communities impacted by racial, social, educational, economic, and other injustices. Some examples, past and present, include:

Structural disinvestment has led to achievement gaps between white students and students of color, particularly for Black students in Washington State. Free library programs funded by the Foundation, such as Homework Help and Begin with Books, provide much-needed resources that improve literacy and educational outcomes for students.

People born outside the United States face discrimination that often creates challenges finding jobs and integrating into society, especially for those with limited English proficiency. Foundation-funded programs, such as citizenship classes and English conversation circles, help immigrants and refugees build skills and build community connections.

Stories by and about people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and others from marginalized communities have traditionally been excluded in publishing and the wider culture – and are now the target of growing censorship nationwide. Foundation funding provides a platform at the library for diverse perspectives, through programs such as author events and writing workshops, and grows the library’s collections to include more viewpoints, populations, and languages. The donor-funded Books Unbanned program opens the resources of our library to young people across America facing censorship or lack of access.

The Foundation has also made significant internal investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Beginning in 2020, the Foundation created an action plan to prioritize equity at every level of the organization. We seek to center DEI in our culture and practice, and integrate DEI into every policy and procedure. Steps include:

  • Training and strategy: In 2022, Foundation Board members and staff completed more than 500 combined hours of trainings with Damaris Patterson Price of Working River Leadership Consulting, in addition to group work sessions and a review of internal policies and practices.
  • Equitable operations: The Foundation has begun the process of auditing and reassessing our portfolios, vendors and suppliers, methods of transparency, and more to examine how our operations and investments align with our values.
  • Community engagement: The Foundation is expanding our work with community partner organizations to diversify, strengthen, and educate our network of donors, advocates, and volunteers. This will ensure that our organization more closely reflects the community the library serves.

The work is ongoing. While we have much more learning and acting to do, the Foundation’s internal and external efforts reflect our commitment to creating a more equitable organization, library system, and society.

This statement was published in November 2023 and will be updated annually to reflect our organization’s progress on DEI efforts. To provide feedback on the statement, please contact us at foundation [at] supportspl [dot] org.